Just like the last few posts, this post is particularly about my home country, Nigeria.
It’s been just over a year now since Nigeria had a change in administration and a new political leadership. It’s been a long ride and it’s probably the toughest time the country has faced in the past decades. The arduous situation is critical as Nigerians like me, abroad, also feel the impact, one way or the other, from our remote dwellings. It’s strangely interesting how a nation’s influence could be greatly felt across the world in a subtle, yet apparent way.
In Nigeria, almost every household is equipped with a personal electric generator due to poor reliance and withdrawn dependence on the national grid infrastructure. Because of this, I will like to use a simple analogy of a ‘change-over box’ that most Nigerians are familiar with, to shed some light on the matter for today #PunNotIntended.
A change-over box, as you (if you’ve lived in Nigeria) already know is an electro-mechanical switching device in a building’s electrical distribution system that is used to toggle between electric sources – from grid (NEPA, PHCN) to an off-grid generation (typically, the ‘I beta pass my neighbour’ sets). The switching configuration is such that both sources are separate ‘on’ positions and there is an ‘off’ position right in between them. Whenever there is no satisfaction with the grid service, (i.e. an unexpected and undesirable outage occurs).
The decision to have a personal gen-set for our electricity needs is borne out of the weak reliability of the national grid; too many forced, urgent and emergency outages occur, to the detriment of the people’s dependance. So, whenever we need to pump water from our boreholes or simply just want to watch a program on TV and there is no power service coming from the grid source, we naturally take control of the situation by switching to our off-grid solution. To make this switch, first thing is we disconnect from the grid connection into the isolation of the neutral or ‘off’ position, then we go ahead to actuate the lever further to the alternative power source. This is a common process carried out in most households and it goes on to reveal how every young Nigerian that has performed this change-over operation on a daily basis is a potential change agent, and in fact are expert electrical system operators. I know I’m not the only one that has perfected this routine by doing it in such a brisk way that it looks like just a single switching activity (instead of two) – there are millions more.
Change is difficult to accept and achieve. Regardless of whatever kind of power we need to change, (whether political, economic or electrical), there will always be a resistance to disconnection and an outage before the eventual switch to the alternative. During power switching, a resistive force appears to oppose the action and this is apparent in the political power scenarios as seen in economies today. Well developed systems try to reduce transition periods to the barest minimum because outages are very undesirable.
In the general context of political & economic analyses, there are two main parties in a system and the reason for this is for there to be room to have options to choose from. This is a natural concept in the design and planning of any kind of system – it is called Redundancy. In simpler words, when one configuration fails, there is a backup or Plan-B set to take effect. It is the same reason why we have those personal generating sets in the first place.
Zooming into the Nigerian economic system, the current situation can be likened to a transition period into a new system of doing things. Thanks to the information era, Nigerians are using IT trends to gain awareness on alternative ways to run the system. The challenge in switching to alternatives is the cost implication that comes with it. There are 2 ways to quantify cost benefits in decision making; there is the financial cost benefit analysis and socio-economic cost benefit analysis. While the financial cost benefit analysis only considers the monetary evaluations over a certain product life-cycle period, the socio-economic cost benefit analysis also takes into consideration the social welfare factors involved in such a decision.
Nigeria is currently transitioning into a system that now takes into account the welfare of the people, even as it chases the international wealth through diversified ways. This doesn’t mean that the country has reached its proposed potential yet but at least it shows it’s on its way there, as the change-over process has already taken effect. Nigerians just need to accept this change more quickly to expedite the transition by re-orientating their minds to receive it. The general youth just need to ignore all of the political disasters by focusing only on the self-development programs available out there and subscribe to entrepreneurship. It is always said that the people always get the kind of leadership they deserve. And I myself knows for a fact that Nigerians are generally good at heart, hence we deserve good leadership – even as our first international declaration of a fair electoral process has been achieved.
In the past 18 months, I have also observed the country very closely, albeit remotely, over the course of my masters degree program. While I am willing to pursue more experience in the field of energy systems, I am also considering entrepreneurial skill development activities that help youths manage the difficulties that naturally come with the trade. And this involves learning the very easy-to-use IT tools and techniques out there. Most of these resources are free and easy to access through the same internet we use for our social media. As always, all you need is a Google search engine to surf through the global online repository.
During my academic program at the University of Ottawa, in my studies of global systems, I have learnt that economic sustainability should be the main goal for national development and that this is mostly achieved in a diversified system. Fortunately and even more so, uniquely, Nigeria is blessed with diversity both in our human and natural resources. There are several youths already taking advantage of entrepreneurial skills – ranging from Vendor services to the social sector such as Photography (which is now also developing into aerial photography), Beauty designs and Make-up services, Food Tech (meals and confectionaries), to Web and Media technology services (which is currently one of the biggest) and even down to Farming as well (which could be the next big thing) – but we need more. We actually do need more in the area of power systems as well since these aforementioned growing concepts need and crave power as its inadequacy greatly limits their potential. All of these skills are equally useful for national development and no single one is more important than the other, however, the current need for power is mostly general amongst all of them. Power systems appear to be complex and dreadful at first look but the concept can easily be taught in simple ways that even a non-Engineer or non-Scientist can learn and appreciate the fundamentals.
While this blog will, for a long time, focus on renewable energy sermons, it aims to also reach out to young people across the world, and particularly in Africa, that have ever wondered for a second why electricity could (ever) be unreliable. It will also touch on emerging technologies that are sustainable and easy to learn.
Back on track, Nigeria is moving towards a change in power and there is foreseeable power in change. While the signs are clear only in the hardships and suffering of the Giant Nation, they are also symptoms of the wake of a new economic era with great stories to share with future generations.
And only those that believe in this, will benefit from it.