The problem isn’t what Fashola said. It was how he said it. With a dose of nonchalance. Like he owes us nothing. As though the President Buhari led federal government is doing us a favour.

Like we should all shudder and cower at his feet when he speaks because he is serving in the Buhari administration as Minister for Power.

“There are problems without a doubt and we must deal with them. But let me remind you, all of the assets that the Ministry of Power used to control power have been sold by the last administration before I came. And so if you don’t have power, it is not the government’s problem. Let us be honest”, Nigeria’s Minister for Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fasholasaid at the Nextier Power Dialogue which held on the night of Wednesday, December 12, 2018.

I will cut Fashola some slack in this piece because he’s not famed for flippancy. The minister was trying to say that following the privatization of the power sector in 2013, government shouldn’t be blamed all the time for the darkness in the land. He was trying to say that the private investors who bought up the nation’s power assets during the Goodluck Jonathan era, should share in the blame as well.

He was trying to say that due process wasn't followed in the privatization drive and that some of the power assets were sold to cronies who had no capacity to deliver stable electricity.

Fashola was only saying that Nigerians signed up for this when they yearned for balkanization, unbundling and privatization of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN). He was essentially saying that privatization comes with its drawbacks and that privatization done shoddily, does have its repercussions. The minister was saying privatization is far from the silver bullet a lot of folks hold it up to be.

But Fashola let his rage get the better of him. So, instead of coming across as being on top of the power problem in Nigeria, Fashola ended up sounding defensive, arrogant and irritated. The federal government should be taking responsibility for the problems in the land. It is what leaders sign up for. Fashola made it sound like the government is washing its hands off a perennial challenge that affects millions of Nigerians--just because it can.

I have heard Fashola use the same ‘private investor’ argument before. It was the day he appeared as a guest on Toyosi Akerele-Ogunsuji's TheSheetTV. During the program, Fashola said his job at the moment is to fashion out policies to regulate the private sector players because there is little else government can do at the moment.

Ministan samad da wuta Babatunde Fashola
Ministan samad da wuta Babatunde Fashola

In all of this, it is easy to miss the point that government still controls transmission of power and that private sector players were only allowed into the generation and distribution arm of things. But no matter, a government that always praises itself when there is a smidgen improvement in power supply to homes and businesses, shouldn’t shirk responsibility when darkness subsumes the land.

By partially abdicating responsibility, Fashola was only being clever by half. Government should create an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive. Which means that when the private sector doesn’t thrive, some of the blame should go to the regulating authority.  Listen to the private players in the power sector and you will hear them say government has not kept its own end of the bargain and that they are still struggling to keep head above water in a tough, asphyxiating operating environment.

Politicians in power serve at the people’s pleasure. They are essentially servants of the people. Fashola’s tone deaf remarks were really unfortunate and should be denounced by everyone who understands the concept of leadership.