“Let’s go home Daddy”, Nicole said with resignation. I was intrigued as I watched her Dad try to appease the disturbed girl and reassure her that they would be going home soon. The statement was an unbiased verdict and a vote of no confidence in the prevailing condition of living in Lagos and indeed every single town and village in Nigeria. It was delivered without any embellishments, by my vocal three years old Niece and brought to the fore the impact of the deplorable state of power supply in the country.
Her Dad, my brother, had brought his family to Nigeria on holiday. In the fortnight they spent in the Country, they had moved from Lagos to Abuja to Abakaliki to Asaba and back to Lagos, experiencing varying degrees of the torture that the average Nigerian endures daily. He had left the country in 2009 with his wife in pursuit of better conditions of service and in response to the frustrations from the incessant strike actions and the decayed infrastructure in the health system in Nigeria. Within the period, he had journeyed from Grenada to Saint Vincent both Islands in the Caribbean and back to West Africa when he secured a position in a UK medical research Institute located in the Gambia. This afforded him the opportunity to continue with his West African College examinations.
They had moved to Gambia in June 2013 with Nicole and her younger brother. For the children, this was their first time in Nigeria and they enjoyed the social interactions; meeting their Cousins , Grand Parents and other relatives and were elated at the many gifts they were showered with. They however still longed for the quiet comfort of their home. Home to them was Fajara, a small coastal town in the smallest country in mainland Africa. Yes, even in that small town, tucked away in that small country, power supply was constant and dependable.
As I engaged my brother and his wife, they assured me that my complaints about the epileptic power supply in Lagos were misplaced as the situation was far worse in the other towns they visited in Nigeria. They narrated their ordeal in greater details to me and confessed that, just like their daughter, they were eager to go home too.
Abuja, Nigeria’s Capital City was interesting and offered many exciting moments but the power supply in the City was in a worse state than in Lagos. Most of the days, they relied only on fans to contend with the heat as the air conditioners couldn’t be powered by the inverters and the generating set needed to get some rest.
Abakaliki, the Capital of Ebonyi State, was hot and dusty as usual and the power situation was far worse than it was in Abuja. Their search for a comfortable hotel to lodge in, equally threw up a catalogue of disasters. At the first hotel, which used to be one of the best in the town, they encountered a big rat and had to move the next day. At the next hotel, the mischievous staff put off the generating set in the middle of the night and disappeared, in spite of their assurances to the contrary. They were left to endure the night in darkness at the mercies of the buzzing mosquitoes and the unbearable heat, with no one in sight to hear their complaints. They had to move again the next day and eventually managed to secure a modest hotel that offered some comforts.
Asaba, the Capital of Delta State, turned out to be in an even worse state than all the rest, as everyone virtually ran on generators. They were excited to eventually get back to Lagos after the distressing experience at Abakaliki and Asaba. Our drive from the airport to my house in Ikeja took us about an hour and half, due to the heavy traffic caused by the pilgrims trooping to the Redeemed Christian Church of God’s Camp for the monthly Holy Ghost Service. At some point, little Nicole wondered aloud why we were stationery, as she wasn’t used to such vehicular traffic.
My brother laughed at her naivety and dropped the slogan, “Gambia, no problem”, which aptly captures the serene life in the Gambia. A small country where things work, yet their banking Industry is controlled by Nigerian banks. A country where you don’t bother to lock your gate and can park your car with the keys in the ignition and windows wound down, at no risk. A country where power supply is stable.
I thought of my Nigeria, the raucous West African neighbour, that recently earned the bragging rights of the biggest economy in Africa and muttered, in undaunted hope of a brighter future, “It is well”.