Back To The Dark Ages Or Into Our Villages


Farouk Martins Aresa


Power Holding Company of Nigeria has moved some of us to the point of starting a movement back into our villages, back to our farms. As much as we want to be optimistic about Nigeria, we are stuck in the face with some brazen realities that it will be foolish to live in a false sense of grandeur. What business can anyone do with less than one hour of electricity a day, that is, if you are there to take advantage of it, for about three weeks?


Oh, in 30 minutes you can pump water into the tank if you can afford one, iron your clothes if you are not at work, recharge your phone if you have any, or listen to the radio and watch the television. Actually coal iron is making a come back, so is gas lamp and transistor radio is a must. Of course, there are those who can afford a generator just to carry a couple of lamps and the fan for about three hours at night. Many can not do more without incurring a bill of about N1000.00 on diesel fuel for generator.


Grudgingly, we get tired of those who come back home on holidays complaining about everything including mosquito on the wall minding its business as if it is going to bite someone. Actually, those mosquitoes love the taste of different blood from overseas. So if you don’t like it, bring your own mosquito net, water and electricity on your vacation.


We got into one of those usual spirited discussion about what ails Nigeria once again. A friend who had to come home because of his ailing mother started lamenting. He got billed for so many tests that had to be performed on the mother plus the logistics that came with those tests. He had to pay for brand new needles, diesel fuel because there was no electricity to run the tests, new test tubes, overtime for technicians, transportation, express service etc. He got fed up but still had to pay mainly because those “simple” tests could have been done with some kits from any reputable drug store overseas.  WOW! He could have opened one of those reputable drug stores in Nigeria.


We are all concerned about our health, no matter what age we are but more so as we get older or younger depending on your frame of mind. It is true that those of us who are community health worker always thought Primary Health Care would solve everything. But we are not just dying of infectious and parasitic diseases alone; we are now dying in greater number than before of stroke, diabetes, heart disease and environmental pollutants that we thought were “oyinbo diseases”.  Women and men can not produce healthy eggs and sperms especially in our industrial oil producing and fuels guzzling cities.


The more generators we buy to cling to city life, the more we die of carbon monoxide poisoning and other pollutants that are byproducts of city life. So for the first time in a generation, we have unprecedented number of our senior citizens living outside the Country to save and prolong their dear life. If the rich and the famous are flown out of Nigeria for strokes, heart attacks, colon and lung cancers; why not stay put in the country they can get treatment for less money without putting relatives in trouble for plane fare?


The cost of all these is the loss of wisdom and knowledge our children and grandchildren need to take from us so that they do not fall into the same pit as parents and grandparents. With the worst electricity ever provided to the masses, even the poor who know better days can groan for the loss of decent life in our cities but not as much in our villages.


Fortunately many of us still remember when water and electricity used to flow, at least in the cities, in Nigeria for comparison. Others who could not travel overseas could afford short trips to the Republic of Benin to seek sanctuary of peaceful mind in their beautiful areas where naira could go further. It was there we discovered that cell phones were used by market men and women when it was still in the exclusive circle of the rich and famous in Nigeria. The point here is that we have seen civilization before without going overseas.


However, if you are around thirty years of age and you have not seen sustained simple decent life in Nigeria, we can hardly blame you if you want to see other places. The more young people hear about those places, the bigger their dreams. Indeed, some have come to believe that with less than one hour of electricity a day and hardly clean water, it can not be worse anywhere else. Sad to say, it can be worse as neighboring African countries have gone wild mercilessly killing and maiming fellow Africans. If young men are ready to die crossing the desert just to get to their heavenly countries, we can hardly stop them.


One of them died and saw god. God asked him what he wanted and the boy said he wanted visa to heaven. God asked him which country he came from and he said Nigeria. He got a visa. The next boy said he was just killed in South Africa and begged god for visa to heaven. God also gave him a visa. As a dead American Indian from USA approached, god asked him what he wanted, he said he wanted a visa to heaven. The two Africans were surprised and god replied: These two visas I just gave, where do you think they are for? Go back home, you were in heaven!   


This joke that circulated in one form or another in Nigeria may not be so funny in the face of grim circumstances. Sometimes circumstances get so bad, you look for temporary relief to tickle yourself for some fun. It is not about getting drunk and getting high on drugs which make it worse than when we started, since we have to wake up to realities.


Going back to suburbs and villages are practical alternatives that some people have found refreshing. In the villages, we do not expect much from PHCN and hardly depend on them. Since the sixties, there were missionaries and Peace Corps from overseas who settled in the villages as nurses, doctors, engineers and teachers. They make do with the little they have in these villages. There were Nigerian Muslim and Christian preachers moving from cities to villages with gas lanterns.  But those were days of tranquility were without daring devil cradle or grave snatchers. There are more of these in the cities than the villages. So a good place to resettle from our cities or from overseas is in the villages.


Dwindling electricity supply in the cities where quality of life has diminished may be the push we need to revitalize our villages as encouraged by our young graduates in NYSC, or examples and standard set by our accomplished sojourners. They may be the returning stars, deportee, young or oldies who have had enough of the hustle and bustle of city life.