Conflicting explanations power cuts suggest a deep stratagem at work

24Dec 2017
Guardian On Sunday
Conflicting explanations power cuts suggest a deep stratagem at work

ENERGY Minister Dr Medard Kalemani is in his first full test as minister, trying to grapple with the scenario of power cuts or interruptions in electricity flow almost on a daily if not hourly basis, where his initial effort to sort out the situation with a get-tough attitude more or less failed.

Close to two weeks after having issued a warning to the relevant line managers in TANESCO and the supervising ministry to end the power cuts little had changed on the ground, and instead it was the minister who seemed to be taking some distance from the situation, not wishing to burn his fingers all the more.

While not approaching anything like past blackouts, there was restlessness at all levels, from loss making traders to consumables perishing in homes.

What was odd or out rightly audacious about the power cuts was what was the cause of it all, as the power company was making no effort to explain it, nor indeed give a schedule of such cuts - as that would also have to explain its source and duration, to everyone's satisfaction, more or less.

It was a problem for media houses to obtain explanations, and in the absence of anything sufficiently formal or official as to what the problem was and how it was being rectified, media organs relied on different sources either from the power company or the ministry.

They tended to obtain conflicting answers and at times a better placed official moving to quash such explanation, showing that no comprehensive of the problem existed in the first place.

When officials can't put their heads together about a pernicious public dilemma and end up shouting at one another as to what is happening, the minimum one can say is that it is not supposed to be happening - for the simple reason that there is no commonly acknowledged or even remotely perceived cause for that kind of hiatus, interruptions.

In other words, neither the company nor the ministry knows as much as they would wish to know - or they can afford to tell the public - as to what is actually the problem.

Such a situation is a complete anomaly, for it means that it isn't a real problem but a fictitious one, as there ought to be little or no guesswork when there is a genuine problem known at various levels of authority in the company or ministry.

What is also apparent is that  there is no conflict or disharmony at the source of the problem, as sentiments expressed by the minister remained a dead letter and nobody in the company appeared to have taken up the issue, for instance to underline a sort of urgency on the issue in the company, or sympathy with public concerns.

There was a studied silence to the point of seeing the matter as normal but the minister happens not to have understood, a situation that arises from time to time in the corridors of power.  

There can be an effort or in a limited way, a campaign (seeking loyalty for it by different quarters) to isolate a chief of station or entity, to the rest can continue with their work as they know best, including those offensive power cuts.

In the Rwanda genocide of 1994 the whole plan was conducted and coordinated at the State House in Kigali, but the president was kept in the dark  as he hadto be eliminated (for his Arusha peace moves) for it to go forward.

Early 1984 when reelected Nigeria president Shehu Shagari was overthrown by the military led by current President Muhammad Buhari for palpable and blatant corruption, the Nigerian media was saying that 'everyone knew there would be a coup (before the second term started) except President Shagari.'

There was a case in the past when then Permanent Secretary David Jairo became a hero at TANESCO for issuing his fat envelops to MPs to get the ministry's estimates approved.

If TANESCO can't lobby for large subsidies from the government by fat envelops to MPs, perhaps reminding the public of snags in distribution may just do?

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