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Tolu Ogunlesi: How Many Nigerians Does It Take To Change A Light Bulb?



One person to write a petition to the Presidency pointing out that the light bulb needs changing. Twelve persons to form a Presidential Panel of Inquiry “to establish the immediate and remote causes of the blackout, and prescribe appropriate recommendations.”

Three-dozen ministers (sitting under the Chairmanship of the President, on a Wednesday morning) to award a contract “for the supply of 100 Nos. light bulb. (“1 Nos. main bulb and 99 Nos. back-up bulbs”).

One minister to announce at the end of the Federal Executive Council meeting that “Council this morning approved the release of one billion naira for the purchase of 100 Nos. bulbs as part of its commitment to ensuring government’s implementation of the National Light Bulb Policy.”

One Secretary to the Government of the Federation to announce the setting up of a Presidential Action Committee on the “One-Bulb” Agenda. One prominent member of the Presidential Committee to make headlines in the papers with a memorable statement at the swearing-in ceremony: “Whatever is done in darkness shall be brought to lightness.”

One “Concerned Nigerians” group to take a full page newspaper advert urging the Honourable Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy to take steps to ensure that the bulb supply contract is not hijacked by Lebanese or Indian or Chinese businessmen.

Six enterprising Nigerians to rush to the Corporate Affairs Commission to register six separate companies for the special purpose of tendering for, and bagging, the contract for supply of the new light bulbs.

Two hundred placard-carriers to march to the premises of the National Assembly to protest the marginalisation of their geopolitical zone in the national bulb-allocation formula.

One person to approach the Abuja Federal High Court seeking an order “compelling the Federal Government to ensure equitable national distribution of light bulbs.” One person to approach the Federal High Court in Lagos seeking “a stay of execution on the ruling of the Abuja High Court pending determination of a substantive suit on the matter.” One judge at the Court of Appeal to throw out all suits on the grounds that they “are frivolous and lacking in merit.”

Six members of the Board of the National Light Bulb Allocation Agency to screen tenders for the supply of light bulb and select a “preferred” and “reserve” contractor. These six persons to proceed to Shanghai, China to inspect the factory producing the said light bulb.

Sixty mobile policemen to guard National Bulb Allocation Agency warehouse, upon importation of bulb, to prevent a repeat of previous scenario where imported light bulb vanished two days after delivery.

One Engineer to commence and abandon installation of light bulb.

One government official to inspect the bulb installation site, express displeasure “at the slow pace of work on the project site”, and vow to “ensure that the defaulting contractor is made to face the full weight of the law.”

Twelve plain-clothed Economic and Financial Crimes Commission officials to storm the office of the defaulting engineer to arrest him and cart away laptops and contract documents. One Senior Advocate of Nigeria to apply for bail on behalf of the arrested engineer. One engineer from “reserve contractor” to complete the installation of the light bulb, and then realise that the bulb cannot be tested because there is no electricity, and no diesel in the generator.

One contractor to supply a tanker of diesel to the generator required to power the light bulb.

One senior government functionary (preferably Mr. President) to commission the newly installed light bulb. Twenty-three photographers and cameramen to cover the commissioning ceremony. One Nigerian Television Authority newscaster to announce to 30 million Nigerians that the President has just commissioned “an ultra-modern, state-of-the-art light bulb.”

One petitioner to allege, in a petition to the president (copying the Inspector General of Police, Human Rights Watch, National Security Adviser, Nigerian Governors’ Forum, the US Embassy and Interpol) that the newly-installed bulb was supplied by a company fronting for the Chairman of the Board of the National Light Bulb Allocation Agency, and that contract was “grossly inflated.”

One NLBAA spokesperson to refute the “wicked and malicious allegations” levelled against the “esteemed and Honourable Chairman” of the agency, and threaten a libel case.

One state governor to tell the CNN that the bulbs used by Boko Haram to light up Sambisa Forest are far more powerful than the ones supplied by the Federal Government.

Three presidential spokesmen to denounce the state governor as an unpatriotic liar whose sympathies evidently lie with darkness-loving terrorist groups, and to ask him to account for all the bulbs he purchased with state funds since he became governor.

One self-acclaimed presidential godfather to call a press conference to ask the president to immediately declare a “State of Darkness” in the recalcitrant governor’s domain.

One delegation of 14 traditional rulers and community elders from the benefiting communities to pay a courtesy visit to the president to thank him for bringing the dividends of democracy to the area, and to express their “unalloyed loyalty” to him and his administration.

One president to thank the delegation of traditional rulers for their unalloyed support, and blame the controversy surrounding the bulbs purchase on disgruntled Nigerians who are critical of his government only because they have been fed with “Mr. Biggs” by opposition politicians.

One opposition party spokesman to issue a press statement expressing shock at the choice of words by the presidential spokesman, the self-acclaimed godfather, and the president himself; and to remind Nigerians that they deserve “non-toxic; climate-change-compatible” bulbs, which only the opposition can provide, in 2015.

One journalist to write a story on ‘lightbulbgate’, entitled: “Nigeria’s Illuminati – The Corrupt Cabal running the National Light Bulb Allocation Agency.”

One anonymous commentator on the Internet to suggest that the light bulb probably didn’t even need changing in the first place.

One Twitter ‘Overlord’ to start a #WhereAreOurBulbs campaign.

Seventeen thousand Twitter activists to retweet all #WhereAreOurBulbs tweets

Now, at this point we have to do the math. Let’s add up all the numbers above, to know how many Nigerians were involved in the changing of the bulb. That number we will come up with is Nigeria’s Light Bulb Index. The World Bank says that a country’s LBI is a very accurate indicator of its readiness for transparency, and for economic development; the lower the LBI, the more likely the country is to become a developed country.

Nigeria and Iraq are reputed to be jostling for the first place in the global LBI rankings. And that’s because in Iraq it takes an entire Halliburton Division to change – and bill the Iraqi government for – a single light bulb.

• A version of this piece first appeared in NEXT newspaper in May 2011


Article written by Tolu Ogunlesi, On twitter @toluogunlesi and Culled from Punch Newspaper..


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