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Funmi Iyanda
Lagos, Nigeria
Funmi Iyanda is a multi award-winning producer and broadcast journalist. She is the CEO of Ignite Media and Executive Director of Creation Television
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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Just Gimme the Light

My friend V, a perfectionist who on falling pregnant eight years ago decided to put her career on hold and devote her time 24/7 to the care of her new born daughter has had some serious hard times. Regal, literate, intelligent, civil, funny, self possessed, more than a little stubborn are all apt descriptions of a woman who is a great mum, a loyal friend, one of those rare people who can be counted upon to look you in the face and tell you the unflinching truth even at the risk of loss of friendship, livelihood or approval. Her mini me daughter has inherited her mother's gift for slightly unsettling non-pussy footing eerily concise summary. Recently, V got the sort of job to suit her situation and temperament and moved to Abuja. When asked what she likes about Abuja, V's 8 yr old simply replied, we always have light and when we don't we put on the generator. Every child l know and a lot whom l have interviewed have repeated different version of this simple truth i.e. just give us light.

Yesterday l sent my man Joel to buy the 3rd (in 48 hours) N5, 000, 50 litres keg of diesel for our long-suffering generator just so we can watch the inauguration ceremonies in Abuja and Lagos. 8 years ago, l had been a young hot head in Ankara running around organizing and anchoring different inauguration activities in Lagos. 8 years on l am party weary and growth hungry so l turned down all invitations to inauguration activities at every level. My friend Jide was making one of his famous cooked breakfasts at mine for his family, mine and a couple of friends as we indulged in our favourite national pastime, talking about Nigeria. We watched as a sour faced Obasanjo hand over to an inscrutable Yar'Adua. One of the eminent citizens at the inauguration benignly smiling at Obj sent a text to Jide's phone simply saying JUST GO. That text sadly sums up the feeling of majority of Nigerians about Obasanjo right now. Whether that is deserved is a topic for another discussion.

7 am today l am on my desk struggling to write through the guttural screams of what feels like a thousand demon generators. Shortened lifespan from pollution and noise aside l am lucky, at least l have light, my wax mistress (that is not what you think it is silly) Barbra assures me that her neighbourhood has not seen electricity in 2 months as she walked into my room, pulls off her blouse and lays prone on the floor to "enjoy small ac" before she starts work on me, l can hear African China crooning the many woes of the masses into her ears through her mp3 player. Her phone ring tone breaks our moment with china's primal scream "light no dey, food e no dey, my people dey suffer suffer".

Back to yesterday, one of my breakfast guests is telling of how many of OBJ's people has assured him that there is no cause for alarm as "dem still dey kampe" because Yar'Adua has been mandated to keep them on. The other guest is talking about alternative energy to power the base stations of the telecoms companies as they grapple with the humongous challenge of running their operations in a country with huge power problems. I gently remind everyone that we would have to break up our "party" in an hour to conserve the diesel, generator and our sanity.

Its 9am today, we have not had electricity for four consecutive days in a neighbourhood with a PHCN base station within a shouting distance, what must it be like for others? I send Joel to buy more diesel and some fuel at the new pump price, OBJ's passing shot. Joel gives me the papers for the day and Yar'Adua picture is on the cover of THISDAY. His wave is frail, he looks exhausted but his eyes seem earnest, perhaps it is optimism of desperation but l feel moved to pray silently that somehow this frail unlikely man may yet confound his puppeteers and go beyond that to do just three things.

a. Give us light.

b. Reform, rebuild and modernize our educational system and make
education free and mandatory to all children born on this soil up to
secondary levels with opportunities for scholarships to poor gifted
children at university level.

c. Tackle security from its root, reform, adapt, equip, grow, motivate, remunerate, and devolve the police. I If he would just do these three things we can take care of ourselves and others will be happier to deal with us i.e. self sustaining, growth and adaptive globalization will follow.

In all of this l hope that he will always remember that his name is umoru, not baba, not god, not messiah, not prophet, just umoru who has been given a unique opportunity by Allah for true greatness. Whether he will rise to the occasion only time will tell. Time now to switch on the generator for 6 work hours.

What was all that "olokada" display at the inauguration ceremonies, in today's world? Shio! Surely, we can do better than that. And why does a ceremony which should be solemn and civil look like an owambe party with people running all over the place and in front of the camera. In Lagos, there was a point where Tinubu was obviously exasperated and gestured at some aide to get away from him. Haba!


