Abubakar Aliyu: Head in cloud while Nigerians grope in darkness

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“Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be.”  —John Wooden

By Cosmas Omegoh

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In saner climes, Nigeria’s Minister of Power, Abubakar Aliyu, would still be struggling with insomnia by now. Where he manages to catch a few minutes of nap that is sure to be filled with nightmares; tension will be flowing through his veins like hot current.

Aliyu would be consumed by worries because his countrymen and women, whose numbers are now said to be in the region of 200 million people, in one fell swoop had no power supply for a simple reason that could have been avoidable. Everyone of them was caste in darkness groping, their businesses groaning. But for their ingenuity, everything about Nigeria would have been shutdown completely on those days their world came crashing.  

In Nigeria, sadly no public officer shows any form of remorse when things go awry under their watch. That is never imagined. It is not in anyone’s DNA. That is stranger than fiction. It doesn’t happen even when the worst happened. No one takes any form of responsibility for what goes wrong.  

Over the past days, almost every Nigerian has remained fallen, and forlorn. Many still don’t have power supply for two minutes – just to charge their cell phones. Not even when it is being parroted that power has been fully and wholly restored. Worse still, many cannot see petrol to buy to power their generators. Businesses are still down because the price of diesel to power their generators is shooting through the roof. Nigerians really have a handful. Things are falling apart.

On Monday March 14, it emerged that the national electricity grid collapsed. And the bad news that followed was that a paltry 1,300 Mws of electricity was all that was available to some parts of the country.  

Instantly, power distribution companies (DISCos) began to issue releases informing of the tragedy, washing their hands off the debacle that was to follow. They were quick to state the sections of the country whose residents would expect no power as long as the power story stayed the same.

Before the grid failure, Nigerians only experienced epileptic supplies. That hardly equaled to a straight three-hour service daily. The government characteristically blamed a drop in the volume of water in the River Niger for the development, a tale that had been told long ago as when Ghana was still the Gold Coast.   

Now, in his response to the Monday outage, Minister Aliyu summoned a meeting of stakeholders in the power sector. The participants congregated in Abuja over tea, leaving bewildered Nigerians teed off.     

But hardly had the attendees risen from their seats than news broke that the system had collapsed again – the second time in 48 hours – everything pointing to a potpourri of rot that had existed for too long.

But one will consent that Nigeria’s power crisis transcends Aliyu and his regime as minister.

Long before now, various administrations had played snooker with the all-important sector. Money earmarked to bring the industry up to speed, had each time been funneled off. Then followed issues of sentiments, poor understanding of the sector’s real involvement, paucity of funds and many more.

Everyone recalls that President Muhammadu Buhari had come to power on the promise   that he would tackle the perennial poor power supply headlong. But he started off on a shaky note when he merged the power sector with works and housing, and handing the pile to Minister Babatunde Fashola, a lawyer, then believed to be a “super performer” – all because he was a former Governor of Lagos State.  

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But it wasn’t long before it began to show that Fashola was a mere mortal after all. But did Buhari care? In his characteristic self, he allowed Fashola to drag on for four years, thus denying the nation the services of top-notch professionals who would have breathed life into the sector.

By the time Buhari realised that a change in the area’s narrative had become expedient, the train had long left the station. He then proceeded to sack Fashola’s successor, Engr. Sale Mamman, as Minister of Power. Then entered Aliyu, his next pick. Although an engineer, Aliyu so far, has proved he has thick cloud of doubt around his ability to deliver.    

Sadly, as gargantuan as Nigeria’s power needs obviously are, Minister Aliyu has remained anonymous in addressing even a fraction of them. Many people will challenge him to point to his deliverables ever since he mounted the high horse. 

Until it became public knowledge that the worst had begun to happen in the power sector, no one had any incline of who Aliyu was. You will be pardoned those looking for him among the horde of tomato sellers hobbling down the many busy Kakuri Market in Kaduna walkways. But nay; he is a Minister of the Republic – and the country’s power master general.

Now, here is the big question. Under Aliyu’s command, has anything changed; has the power nightmare improved any bit? The answer is an emphatic No! Rather, the situation in the power sector has progressively nosedived. The curve of the industry is pointing South. That is the only truth the man in the street understands.  

Following Monday’s grid total collapse, words went round suggesting that Nigeria was only struggling to produce 1,300Mws of electricity, down from 5,000Mws it was suggested to be producing a long time ago.  Compare that output to 30,000 Mws some big players in Africa are currently enjoying, the gap remains as far as the East is from the West.

In one of Aliyu’s interactions with the press in Abuja as part of his strategy to push back the huge challenge thrown by last week’s collapse, critics have been blasting him for failing to address the core issues of power crisis in the country. He kept blaming “shortage of gas supply” and “vandalism,” for what happened, while claiming the nation has capacity for 8,000Mws of power. Many of his listeners were not impressed. They wanted to see a roadmap to power improvement. But saw none.

Shouldn’t Mr President from his sojourn in London be pondering if indeed, Aliyu is really the right man for this job after he appointed him on November 30, 2021, with pomp and ceremony, declaring: “I have found it essential to reinvigorate this cabinet in a manner that will deepen its capacity to consolidate legacy achievements?”

 Aliyu, 56, is a civil and water resource engineer.  

He was until his appointment as substantive minister, the Minister of State for Works and Housing, from 2019 to 2021.

A fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) and a member of the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), he hails from Potiskum in Yobe State.

He was a former deputy governor under ex-Governor Ibrahim Gaidam who also oversaw the ministries for health, commerce, integrated rural development as commissioner.

He attended Central Primary School, Jimeta, Adamawa State, graduating in 1979, and G.S.S.S. Monguno, in Borno State for his West African School Certificate in 1984. He also attended Kaduna Polytechnic, Kaduna, where he obtained a National Diploma in Civil Engineering in 1988, and later studied for his Higher National Diploma in High Ways and Transportation Engineering, graduating in 1993.

In 1999, he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Civil and Water Resources Engineering from the University of Maiduguri.

He is married with children.

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