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The Kainji Dam


There is nothing like Nigeria. Especially, there is nothing like the Nigerian people, and particularly where I lived more than 20 years, which is south of the river. That is the Niger River and its sister the Benue River.


The Nigerians are beautiful, good people that love other people. If you don't understand them, there will be eventually, misunderstandings. That is how the system works and that is how the Oyinbo (Peeled People) misunderstand the Africans in general and the Nigerians in particular.


Nigeria is located in West Africa and is the most populated country in Africa with an estimated 200 million people. Or maybe 150 million. No one really knows how many people live in Nigeria. Obviously, no one knows how many dies in Nigeria, let alone, no one know the causes of death. No one, except of course few international organizations that provides questionable data.


What we do know is that about 50% of the Nigerans are Muslims, around 50% are Christians and almost 90% are pagans believe in different types of Jujus and spirits. Some prefer believing in two or more religions. Just to be on the safe side. They are not suckers.


There are hundreds of ethnic groups in Nigeria, which speak around 300 different languages and dialects, but most are manage to speak Pidgin English, which is a communication system based on English, hands gestures and different meaningful vocal sounds.


Nigeria is divided into 36 states, plus one territory around Abuja, the Capital of Nigeria.


The current Nigerian borders were drawn by European Oyinbos (peeled people) during the Berlin Conference in 1884 when the Nigerian land was 'given' to the British by the Oyinbos. The borders were determined without any consideration to, or understanding of the people who lived in this area called Nigeria. And who in Europe care, about these wonderful people in Nigeria anyway.


The Niger River is the third largest river in Africa and 13th in the world. The Niger is a major source of life to along it paths and for all Nigerians.


The Kainji Dam is a big dam that Italians built over the Niger River, in Niger State, Nigeria. The dam has created a lake of 135 kilometers long and 30 kilometers wide. The residents around are happy with this lake that the Italians created, which supports irrigation, agriculture, fishing and very important, astonishingly, produce electricity.


When we were there, something was wrong with the dam. It was not producing electricity.


A young and well educated Nupe's guy by the name Balukuku, meaning "the pigeons guard" was our guide. The Nupe (traditionally called the Nupawa by the Hausas and Tapa by the neighboring Yoruba) are an ethnic group, of about 5 million Muslims, native to the Middle Belt of Nigeria, and are the dominant ethnicity in Niger State, one of the 36 states of Nigeria.


Balukuku is telling us the following story and it is an interesting story, quite all right, even if it is not completely a true story, and he make a long story a bit longer.


The Kainji Dam is located in Niger State, where the Nupe People are dominant, however; there are other people live around the lake such as the Lopa, Tsikimba, Tsishingini, Tsuvadi and Cishingini and all enjoy the lake that was built by the Italians.


The Italians built this Kainji Dam some years ago and later managed its operation for few years. The Nigerian government preferred the Italians design, build and later operate the Kainji Dam since they believed that without the Italians' management there might not be electricity and the main purpose of the dam is to produce electricity.


The most senior Nigerian manager on site, was Eng. Idogbo, a very good Yoruba engineer from Ibadan, who is working with the Italians in the past 6 years. Eng. Idogbo is wandering around the site as the Chief of the Dam, cooking a plan of how to take over the Dam's Management from the Italians.


According to Balukuku, Eng. Idogbo is a Nigerian patriot, and his ambition to manage this dam is quite reasonable. Eng. Idogbo is confident that the Italians are not required for the operation of the dam anymore. He, as a Nigerian engineer, is capable, and even better for managing the dam. Eng. Idogbo is asking - are the Italians the only people that can manage this Kainji Dam?


Balukuku agree that, in fact, not only the Italians can manage the dam successfully, but he is fully convinced that Eng. Idogbo, is grossly incapable of managing this dam, or any dam, or anything, and I trust Balukuku.


Mr. Balukuku himself is a Mechanical Engineer, with an impressive communication capability. He is 1.80 meters tall, and can communicate successfully with a wide range of people around the Kainji Lake and even with Yoruba people. He speaks excellent English, and when he wants to say something, he is carefully articulating.


He suspects that Eng. Idogbo is cooking something, with the Honorable Minister of Power of the federation, in charge of that dam, sitting in Abuja.


On the other side, Balukuku is a Nupe, and that might make some people believe that he likes to complain, because some people believe that the Nupe people like to complain, as a matter of a popular habit, especially when they have nothing else to do. In fact, one of my friends tells me, that they are trying to complain on every possible issue, such as the weather, car condition, their wives, or even that they don't have enough money. Especially that they don't have enough money. 


