Thursday, August 28, 2008

Missed targets as opportunity

ONE does not need to be a cynic to suspect that target dates are set to be missed. And that is why I was mightily baffled by the uproar that attended the revelations about the interesting happenings in the power sector. Why were we so shocked? It is not only in the country that things don't always turn out the way that those in power and of power promise they will. Did that eminent organisation, the United Nations not promise us that most of the world's problems would be matter of a memory by the year 2000?

We are all witnesses to what happened. The year 2000 came and vigorously disclaimed responsibility for the failure of the trumpeted certitudes of the bureaucratic and scientific clairvoyants. The lesson: Predictions fail. Targets can be missed. And heaven will not fall. So the grey Eminences at the U.N did the most sensible thing in the circumstances: they ambushed another decade's end on which to hang the world's expectations. Why then should we, in this little corner of the world, demand the heads of our target-missers just because the power sector's performance lags behind our expectations?

Why are we all pretending? We know that our problem is that we would rather take the longer route to arrive at the nearest destination. Even when we know there is a short cut to solving the power problem in the country, we have refused to take that road. And this road is the only one to take us out of the tunnel to luminous light. Forget about reforms. Forget about probes. Give your technical experts a pat on the back or wherever, and banish them out of sight. Enough of precious time squandered using an axe to split a broomstick.

What we really need to do is persuade the National Assembly to approve, as a matter of urgency, the financial instrument to provide funds for the purchase of generator sets for every identified Nigerian citizen, those without emigration on their minds. Consequent upon this noble and historic national recovery intervention, the next natural step is to change the name of the country. That should not be difficult.

Now at last, we have something in common which the new name should celebrate: Generators. So we rename our country Generatoria. We have a choice of two names to call ourselves: Generatorians or Generatese. Should the majority decide in favour of the latter - having had enough problems with the one ending in ".. ria" - we can then advertise our new identity to the international community.

As a mark of maturity and in recognition of the existing good relations between our nation and our former colonial master, we can return the old name, Nigeria, to any surviving relative of that distinguished builder of the British Empire, Captain Frederick Lugard and his wife, Margery. Hopefully, this gesture will be seen as our expression of gratitude to the couple, the madam especially, for coining a name for the disparate cultural and geographical areas cobbled together to add to the white man's burden. It would not be a day too soon. Few will miss a name that has done not much good either to the geographical space or those who occupy it.

And there are other gains. We will all be rid of the Green passport, that pernicious travel identity document that assures its carrier neither welcome nor dignity at foreign land borders, air or seaports; an international legal document of self-recognition that has turned out to be an embarrassing possession. It will be a welcome relief to change the discredited green colour to the colour of crude oil: dirty grey. Should there be objections from the aesthetic in our midst, why, we could settle for the golden glow of the refined product, petrol itself.

Another gainer will be the poor national flag, our unremarkable and uninspiring symbol of nationhood. There is absolutely no more excuse or logical reason we should retain the prominent green segments of the flag. Let's face it, we have long ceased to be an agricultural country! We are, proudly, an oil-producing country! So, no symbolism will be lost by substituting the green of the flag with gold. With luck and international goodwill, a flag that has always suffered from non-recognition among flagpoles at venues of international conferences may begin to compel attention to itself.

Perhaps, the greatest gain of all is that those nations that have hitherto, out of envy or from whatever motive, grudged us our greatness or refused to acknowledge it will be convinced, beyond reasonable doubt, that the one and only indisputable power house of the African continent has finally arrived. Just imagine, over one hundred and forty million generators - corporate and personal - of varying capacities, sourced from all corners of the globe chugging and clanking and whirring round the clock from Sokoto to Sapele, from Badagry to Yenagoa! How could any doubt the evidence of their aching ears and burning eyes?

And there is the possibility, too, that this happy development, this national re-branding, may yield dividends of inspiration to our creative talents. I can imagine a gifted poet of the future forcing the word Generatese that will henceforth designate you and I, to rhyme with words like Grease or Sleaze. So missing out on the target date or dates for generating the power requirement for the nation may turn out to be a blessing in disguise afterall.

Aiyegbusi lives in Lagos.