How to Outwit NEPA and Other Tips | By Ayo Sogunro
It’s that time of the year when we revisit electricity supply— the lack of it, that is. And just in case you’ve forgotten how to adjust to the blatant surrealism of a life without electricity, here are our not-so-well researched pro-tips.
- 1. Give a dog a good name and then go ahead and hang it. You see, it doesn’t matter whether you call it PHCN or ECN. “NEPA” is “NEPA”. I have observed people who force themselves to mouth the cumbersome PHCN—in the typical African superstition that the name will make a difference to the personality of a person. This reversion to the traditional idea that the name of a person foretells his destiny is very unnecessary. Go, on, test it out. “‘O PHCN! Great shall you be!” That sounds very pretentious, and it’s not just you. The truth is: a dog is a dog. At least in Africa. Also, NEPA is easier to pronounce, sounds like the name of an old but cherished friend. And so, here’s the first rule in dealing with your electricity problem: Recognise NEPA for what it is, Never Expect Power Always. So for the purpose of these tips, let’s just give the dog the bad name and stick to NEPA. Got that?
- 2. Electricity is a relative thing: Ask Einstein. If you don’t know Einstein, ask your local nerd. You really do not need electricity at all times. It is simply the artificial scarcity that makes it a precious commodity. Like gold. We’ve all heard the tale—or a variation—of the grasping pirate shipwrecked on a treasure island with all the gold and other treasure he could ever want, and no food. And that’s the fact: gold is useless when plentiful, electricity is also useless when it comes in huge amounts. That is why you can survive without electricity—because too much of it becomes boring. NEPA understands this. You should understand that too. In fact, once you understand this, you need not bother reading this piece further. You’re fully qualified to write your own “how to survive NEPA” tips.
- 3. Every country has its cross: Are you still reading? Then you are a die-hard, electricity addict. Let’s proceed then. When dealing with NEPA issues, a good way to come to terms with it the problem is to understand that there is a tragic flaw that runs through the history of every country. This tragic flaw is eventually what makes it into a great nation. It is the struggle it undergoes to remove that flaw and rise above it’s limitations that makes it unique as a country. Read your history textbooks, and you will see that Nigeria is in good company. America had its slave trade, Britain had its colonialism, Russia had communism, South Africa had apartheid, Nigeria had, has—electricity. That came out wrong! But you get the point.
- 4. Being pessimistic does not solve anything: I have also come across a strange attitude. People believe that the more they are abusive and pessimistic about the failings of NEPA, the better it will become. Like the irate parents to a wayward child. Take the typical scenario: you are on your way home after a long and tiring day, as you approach the house, you begin to curse NEPA mentally, secretly hoping that by some metaphysical or spiritual juxtapositions, your internal disapproval would propel the forces of electricity to connect your house to the grid instantly. You get home, no light. Why do you feel disappointed? NEPA is immune to correction. On the other hand, optimism doesn’t solve anything either.
- 5. There will always be a brief period where electricity will be unbearably consistent: Maybe once in your lifetime, maybe twice, maybe more. But you will experience it. A time when NEPA will be so consistent in service, it will make you angry. You will ponder and wonder. At first, you will expect the light to go off at any minute. It will not. You rush around doing all the things you need to do with the available electricity, and ten hours later you realize in astonishment that the light has hardly blinked. You will discover that you fridge has the capacity to freeze, that your iron can actually burn clothes, that your mobile phone’s battery is not so bad after all, that you have no more movies to watch, that your laptop is quite boring, and that all TV stations should be shut down for poor entertainment value. This is the time when you will forsake the pleasure of your music player for ordinary gossip. But when you begin to hope that things are finally changing in Nigeria, the light will go off. But that’s normal. You’ve had your moment in the sun. The moral here is: you will experience it. Wait.
- 6. There will always be an unbearably long period of total blackout: A converse of the last principle I stated. Everyone is used to three hours of electricity, one hour, even some thirty minutes. Maybe everyday or every couple of days. You will be surprised at how much activity you can cram into those few moments. But always prepare yourself for that period in the year, when for maybe two weeks or even six months, you will not have a glimpse of electricity, as dished out by NEPA, in your house. Once you conclude you are in that scenario, don’t commit suicide. It’s just a passing phase. Like a rite of passage, we will all go through it.
- 7. You will be targeted: At some given time, your house will be on the target list, NEPA’s literal Blackout Book. This happens when you discover that everyone on the street has light, and you are in darkness—for no apparent reason. Your bills are paid; you are on the same line as other folks, your wiring has no problems. Yet, no light. Nothing. Why? You ask, Why me? Again, don’t be frustrated. Today, your number has turned up. Tomorrow, it will be someone else’s turn.
- 8. There’s always an electrician who can fix the tension wire: So why are you worried about the fact that your line has been cut?
- 9. Don’t bury your head in the sand: There is no light. That’s the plain ugly truth. Maybe you have been at your desktop computer in your workplace for the past nine hours. Not once have you been interrupted by a power cut. The generators and inverters are doing their work nicely. The AC units are wonderful, and life is good. But don’t kid yourself. There is no light. That, again, is the plain truth. Don’t let the fantasy of generator plants deceive you. Look everywhere: office skyscrapers, affluent residential estates, five star hotels, private mansions, it doesn’t matter. There is no light, no light at all. You may not know the costs, but ask the person who pays the diesel bills; he is cursing madly, somewhere.
- 10. If all else fails try the coal iron: Ignoring electricity is the best revenge against NEPA, and when you go back to the basics, you will discover a whole new world of substitutes for your electricity problems. Like ironing. Not everyone has a powerful generator that can power those small monsters. If you allow NEPA to get to you, and you wear wrinkled attire to work, on the same day an European delegation is coming to finalise a contract…
Anyway, just try the coal iron—it really works.
Follow Ayo Sogunro on twitter for more unsolicited tips on Nigerian life via@ayosogunro.