bolekaja

The Mission to Light Up Nigeria

In Cities on July 26, 2009 at 1:48 pm

by Nigerian Curiosity, 20 July, 2009

When current President Yar’Adua came to power in May 2007, he declared a state of emergency due to the nation’s failed power sector and he soon issued an 18 month ultimatum on power. This declaration spurred probes by both sections of the National Assembly which revealed much corruption and ineptitude to the tune of $10-16 billion. Yar’Adua went on to promise that by December 2009, power generation would increase to 6000MW. Despite the money spent, and a March 2009 promise by the Minister of Power that the 6000MW goal was “feasible and realistic“, Nigerians continue to go for days and sometimes, weeks, without power and have now been conveniently informed that the Federal Government would not reach its promised goal of an additional 6000MW by December 2009 because of the growing militancy situation. In an effort to express frustration and demand consistent electricity supply, many Nigerians have taken to the Light Up Nigeria initiative and are using web 2.0 media such as Twitter.com and Facebook to speak up for their right to light.

ANOTHER BROKEN ‘PROMISE’
This new retraction of a promise by Nigeria’s federal government is simply one of many promises this administration has unfortunately failed to keep. The most recent of which is the promise to name Nigerians involved in the Halliburton scandal by a specified deadline which has come and gone with much posturing form the government. These broken promises illustrate why the Light Up Nigeria (LUN) campaign is crucial. In a country where the government is mostly unaccountable to the people, a campaign such as LUN can help provide hope for those who have given up on their government and no longer believe that individuals can effect change. This complacency stems from the well understood reality that public office is not gained through free and fair elections, thus making it hard for citizens to force politicians to focus on the needs of constituents. This, coupled with the reality that the federal government does not rely on tax income from citizens, further accentuates the Nigerian government’s historical ability to ignore the needs of the majority for the greed of the few. Nevertheless, Light Up Nigeria can reinforce and restore a sense of national ownership within individuals that will galvanize a collective effort to resolve the power problem.

LIGHT UP NIGERIA – THE PROMISE THAT MUST BE KEPT
The LUN initiative has inspired a burning desire in many participants who are demanding consistent electricity and less reliance on diesel generators. It must not die the death of many other initiatives which started with the best of intentions but failed to maximize upon their success (the 2007 Nigerian Proclamation, being one of them).

Consequently, long and short term planning is essential for transforming this rallying cry into one that can generate concrete results. In the short term, it is imperative that Nigerians be educated about their right to light. From this perspective, LUN can act as not just a demand for fundamental rights, but as an educational campaign. Education will help lower the level of complacency and acceptance by many that there is little to be done to overcome the incessant power shortages, and garner the public support that will give LUN a lasting impact. On that note, the organizers must find a way to reach Nigerians who do not have electricity, do not use the internet, or watch television. The easiest way to do that is usually via religious and cultural organizations. Spreading the word that all Nigerians, regardless of tribe, religion or income have a right to light will increase awareness on the problem and create a larger group of potential supporters who will hopefully be empowered to go on to demand electricity from their representatives.

State Government: The question remains how exactly will those officials responsible for power generation be convinced to do their jobs? To address that issue, a multi-pronged approach to dealing with Nigerian leaders will be needed. Pressure can be placed on both state and federal government leaders to effect change. State governors can be pressured to provide power. Certain states such as Lagos are reportedly working on creating a power grid independent of the non-functioning federal government grid. Unfortunately, Lagos State has had plans for a state-specific power grid since at least 1979 according to World Bank records, and this significant lapse in the creation of a functioning power grid indicates that pressure must be placed on its governor to solve the state’s power problems. That same approach can be duplicated in some states and the level of success will depend on the level of corruption and/or accountability each state administration has to the citizens.

Additionally, there are states such as Jigawa which have previously taken advantage of alternative energy models such as that presented by the Solar Energy Light Fund (SELF). According to this writer’s discussion with the organization, the solar project, accompanying skills, plans and materials left behind at the end of the project were not replicated to benefit other parts of Jigawa State by follow-up governors. Such programs have already been created in various states and require public pressure for governors to take advantage of them for the benefit of citizens. These alternative energy sources allow states to somewhat overcome reliance on the non-functioning federal energy grid.

