(Originally appeared in my NEXT Column in May 2011)

By Tolu Ogunlesi

One Tweeter to tweet a link to an article in Reuters disclosing that the last time Nigeria changed the bulb was 2001, and that the budget for changing that bulb would have been sufficient to cover the cost of changing all the bulbs in sub-Saharan Africa at that time.

One Tweeter to tweet at @abati1990 and @renoomokri: Y U NO change bulb?

Seventy-two LOLing, LMFAOing tweeters to RT above tweet.

One Twitter activist to start a #ChangeTheBulb campaign. Another Twitter activist to start a #LightTheBulb campaign. 

One influential (Friday) newspaper columnist to, inspired by the momentum on Twitter, write a hard–hitting piece on the matter, and catch the attention of the presidency.

Twelve “eminent” persons (all bearers of National Honours) 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 1 Nos. light bulb.”

One Minister to announce at the end of the FEC meeting that “Council this morning approved the release of X million naira for the purchase of 1 Nos. bulb as part of its commitment to ensuring government’s implementation of the National Light Bulb Policy.”

Six enterprising persons to rush to the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) to register six separate companies for the special purpose of tendering for, and bagging, the contract for supply of the new light bulb. Two hundred placard-carriers to march to the premises of the National Assembly to protest the marginalisation of their geo-political zone in the national bulb-allocation formula. 

One person to approach Abuja Federal High Court seeking an order “compelling the Federal Government to ensure equitable national distribution of light bulbs.” One person to approach 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 grounds that they “are frivolous and lacking in merit.”

Six members of the Board of the National Light Bulb Allocation Agency (NLBAA) 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 said light bulb. Six 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. No project is deemed successful in Nigeria unless it has been abandoned at least once. (Joke: The National Independent Power Project (NIPP) and the Sagamu-Benin Expressway are in heated debate over who’s the most abandoned: “Shut up there!” NIPP says to Sag-Ben. “We summoned the ‘Sculptor’, the woodpecker too is saying ‘Present Sir!’ What do you know about abandonment?” They argue violently. And then ‘Ajaokuta’ shows up, silent. The warring projects shut their mouths and before you can say “mobilisation fee”, have sneaked away in shame. Case closed.)

Back to our light bulb change personnel calculation.

One government official to inspect 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 EFCC officials to storm the office of the defaulting engineer to arrest him and cart away laptops and contract documents. One Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) 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 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 camera-men to cover the commissioning ceremony. One NTA 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 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.

A delegation of fourteen traditional rulers and community elders from benefiting community 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 anonymous Sahara Reporters reporter to write a story on ‘lightbulbgate’, entitled: “ Nigeria ’s Illuminati – The Corrupt Cabal running the National Light Bulb Allocation Agency.” One commentator on the Sahara Reporters website to suggest that the light bulb probably didn’t even need changing in the first place.

Now at this point we have to do the math. Let’s see what number we come up with. That figure, ladies and gentlemen, is Nigeria ’s Light Bulb Index (LBI). The World Bank says that a country’s LBI is a very accurate indicator of its readiness for transparency, and for economic development.

Nigeria and Iraq are reputed to be jostling for first place in the global LBI rankings. And that’s because (apart from the fact that the sale and use of light bulbs is already being banned in several countries, due to dismal energy efficiency), in Iraq it takes an entire Halliburton Division to change – and bill the Iraqi government for – a single light bulb…

Tolu Ogunlesi (c) 2014


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