By Latirr Carry
I would think that this is my 200th Red Black Nonsense and this calls for a celebration. No I haven’t counted them but I should and I’ll bet Nawec Generator Number 6 that it is. For the sake of my celebration, we’ll round whatever number it comes to, to the nearest 200. That makes it easy doesn’t it?
One of the most famous names the past few months has been a Mr Nani Juwara. He happens to be the deputy managing director of my favourite Gambian institution. I have met the man officially a few times and in passing on many others. I doubt he remembers my name. Now he is not half as handsome as your writer here and hardly wears a smile but he seems like a nice man. Anytime he opens his mouth, he seems to know what he’s talking about – knows his institution inside out. I cannot say much about his superior. I believe I met him officially once. He was new then…
well not considering his previous stint at the famed institution. He also didn’t wear a smile. I assume Nawec management hardly smile. It must be frustrating leading such an institution! Well apart from their director of finance. The man is super easy going…I believe a certain Mr Cham. He has that Cheshire cat-like grin that tells you everything is going to be okay. You know…he should probably double as the PRO for the institution. He would make announcements about generator Number 6 and Number 10 with such a smile that you would go to bed forgetting there’s no light. I like Mr Cham. You would too. I don’t think it is intentional – their non-desire to smile. They’re just bad-a** like that! Like cowboys in their kaftans and old-skool suits, you just gotta love them when they walk into the room. I bet if they were in our homes, they would light up the rooms! Something that cannot be said about their generators.
But again, this is not about personalities. I mean, the right to smile or not to smile is God-given. Also, perhaps they are aware of the anger from the public where smiling can be misconstrued. If our journalists had decided to be true in digging deep, one of them might have asked Mr Juwara why he is smiling when the nation is in crisis…and then what would he have said? So yeah…I think the right to not smile must be exercised until things are well…or better at least.
I took a short trip a week ago out of the country and on my way back I tried, in between jinkos, to see the lights of the beautiful Dark Continent. My face lit up as we went through Dakar with its nightlife and beautiful neoning of the landscape. However, after leaving Dakar it was dark. Okay, I lie. We flew past a patch of street lights somewhere. The fact that it was remote made it beautiful. Then just as I was trying to ask myself when we were getting to the airport, I heard and felt a huge bump! We had landed! I mean…no warning…no lights…just bam! I could see the shock on everyone’s face…or maybe it was fear…that we had come home.
I’m going to cut through the bull dung and make it clear that this essay is not going to give Nawec any solutions. For starters it is not my job to give Nawec solutions. It is my job to buy cashpower, sit on the couch with my feet up and watch Chelsea get drilled three by Roma. Secondly, I am not a mechanical or electrical engineer. I am a petroleum engineer.
Our job comes before the generators. We are therefore most important of the three. If I have any doubt in my head, it is not that Nawec doesn’t have qualified engineers and technicians to get the job done. If they didn’t we would be having zero hours of electricity a day and not three.
The question is not whether or not Nawec can solve this problem. The question however is, how serious is Nawec taking this? Wednesday night, it was a joy to see Nawec’s presence on social media letting people know what’s going on. Whether their proclamations are true or not, this is a welcome move. I question the validity of whatever comes from Nawec for one reason and one reason only – fool me once… The Wolof have a similar statement but that would be inappropriate for children.
Coming on Facebook, I noticed continued cries from the people on the lack of electricity and water. There was in fact a planned protest against this inhumane treatment of the nicest people on earth. There was a counter-operation though. In the name of this new democracy we had two sides to an argument (like an argument has only one side). There were the political stalwarts whose messages reflected the view that any word against a government institution was an attack on the government and therefore on the UDP. There were others who for reasons best known to them believed the situation was not yet critical and would therefore require some patience.
Then there were those that questioned the timing – why wasn’t this done with the previous government? Now two of these reasons hold a little bit of water…and by a little bit, I mean tutti melentan. One of them is a basket trying to fetch water. I will not take you through the headache of guessing which one.
South Africa happens to be the biggest provider of energy in the continent. When I went there last, due to low dam levels (and mind you hydroelectricity is not even close to their largest source of power), they were doing some positive work sensitising people on efficient use of power and water.
For them, it was already mission critical. My biggest question during this whole time has been, when does it get critical for Nawec and for government? When do we bring out the big guns and raise the alarm? When do you believe it has reached mission critical? Is it when we start having two hours of electricity a day (which has already happened) or is it when we go an entire day without power (again this has already happened) or is it when we have no power for a week (Astagfirulaahi)?