I tell my friend that I personally know some Nupe people that always complain about money, just like everyone on earth. Including Eng. Idogbo.


Balukuku said that Eng. Idogbo approached the Honorable Minister of Power, also a Yoruba from Ibadan, and they speak between them Yoruba, which is a common practice among Yoruba people.


Anyway, Eng. Idogbo tried to persuade, the Honorable Minister, to come over to the dam by himself to see the situation. In such a visit, Eng. Idogbo will demonstrate to the Honorable Minister, his professional capabilities, and show the Honorable Minister that, anything the Italians can do, he can do better. And anyway, Idogbo is the one that does all the work on site. That is what Idogbo tells himself. 


Eng. Idogbo tells the Honorable Minister, how he can master the control panels, almost the same way, as the Honorable Minister's secretary can control the typewriter; blindly and easily.


And so, after some nudges here and there, the Honorable Minister decides to personally undertake a visit to the Kainji dam.


The Honorable Minister's visit is a huge event of biblical proportions. Eng. Idogbo and the Honorable Minister's team invite the area dignitaries, traditional rulers and chiefs to receive the Honorable Minister upon his arrival.


Thousands of locals, gather around the premises, to watch the rare event. The area, where the ceremony is to be held, is a dusty and hot. So, on the side of that location, a big tent was erected. The tent's floor is covered with carpets, giving the place a flavor and aura of king's palace.


On the tent's sides, there are big fans, since this area is very hot and humid. Big speakers playing drums and songs at deafening volume. The ceremony is impressive and includes dancers, drums, and bands that are playing traditional local songs.


All are waiting more than three hours in the sun for the Honorable Minister’s arrival. Usually, most ministers ensure that as many people as possible shall wait for them, and as much time as possible. The more they wait the more important is the honorable minister. That is the system.


The clouds of dust suggest that the Honorable Minister's entourage is approaching. The crowd is excited.


The honorable minster's entourage consists of 74 vehicles, most of them colored black, with tinted dark glasses, and if anyone will bother checking, they might find out, that in those vehicles, there is only a driver, and even that is doubtful.


The reason for the entourage size is simply related to position of the honorable minister. A federal minister, such as the federal honorable minister of power, can't afford himself to arrive, at such a ceremony, with 3 vehicles, which is what the honorable minister really needs. Coming with only few vehicles, would be regarded as an insult to the honorable minister.


If this explanation is not enough to convince you, then to establish the rationale behind such a long entourage, then imagine what the honorable minister has to go through. Just a week earlier, the 'federal minister of works' arrived on a visit to Ilorin, with no less than 72 vehicles, and such entourage, put the number of vehicles required for the visit of the 'honorable minister of power', to the Kainji Dam, at no less than 73.


Now, that we are aware of the limitations that the honorable ministers have to deal with, we begin to appreciate the modesty involved with entourage of 74 vehicles only.


Everybody, around and above, north and south, clearly understand that the 'honorable minister of power' is not in a position to allow himself an entourage shorter than the entourage of 'minister of works.' Bear in mind, that the minister of works, is a Hausa that is visiting a Yoruba town, when the 'honorable minister of power' is Yoruba. There should be no hesitation here. 


Now, leading the entourage, are 6 noisy motorbikes and few vehicles with soldiers and chakalaka that provide the necessary ambiance, which is to terrify the entire population of this area.


Clearly, Eng. Idogbo is fully excited from the unfolding event, and the huge honor bestowed on him, with the attention he is receiving. The dignitaries, together with Eng. Idogbo, are all gathered around the Honorable Minister's car, greeting him with long bows, as a sign of respect. Eng. Idogbo himself is actually prostrating on the ground, vocalizing generously welcome statements, telling the Honorable Minister how happy is he, to see him.


Out of the noise, and the hustle and bustle, and the dust, comes a group of about 50 dignitaries and chiefs with Eng. Idogbo leading the gang, toward the Control Rooms. No Italians are to be seen. Idogbo updated them on the event, and explained them that the nature of the event is an internal Nigerian political matter, and there is nothing more resentful to Italians, than to be involved somehow, in Nigerian politics, or even in Italian politics, for that matter.


Idogbo is no doubt XXXL size, and he leads the honorable minister and associates, with full confidence, moving his hands up and down left and right, since there is a dramatic meaning to the hands' movements.


The Idogbo's show must be perfect. He must successfully utilize this "once in a life time" opportunity. This is a life changing crack. If he will manage to manipulate the honorable minister, he shall possess immense power.


