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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, which is in southern Nigeria, called often as south of the river. That is, the Niger River and its sister the Benue River.


I love them because they love life and love people. They are simply good and beautiful people, although, if you don't understand them, it can cause misunderstandings, and if there is something that is characteristic of Oyinbo, Peeled People, then it is one hundred percent that they do not understand Africans in general, and Nigerians in particular.


Nigeria is located West Africa and is regarded as the most populous country on the continent. Possibly.


It is estimated that its population is currently over 200 million people. Or 150 million. Or more. Or less.


No one really knows how many people live in Nigeria. Obviously, no one knows how many people die in Nigeria, let alone, no one know the causes of death in Nigeria. No one, except of course a number of international organizations that provides information. Or misinformation.


What we do know is that about 50% of the Nigerans are recognized as Muslims, around 50% are recognized as Christians and around 90% worship various pagan idols and different types of Jujus and spirits.


Clearly, most are very religious, and some hold more than one religion. For example, some can be both Muslim and Christian. Just to be on the safe side. They are not suckers.


In Nigeria there are hundreds of ethnic groups or tribes, who speak close to 300 different languages and different dialects, but most of them chatter in a broken English called Pidgin English, which is a communication system made of hybrid between several languages, hand gestures, and all kinds of meaningful sounds and expressions.


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


Nigeria's current borders are the result of a decision made by the European Oyinbo at the Berlin Conference, held around 1884, in which the Nigerian land was given to the British, and boarders were drawn without any logic, understanding and consideration of the peoples who live on that land.


Anyway, who in Europe is interested or care what the beautiful peoples of Nigeria want and if there are even peoples in Nigeria, or just "tribes."



The Niger River is the third largest in Africa and 13 in the world. Along it paths, the Niger and the Benue rivers are the major source of life and transportation for all Nigerians.


The Kainji Dam is a big dam that Italians built over the Niger River, in Niger State, Nigeria. The dam created a lake of 135 kilometers long and 30 kilometers wide.


The residents around the lake are happy with this lake that the Italians created, which supports irrigation, agriculture, fishing and astonishingly produce electricity, which amazes the residents of the area.


When I was there, the dam was not generating electricity. Something happened there.


We were accompanied by a young, educated, Nupe's dude by the name Balukuku, meaning "the pigeons' keeper".


He tells the following story, and it is a very interesting story, even if not everything really happened. He takes a somewhat long and exhausting story and makes it a bit longer and a bit more exhausting.


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.


Although the Kainji Dam is located in Niger State, where the Nupe People are dominant, there are other people live around the lake such as the Lopa, Tsikimba, Tsishingini, Tsuvadi and Cishingini who form a colorful mosaic of cultures and all enjoy the lake that was built by the Italians.


So, the Italians built the dam years ago, and then managed the dam, because the Nigerian government thought it would rather be better for the Italians to operate the dam because otherwise one of two possibilities would have happened. Either it is not certain that there will be electricity, or it is certain that there will not be electricity.


The most senior Nigerian manager on site, on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Energy, 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, cooks up plans 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 equipped 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, the Italians are not the only people that 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 an experienced Mechanical Engineer in the water sector, 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 suspects that Eng. Idogbo is cooking something with the Honorable Minister of Power of the federation, responsible of that dam, sitting in Abuja.


At the same time, 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, they try to complain about anything, such as the weather, or the car condition, or their wives, or even that they don't have enough money. Especially that they don't have enough money.


I personally know a number of Nupe people that always used to complain on one occasion or another about money, just like everyone on this planet. 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, in practice Idogbo is the one that does all the work on site. That is at least 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 operate the typewriter; blindly and easily, without even looking at the keys and buttons.




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 to the Kainji Dam is unusual and historic event of biblical proportions.


Eng. Idogbo and the Honorable Minister's team make sure that all the dignitaries from the surrounding area, all the traditional rulers and chiefs shall be there to welcome the Honorable Minister upon his arrival.


Thousands, and perhaps more, of the local residents of this area gather on the fence around the ceremony area, to observe the phenomenon.


The ceremony area is a dusty piece of land and the place is very hot. So, on that site a large tent was erected with carpets placed on the ground of the tent, providing the place a flavor and ambience of a king's palace. At least, so everyone imagines.


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 very impressive and includes dancers, drums, and bands that are playing traditional local songs typical of the region.


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 excitement reaches its peak.


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


The reason for the entourage's size is simply related to status of the honorable minister. A federal minister, such as the federal honorable minister of power, cannot afford himself arriving to such a ceremony with 3 vehicles, because it is insulting and conveys disrespect, even though there is no need for more than one vehicle accompanied by a security vehicle.


If this explanation is not enough to convince you, and to establish the rationale behind such a long convoy, 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.


Such convoy size, put the number of vehicles required for the visit of the Honorable Minister of Power to the Kainji Dam, at no less than 73. For sure.