Linkachild Admin said...

Amen and amen!! to your 3 prayer points.

Nuff with the moaning and bad mouthing...it's time to press forward in HOPE!! (no matter how little)

Chude said...

"In all of this l hope that he will always remember that his name is umoru, not baba, not god, not messiah, not prophet, just umoru who has been given a unique opportunity by Allah for true greatness."

Someone should make a billboard with this quote and set it up right outside the Villa, for therein lies our salvation.

bolaji said...

I believe that Umaru will do well, it is not like most of Nigerians like or voted for him so for his own sake he should just give himself brain and do well.

See, Baba and his parting gift, increase in pump price only God understands the way he thinks(i am sure he even amazes him gan).

However i am sure that this tenure will mark a major turn around in Nigeria's history, it is usually the stone that the builders reject that becomes the head of the corner.

snazzy said...

the power thing is crazy some times. They are spending money like crazy to build plants whose supply can be cut off at anytime by militants with a grudge. The funny thing is that we will probably get to 10,000 MW generating capacity by the end of the year, but whether it will have any effect is another thing all together. Who knows you may be able to put that gen to rest after all.

The police devolution sounds like a good idea until you realise that it will be the governors that will be in charge of the police, I'm not really sure that placing the police solely in the hands of the state executive is a good idea. Though in the long run it will be necessary but i don't know for now.

Chibuzo N.O said...

Though i don't think our new HE got there legally but what can i say, we should't think things would never go well with their party.....Let's just wait and see!

Matt Scofield said...

Very well done blog, I like it very much. Nice writing!

catwalq said...

I am as exhausted as you are. Nigeria has a way of sucking you dry. I am praying that we have some respite because the decline has been going on for so long.
I mean, Ghana (no offence) is overtaking us and I am not sure but I heard that at one time, we as a country loaned the UAE money...
We just have to hang on and pray that it all works out or that those of us who wish to are given a fair and honest chance to do our bit to ensure that it does.

Blogger-General of the Federal Republic of Nigeria said...

Aunty Funmi.
You talk well!
More grease to your television camera...
Dis light wahala, na die o!
Dem jus' dey commission power plant left right and centre, still light no show. I dey wonder which kin power plant dem dey build. na soso megawatt we dey hia... i bin tink say na MEGA WATI - my yoroba bros go translate WATI as "search for am in vain"...

Tosin said...

I second Amen to that, Especially th first one, we all have our fingers crossed for this term. Amen

Anonymous said...

Funmi, shortly after i read your blog about your light/generator whala, I came across the news that Lagos state requires lagosians to pay N25,000 for each generator they own. http://www.punchontheweb.com/Articl.aspx?theartic=Art200705292492832

Emission testing fee??? Where in this world does a government deny people of basic infrastructure and then charges its own people for seeking their own means to what the government has not provided???

I hope this is one big joke.

Copido said...

I actually blogged about your 3points: Hoping for a New Nigeria. We hope......but our expectations have been dashed so many times. I am afraid to just hope, I am praying hard that Yaradua won't be another political puppet.
I thought I was the only one that noticed the owambe-style swearing in ceremony in Lagos. My hubby and I had such a laugh!

boom said...

i thought i'd share this with you.



Nigeria Politricks said...

Methinks it's a stretch to expect positive changes from a Yar'dua's govt that was created out of illegality. Power, education, security and transportation have been our worst developmental woes for ages, and always a talking points for reformation by politrickcians; but as soon as they get into office (by hook or crook) they forget our national problems, and focuses on their triffling issues - corruption; lining their pockets with the spoils of the national cake.
Hoping for a change is good, but for so many Nigerians, hoping for years, our hopes have faded into oblivion...we need drastic changes NOW!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

i left naija a few years back and i am still amazed by the rapid degeneration of situation over the years. my daughter is under 5 and I will like for her to visit the home I grew up in and experience a little bit of fun naija in reality and not through movies i watch. but I am scared to go to naija on vacation with my family! why are we being made to feel like this! what have we done wrong as nigerians that the government does not think we as a people deserve a better life. i watch a lot of nigerian movies, and feel sad when i watch girls prostitute just to earn money. art imitating life! living is hard, healthcare is in a worser shape. when will there ever be a change? so-called leaders visit here often and are not oblivious to the mode of life here. naija doctors are making difference here. everyone at work asks me this question but i have no answer. our leaders still travel here for basic check-up.for the past few years that I have lived in the dc metro area, i can only recall us being out of electricity on very few occasions i.e thunderstorms.
lots of people pressed forward in hope 8 years ago during a similar inauguration, but what became of it? if anything, we need to think of the future generation! change needs to start now. thanks funmi. i luv your blog, i wish i could watch your show. you are a true gem and I hope somewhere and somehow your influence is felt here and in naija, so kids are looking to emulate you so our generation is not lost. thanks

Anonymous said...