The first time I heard Nawec make an announcement this year about the power situation in the country, things would be sorted by September (or was it August?)…then there was a new pronouncement following the agreement on the famous Senelec deal (which reminds me, what exactly is the Senelec deal?). Then there was another announcement saying by December it shall all be well. It feels like Mourinho’s Chelsea all over again giving fake starting line-ups before the game to blindside opponents. Yes he’s going to play. No he’s not going to play. Well technically if you look at it, I didn’t lie. It’s a technical lie. You know…based on technical stuff. Do you know technical stuff? Are you an engineer? Do you know how hard we’ve been working? Do you think we do not want to solve the problem? Generator Number 6 is down. Generator Number 10 is down. We need 600 million euros to solve the problem. We need 300 million dollars. We need capacity. We have the OMVG project. Just give us time. Just pray.
See how I moved from Chelsea to Nawec? Perhaps Abrahamovic is the solution. Yes that’s it! Call the Russian billionaire! He solves everything.
I had a mini-argument with someone Thursday morning on Facebook. He thought there were more important things to talk about and protest about than Nawec…you know like creating jobs. Stupid me decided to get into that whole…conundrum. Not the biggest regret of my life but… So I’ll say it here and forever and ever tongor Nawec. There is nothing more important to talk about right now than Nawec. There should be billboards up! Radio stations should have Nawec hours every hour. Government should release statements every week! Churches must pray, Mosques must congregate! Monkeys, hyenas, hippos and birds must weep for us humans. This Nawec situation is that much of a big deal.
I once spoke to someone in authority about what I believe are the two things that can make this government fail or succeed – power and oil. On the former, there can be no economic growth (not even meaningless economic growth) without stability of power supply. There will be no security. Clinics and hospitals will not function at their best – considering they have never even functioned at their best. One day’s work will take a week (I have experienced that with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and with Immigration when Nawec decided to keep their offices dark). Businesses will close. People will be laid off as money that should pay salaries will now be used to buy generators and fuel. Crime rate will rise as crimes operate more effectively in dark corners – so imagine if the entire country is one dark corner. This isn’t rocket science. What is more important than Nawec right now?
As a country, critical essential services must not be compromised. Elections happened a year ago and this government is here for another two or four years. It doesn’t matter which side of the aisle you belong to. People jumping on Nawec are doing so because they want electricity and water. Period! No strings attached! Perhaps we are actually doing the one thing for the government that the government doesn’t want to be seen doing. Perhaps people behind the #OccupyWestfield movement should be given police escorts, water and free credit! If the government does its bit and the people do theirs, perhaps Nawec will understand the urgency of now! When I jumped on Nawec for the last eight years, it wasn’t out of political ill will. That side of the story never came up. I was simply crying for kurang to be able to work and sleep in peace.
Now the truth is, Nawec has NEVER been this bad. Perhaps this management has inherited a severe problem that has been bottling up for years. Perhaps this management is still the old management that passed down this bottled up problem. Perhaps it’s the same merry-go-round. If we truly believe that things are changing in this country for the better then Nawec surely has to be at the forefront. We live in a country unfortunately that embraces mediocrity and is always ready to defend rubbish. I had an entire essay on this two or three years ago. Same-a-same. For anyone to think that Nawec is doing the people a favour shows just how far gone we all are.
Someone has to put his or her foot down. It doesn’t matter which foot but a foot must hit the floor…hard. We cannot afford to be told unrealistic promises forever. Nawec must accept that it is in crisis…that our country and our economy is suffering. We cannot continue to operate with a mentality where Nawec are our parents and the populace are their children. Our high offices must stop interfering negatively in the affairs of an institution that is failing the masses. When they interfere it must be to ensure that the public interest is safeguarded at all times. It is essential that the cry of the people doesn’t go unnoticed because it is a very powerful cry. We all have a role to play in this country and especially on this issue. What we can do is write, cry, march, sing and rap.
It is government’s job to hear our cry and ensure that Nawec is truly doing all it can to remedy the situation without adding salt to injury or interfering negatively in the running of such a vital institution. It is Nawec’s job at least for now, until the situation is remedied fully, to communicate effectively with the people, come up with immediate solutions to light up our homes and our offices and start a serious search for long-term solutions to stopping this from every happening again. For now any practice, corrupt or otherwise, from the top to the bottom, that will further deepen the problem should be put on hold nyu regleh deka bi.
Corruption and mismanagement are always at the heart of all our institutional problems in the smiling coast and we will not apologize for always making that assumption (especially when those assumptions are informed). It is time for Nawec to put the people first. For peace…for security…for prosperity..for stability…for The Gambia…for truth. The time to change is now. So my 200th RBN is a toast to Nawec. At the end of the day, it’s all love.