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 a convoy shorter than the convoy of the Minister of Works. Add to it, that the Minister of Works, is Hausa that is visiting a Yoruba town, when the Honorable Minister of Power is himself a Yoruba. There should be no confusion here. 


Anyway, the convoy is led by 6 noisy motorcycles and behind them a number of cars with soldiers honking their horns with a chakalaka, which is sirens that make a terrible noise that provide the necessary ambiance, which is to terrify the entire population of this area, which scares the citizens in the area, and can also bring the dead back to life, so that if by any chance someone comes back to life, he dies on the spot out of panic.


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, the hustle and bustle, and the dust, a group of about 50 dignitaries and chiefs and others is emerging with Eng. Idogbo leading the gang, toward the Control Rooms.


No Italians are to be seen on site. Idogbo updated them on the event, and explained to them that the nature of the event is an internal Nigerian political matter, and there is nothing more resentful to these Italians than getting involved somehow, in Nigerian politics, or even getting involved in Italian politics, for that matter.


Idogbo is no doubt XXXL size, and he safely leads the honorable minister entourage and associates with full confidence, waving his hands up and down left and right, to enhance the drama, since the hand movement have their own dramatic meaning.


The Idogbo's show must be perfect. This time he can't screw up. He must successfully utilize this "once in a lifetime" 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 an epic dream.


At this point, electricity production and supply in Nigeria is far below demand, making Nigeria an important client for generator manufacturers.


Because there is not enough electricity in Nigeria for all those who require it, the situation is that a certain area receives electricity two hours a day, and another area four hours a day, and there are areas that do not receive electricity at all.


Idogbo dreams of controlling this electrical switch.


Now, the person who decides, which region and villages 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 great deal of respect from citizens all over, and all the citizens will greet him, with very deep and long bows, and some may kiss his shoes with great vigor as a matter of a total respect. Most shall laugh loudly, from the driest joke that the chief-electricity-officer might produce.


Reps from all villages and towns shall make sure that the chief-electricity-officer, which Eng. Idogbo dreams of becoming, shall be very-very-very happy, so that in return he shall provide them with electrical power. Of course, at the expense of the others, because there is not enough for everyone.


Such position attracts gifts and plenty Naira and Dollars, plus, discovering many new good friends and relatives.


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 to please him.


If that 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. Of course, always there is an important event in the village. Electricity is always required.


Idogbo is very well familiar with this traditional system, and that is why he is so anxious to see the Italians go back to Italy. The main thing is that the minister decides that the Italians will return to Italy.


All these thoughts run across Idogbo's mind as he is leading the honorable minister with the chiefs toward the Kainji Dam's Control Room. He knows that this is his chance for glory.


He must demonstrate full control of the Control Panels to the Honorable Minister blindly and easily, exactly as the Honorable Minster's secretary taps the keys on the typewriter. Nothing less. So, the Honorable Minister shall have no doubts about Idogbo's capability to control the Kainji Dam's panels and buttons.



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 Minister shakes his head and say yes, good, okey, and yes again and nods his head again, which is a sign that the Honorable Minister seems to be listening to Idogbo, which is in any case an extremely rare phenomenon, because on a normal basis, the Honorable Minister does not tend to listen to anyone, and especially not when someone is trying to explain something to him. Particularly not someone like Idogbo.


Idogbo demonstrate his incredible control of the panels to the Honorable Minister and he is looking at the Honorable Minister while he presses one button, and then another button, and proud about his engineering ability, and the Honorable Minister looks around to see if the others are also admiring Idogbo's ability to push buttons, when suddenly a sharp, long, strong beep is heard, followed by a horrible bang, followed by an earthquake. Everything is shaking up and down, left and right. Yes.


The entourage and 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.


Evidently, Idogbo opened the dam.


A huge wave of water washes away everything that stands in its way. 60 villages and small towns were washed away or submerged under the mud, without a trace and no one really knows, how many good people with wives and children were buried under this Idigbo's mud. And who counts anyway?!


Eng. Idogbo is telling the Honorable Minister, that he has no doubts, that the Italian put the wrong button there. Uh-Uh … these Italians.


And that's the end of the story, except of course that a few weeks later, after he recovers from the horrific experience, he had in Kainji, the Honorable Minister decided to send the Italians to Italy and he had two reasons.


First reason is that Idogbo told him that the Italians installed the wrong button on that panel.


Second reason is, that these Italians came from Italy and it is only reasonable to assume that they would rather go back to Italy.



The Honorable Minister knows very well, that the Idogbo's story about the wrong button, is isokuso (nonsense in Yoruba).


However, Idogbo promised the Honorable Minister, that if he sends 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.


Plus, he promised the Minister, 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 will certainly not have to send any beautiful girl to explain to Idogbo the importance of electricity to the village.

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