Aunty Funmi,

There is little need to waste your breath on Yar'adua or expect anything from him. A puppet will only dance to the tune of the master (OBJ). Yar'adua was, afterall, governor of Kaduna State when Amina was going to be stoned. Not only did he support the enthronement of Sharia Law in the State, he said 'nada' about Amina's imminent death - no word of a veto or an 'executive decision'. He is a Sharia-crazed man, and even worse, he is now in charge of a country whose foundations are built on quicksand. He is in charge of a moribund, colonialist contraption that was doomed to fail. All I can say, aunty Funmi, is 'don't hold your breath'. Yar'adua is his father's (OBJ) son.

Anonymous said...

i just love your blog funmi, i think its quite ealy to begin to assess the the yaradua goverment, i cant agree less,let there be light, nigerians are loving people i cant imagine we are still demanding for stable power decades after we attained indepenence.......flow

Funmi Iyanda said...

@ all, l belive strongly that we must hope, hopelesness is emotional weakness and oft an excuse for inertia. l belive we must have hope in the possibility of change and the importance of our role in effecting that change. The biggest mistake would be to "siddon look", we must begin to organize ourselves into citizen groups in different areas of life and find effective strategic means of holding government accountable and spearheading innovation.

@anonynous pls bring yur family home on holiday. l'd rather stare my fear down in the face armed with information, than be limted by it. Same applies here, be informed (those movies are such an exagerated caricature of Nigerian life) as to security and challenges of life here and take care of those as much as possible but dont deprive your kids of a chance to experience places especially their roots. Some of my fondest memories are of my summers in idaogun village deep in the heart of the forests of yorubaland.

@anonymous, that generator tax is not just a silly joke but a unique opportunity to test our ability to organize and force government to push back on a poory conceived idea.

@nigeria politricks what are your suggestions mai broda.

Funmi Iyanda said...

@ boom, just been there, exploring now, so far l like.

Anonymous said...

Funmi, the question should cease to be whether he will arrogate himself as god. The fact is that he had already started seeing visions and dreaming like King David (reference to the dream Yaradu'a had, interpreted to mean leadership and compare to predeccessor's proclamations upon release from prison/proir to assumption of office)The prayer should be - let him not loose touch with reality after the power has affected his head because it most definitely will!

Tayo said...

Reminds me of a friend whose transformer has just "blown". PHCN requires contributions from each house to they can fix the transformer. Now who owns the transformer? PHCN or the neighborhood?
If i have to pay N25000 just to own a Gen in Lagos, I might as well move my business to another city. But will I be able to move my clients?
If fuel prices keep shooting up, I just might stop using my Gen and resort to Lantern (Atupa). But then how do I know my country is developed?
Our foremost need in this country is electricity. I sincerely hope our new president has a plan to address this. Let there be light.

Anonymous said...

Yaddy is nobodys puppet.This is a man that left N6b in his impoverishd states acct,he didnt even pimp his govt house.He is a man that imho believe is his own person.d dude doesnt knw how to spend money but hopefully he'll spend money to fix the light problem.........He must fix the light problem!!!xxx

Ijeoma Uche-Okeke said...

Funmi, your three things-to-do are just spot on. Infact, if Yar'Adua could just do ONE of those things and see it through....magana yakare.

cleo.kelvin said...

well aunt funmi dont hav much to say cos its too earrly to draw conclusion but one cant help wondering why liht failure well lets take he has not yet settled down unless he ud fail to see de writing dat we hav sufered a lot
about oby's parting gift well he really showed why he is his friuend dropping it in de midnight de crook he is and give de guy enough space to study de economy of naija(opposite) whatever de basic neccessities of life has to be made as well as his pledge
lets watch him.