By the time Nigeria’s minister of power, works and housing, Babatunde Fashola, finished lecturing some civil society organizations midweek, he must have truly impressed them because they started clapping for him. The applause at the engagement workshop must have gotten into the head of the minister’s team so they decided to share excerpts on social media.
Watching the video, it’s hard to see why anyone clapped over Fashola’s distorted logic – unless it was in jest.
In his comments, Fashola said that an analogy comparing South Africa’s massive power generation with that of Nigeria “does not make sense”, but in reality it was Fashola who was struggling and failing to make any sense.
Forget about his attempt to spin the question into an issue of Nigerians “looking down” on their own country – just take Fashola’s comments and try to logically untangle it.
He said: “The amount of power any nation needs is not just a function of its population. It is also a function of the use and the level of development and industrialization and the nature of the economy. Manufacturing economies, research and invention driven economies will necessarily consume more power.”
His argument was that Nigeria does not have that much manufacturing capacity to require as much power as South Africa “which is already producing aircraft and military hardware” generates.
Fashola’s faulty logic:
The minister is basically arguing that a country of Nigeria’s humongous size should only aspire to South Africa’s level of capacity when it becomes a manufacturing or invention driven economy. Fashola is placing the cart before the horse. A big function of whether Nigeria will ever attain the status of “manufacturing” country in the way Fashola means it, is whether we have electricity in the first place.
Fashola argued that Ashaka Cement which is like a community on its own consumes just 15MW of power, and we do not have many companies like that. But the truth is that several manufacturing companies (like Dunlop) have had to leave the country in recent years because of absence of power.
When Fashola’s party was in the opposition and he was the Lagos governor, he said at an event that research from Lagos had shown that four sectors held the key to accelerating Nigeria’s growth – power, agriculture, transportation and housing. Now he superintends over two of those ministries and suddenly he is implying that the power sector is not an accelerator of the growth but just an addition which comes after the growth. That is mischievous logic.
Fashola’s fallacy-ridden logic continues to unravel when he mentioned countries generating lesser power than Nigeria. He said: “Niger [Republic] is running on 80MW, Republic of Togo 200MW – less than Abuja, Ghana is about 3,000MW installed capacity and they are not producing all of that; Lagos alone is getting 1200MW, one state, half of another country. So we must understand the dynamics of electricity use.” He also mentioned Rwanda.
Nigeria is a Great country, stop putting yourself down – HM Babatunde Fashola pic.twitter.com/ZHvuUY7aUv
— Fed Ministry of PWH (@FMPWH) February 3, 2018
Now here is the thing. Since Fashola was making an argument that population should not determine generation capacity, then he ought to have cited examples of populations as large (or larger) than ours which generate lesser power. Instead his examples were Rwanda (12m), Niger (21m), Togo (8m), and Ghana (28m). Even if you add South Africa’s 56m people, the total for all these countries will come to about 125m, which is still less than Nigeria’s 180m people. He did not mention one single country as big as Nigeria with less or similar power generation.
Even if we decide to allow ourselves be deceived by Fashola’s mediocre logic and ignore population sizes, let us compare size of economies. As per Wikipedia, Nigeria’s economy (GDP) is the 30th largest in the world. Let us compare the electricity generation per year of our peer countries (those immediately above us and below).
The five countries above us in terms of GDP are:
25. Belgium (86,900GWH), with population of 11 million.
26. Thailand (179,700GWH), with population of 69 million.
27. Iran (286,000GWH), with population of 80 million.
28. Austria (67,600GWH), with population of 9 million.
29. Egypt (187,300GWH), with population of 96 million.
For countries below us in terms of GDP:
31. Norway (149,500GWH) with population of 5 million.
32. UAE (136,800GWH), with population of 9 million.
33. Hong Kong (38,200GWH), with population of 8 million.
34. Israel (67,400GWH), with population of 9 million.
35. South Africa (251,900GWH), with population of 56 million.
Nigeria’s electricity generation per year of 25,695GWH is far less than every single one of these countries. If the electricity production per GDP ratio OR the electricity population per population ratio is calculated, all of these countries dwarf Nigeria.
Fashola knows this. In fact he used to make this exact argument convincingly only a few years ago. Everyone knows the dire situation is not the fault of Fashola or the APC federal government. But they also know that Fashola used to say “power generation is not rocket science, it is just generator. So just remember and imagine that your i-beta-pass-my-neighbor generator in one million times its capacity but in one place. So if you can make that size of IKW, you can make a power turbine of 1000MW, that’s how simple it is.”
Suddenly it now seems like rocket science to Fashola, and rather than being humble about it, he is berating others for “looking down” our country. It is the kind of behavior, the Fashola of old would describe as “incompetent.”