Someone in the class of Idogbo, sitting on the chair of electricity “ruler”, be in charge for allotting the electricity, of Kainji Dam, to the different areas of the country, based on his sole educated judgement. This is a biblical dream.


At this point, there is not enough electricity, produced in Nigeria, to meet the demand. The supply of electricity, is so low, that Nigeria is probably one of the world leading importers, of generators.


Some areas in Nigeria, get 2 hours of electricity, other areas might get 4 hours, and yet others might not get power at all. Now, the one who decides, which area gets power, and how many hours every day, shall face no argument whatsoever, from anyone, until he is removed from that post.


Such a position of power, provides enormous respect from citizens all over, and all the citizens will greet him, with very deep and long bows, and some may kiss his shoes as a matter of a total respect. Most shall laugh loudly, from the driest joke, that the chief-electricity-officer might produce.


Reps from villages, towns and corporations, shall make sure the chief-electricity-officer, which Eng. Idogbo dreams of becoming, shall be the happiest person on earth, so he shall provide them with electrical power.


Such officer, shall be gifted with plenty Naira and Dollars, and make many new good friends. Representatives from the different areas and villages, will make sure that he will be very-very happy, and that in return he will provide them with electricity. On account of the other villages, of course.


Accordingly, villages representatives, come up with creative marketing tactics. Sometime they send, to the chief-electricity-officer, one or two goats, with corn and casava tubers, maybe some pineapples and mango.


If it doesn't work, they might send him a young beauty, that will persuade him, with some tactics, to provide electrical power, to her village, no matter how, since tomorrow, there is an important event in the village. Always, there is an important event in the village. Always they need electrical power.


You got the idea.


Idogbo is very well aware, of this traditional system, and that is why he is so anxious to see the Italians go back to Italy.


All these thoughts, are moving across Idogbo's mind, once he is leading the honorable minister with the chiefs toward the Kainji Dam's Control Room.


He knows this is his chance for glory. He must show the Honorable Minister that he can master the control panels, blindly and easily, exactly as the Honorable Minster's secretary tap the keys on the typewriter. Nothing less. So, the Honorable Minister shall not doubt his capability to control the Kainji Dam's panels.


The moment has arrived. Eng. Idogbo approaches the control panels, with extra showoff, with his eyes on the honorable minister, and his fingers push buttons, here and there, off and on, with a big confidence and a big smile.


He describes to the Honorable Minister about the different buttons and lights. He speaks up and down, left and right, and he makes sure, no one around will understand what he is saying.


The honorable minster shakes his head, in different directions, as a signal to the others that he is listening, which is a rare phenomenon, since the honorable minister doesn't tend to listen to anyone, on a normal basis.


The Honorable Minister looks around wondering, if other associates are impressed with Idogbo's capabilities pressing buttons, here and there, when a sharp, strong, long beep sounds, and thereafter a horrible bang, and then an earthquake. Everything is shaking up and down, left and right.


The dignitaries flee to all directions, terrified, chiefs are falling down with panic everywhere. The chiefs pray to all available gods with their last wishes. The minister's bodyguards pull out their guns and pistols ready to shoot the spirits.


Coincidently, Idogbo had opened the dam's gates, with the emergency button. Huge water wave washed whatever was in the path. 60 villages and small towns were submerged under the mud, without a trace and no one really knows, how many good people with wives and children were buried under Idigbo's mud. And who counts anyway?!


Eng. Idogbo is telling the Honorable Minister, that he has no doubts, that the Italian displaced that button. Ah … Ah … these Italians.


And this is the end of the story.


Except, that few weeks later, after recovering from that horrific experience, the Honorable Minister decided to send the Italians back to Italy and he had two reasons for that decision.


One reason is, Idogbo telling the Honorable Minister how the Italians installed the wrong buttons


The second reason is, that these Italians came from Italy and it is only reasonable that they will prefer to go back to Italy.


The Honorable Minister knows very well, that Idogbo's story about the wrong button, is isokuso (nonsense in Yoruba) but, Idogbo promised the Honorable Minister, that if he will send the Italians back to Italy, or to any other place for that matter, then Idogbo will make sure that the Honorable Minister's village will receive electricity, every day for at least ten hours, and that the village chief, will not have to send to Idogbo two goats, some corns, pineapples and casava tubers, and in any case, the village certainly will not have to send any beautiful girl, to explain to Idogbo what is the importance of electricity to the village.

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