Federal Government & Elected Officials: Regarding elected officials at the federal level, pressure to provide power will likely require a focused and consistent series of peaceful public protests that should involve civic society, businesses, students and all others interested in effecting change. This tool should especially be used if the December 2009 deadline for 6000MW is indeed not reached as the federal government is now promising. Considering that Yar’Adua has seemingly shut the door to discourse and proudly declared that his administration “will not join hands with those critics… [or] be distracted by abuses thrown at its doorstep”, those truly interested in effecting change will have to make some hard strategic decisions. Peaceful protests in front of the Senate, House of Representatives, the Energy Commission for Nigeria, Ministry of Power and other key institutions might be the only way to get the President and others to realize that the people have had enough broken promises and demand that which is rightfully theirs considering the abundant energy sources the country is blessed with.

President Yar’Adua: Electricity should be the main yardstick by which President Yar’Adua is judged. However, because the nation’s electoral process does not guarantee a say in determining one’s representatives, simply suggesting that citizens not vote for the incumbent in a Presidential election would prove worthless. Therefore, a prospective non-vote could be an effective tool in the 2011 elections to clearly express the need for leaders who not only work hard to solve problems but engage the citizenry, including critics, instead of throwing citizen journalists and bloggers in jail. If the power situation does not improve by then, and there is little evidence of prospective progress, then discouraging a large majority of Nigerians from voting will not only be an embarrassment to the nation’s leaders but could force a frank, non-corrupt approach to solving the nation’s power problems once and for all.

SHORT TERM STRATEGIES APLENTY
The above are a few possible long term strategies that LUN can apply but any long term approach must include short term strategies as well. Such short term strategies can be as simple as getting all supporters of the initiative to wear black (representing the lack of electricity) on a specific Friday or every last Friday of every month until there is progress. Also, the initiative can become larger on Facebook and on blogs with a simple request for supporters to write a post and share on their blogs or the note section of their Facebook pages. As was the case with the Nigerian Proclamation, a singular header/headline can be used by all participants to symbolize the collective request that President Yar’Adua and other concerned parties cooperate for the nation’s benefit. Supporters should also be encouraged to discuss the matter everywhere – at their church groups, civic/religious gatherings, in online forums and anywhere that others suffering the fate of lack of electricity gather. A push to get more online supporters to change their avatars/pictures to one representative of the LUN initiative could also go a long way to develop interest among those who are yet to learn about the campaign. Regular evening meetings around the country where participants gather in a neighborhood with no electricity and bring their torchlights, lanterns or other light sources could also help to keep the attention on the initiative in the local and international press, while spreading the word about the campaign. Highlighting areas where local and state government manage to provide regular electricity could also put pressure on underperforming officials. The sale of official clothing items, related books, music albums and other merchandise will not only raise funds for a committee that will spearhead things, but keep the initiative visible and allow its reach to spread further than Nigeria’s shores. These and many other practical tools can be used to keep the campaign going.

Light Up Nigeria has proven to be successful at gaining attention online (as evidenced by the more than 6000 group members on Facebook), on television (with artist Eldee doing a television interview on the subject), in the traditional press and on blogs around the world. It is time to follow up on this success with a combination of short and long term strategies that will help this campaign become not only an educational tool but an instrument of change that can affect millions of Nigerians, not just those currently aware of the initiative. LUN will face major challenges to its quest for progress, but a smart strategy will maximize the current ability to create awareness with the capacity to apply pressure in the right places. That will achieve the ultimate goal of a nation where children no longer need candles to do their homework, hospitals have the power necessary to treat patients, the federal government does not have to budget $2 billion for the purchase of generators and diesel and Nigeria’s ability to transform into a more prosperous country becomes an unquestionable reality. #lightupnigeria could be the revolution so many supporters believe it to be and together, Nigeria can do it.

So what do you think about the #lightupnigeria initiative? Do you have ideas on how to make it successful? What ideas do you have on the issue of power generation which is a problem faced by not only Nigeria but other African countries?

To see what Nigerians and others are saying in support of the Light Up Nigeria initiative, please visit www.lightupnigeria.org. Or visit the Facebook page for more information. You can participate by using the #lightupnigeria hashtag on Twitter or anyother social media site you frequent.

The Light Up Nigeria list (will expand)
Light Up Nigeria (Adesoji Adegbulu)
Lighup Nigeria (Agegelabs)
Light it up… (Pyoowata)
#lightupnigeria – Twitter as a Force of Change (Archiwiz)
Lightupnigeria – The Revolution Has Begun (Bisi)
Light Up Nigeria: Enough Is Enough (Global Voices)
Dear World, We Chose to Light Up (Nigerians Talk; Nneoma)
LightUp Nigeria! (Adebayo)
#lightupnigeria how? (Elcij)

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