The story of Dele Orisabiyi Street, off Ago Palace Way, Okota, Lagos is probably not too different from your story or the story of Nigeria today—the story of a street afflicted with primitive electricity darkness, the type that is an embarrassment to a country that calls itself the giant of Africa, this side of the 21st century.
It was not that bad until one of the transformers supplying electricity to the very long street that ends in a canal, got bad and necessitated a replacement some years ago. And that is where the tragic story started—a story of deafness to all entreaties to bring in a new transformer. From one excuse after another, the street was enveloped in full darkness and half-darkness that stretched on and on, leading to people buying all sorts of generators, big and small, and the atmosphere polluted with noise and smoke. Tired of waiting in vain, the angry and frustrated landlords and tenants of the streets all contributed money running into some cool millions to buy a brand new transformer which they donated to Ikeja Electric, believing that is the end of their electricity problem. But it was just the beginning. Tenants who could not stand the unbearable agony of being in the dark, migrated to nearby streets where light availability was far, far better. As for the landlords, they had no choice than to remain as prisoners of darkness in their homes.
Every night you drive down the street of Dele Orisabiyi Street, it’s like you are at the warfront with the multiple cacophony of generator sounds all roaring, shooting out heavy smoke into the ozone layer and depriving the people of the street some good sleep. Every morning, the people of the street would drive past the transformer which was installed since May last year but has since not been powered by Ikeja Electric. They would drive past the transformer now imprisoned by thick cobwebs. They would remember the amount of money they contributed to buy the transformer now turned into a useless museum piece. The community has written all kinds of letters and personally visited the offices of the electricity authorities but it all ended as a wasted effort. There were times they were tempted to go on peaceful demonstration, but when they remembered the fate of the youths during the recent ENDSARS campaign, they decided to “calm down.”
Then came a journalist by name Gbenga Dan Asabe like a deus ex machina—an answer to their prayers. Asabe is the enterprising, hardnosed social media television journalist who has become an Ombudsman fighting for all those suffering from the unfairness and the injustice of electricity authorities like Ikeja Electric who will not supply the likes of Dele Orisabiyi Street electricity and prepaid meters, only to bring in exorbitant bills monthly for the electricity they didn’t consume. Asabe has done a series of investigative journalism stories on countless communities in Lagos suffering electricity deprivation of the highest order. Like the long-awaited messiah, he came to Dele Orisabiyi Street with his TV camera to conduct some interviews with the people of the street to hear their electricity agonies and the tragedy of the transformer which they bought with their hard-earned money but was never energized. Asabe’s story on YouTube is captioned: “Another Lagos Community in Okota reveal tales of woe and misfortune.”
Just type this caption on YouTube and you will see Asabe conducting his interviews on the people of Dele Orisabiyi Street lamenting their transformer and electricity woes in the hands of Ikeja Electricity. Indeed social media has changed the world of today. With social media, your message can reach the whole world just like the world’s giant media like CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera. With the way he is going, ASABE AFRIKA TV will soon be a media giant like CNN and the others. I pray so. As the Chinese saying goes, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Someone drew my attention to Asabe’s YouTube story on Dele Orisabiyi electricity woes. And there, I watched the angry people of the street airing their lamentations. Chigozie Nwosu, the street’s “Head of Electricity” was the first to be interviewed. He lamented:
“Last year May, we decided to donate this transformer (to Ikeja Electric). It is not as if this community is rich. We thought that this will help to have a steady power here. We went and purchased this transformer. We took them along. Even before we went to buy it, we had a meeting with them. They said we should go and buy it, they will come and connect us, and that there is no problem. We said OK. Thinking it is something that will not stay here for a week, we mounted it. They came and spotted here and asked us to mount it here. We took their men to where we bought it to test for us. So after all this, the transformer is here lying here up till this time. Every day of the week, you will see the presence of Ikeja Electric. They will be coming here.”
Next to be interviewed was Darlington Duru, Chairman of the Street. He echoes the same woes and songs of lamentation. Says Darlington Duru: “The transformer has been here since May 6, 2019. We went back to them saying we have done our own part, we have donated a transformer to you. Now, fulfill your own part by powering the transformer. That’s the understanding we had. Again, they began to toss us around, giving us one excuse after the other. That’s where we are now. We don’t owe Ikeja Electric. They have done everything to frustrate us. They know what we are generating here on Dele Orisabiyi Street. They know if we are metered, we won’t be paying as much as we pay now. They have been delaying the approval of the pre-paid meter. Something tells me that some of their managers are given special training on how to scheme and deceive consumers. On a number of occasions, we have invited their managers here. They will come and give empty promises. If Ikeja Electric knows they are not capable of doing this thing, they should go back to the government and give it back. This is a calculated move by Ikeja Electric to siphon us. We are paying ten times more than we are consuming.”
On his part, star journalist Gbenga Dan Asabe says: “I will pursue this matter to its logical conclusion until the transformer is restored and there is light on this street of which has suffered so long. I remember when the great journalist Dimgba Igwe was killed on September 6, 2014 while jogging, his home on Dele Orisabiyi became the Mecca for who is who in Nigeria. Fashola was here, Tinubu was here, even Buhari was here to commiserate. The street was given a facelift with a promise by the government to do the road. But it was all empty promises. Ikeja Electric has continued in the same tradition. What kind of country is this?”
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