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By Dr Kenny Adeniran

The whole nation has been over the moon since Vice President Kashim Ibrahim commissioned the Geometric Power Group on Monday, February 24, 2024, designed to generate 188 megawatts and supply power to the Aba industrial city and the environs in Abia State as a ring-fenced area. The nation has been agog for three principal reasons, namely, the first time a part of Nigeria will have constant and quality electricity; Aba will serve as a model to be used in other parts of Nigeria, as Power Minister Adebayo Adelabu stated during the commissioning; and the Geometric Power takeoff shows the tenacity of its chief promoter, Professor Bart Nnaji, who has battled all manner of people in government and their minions for a whole 20 years to get to the Aba Independent Power project to this level. I join millions of Nigeria in congratulating Professor Nnaji, whose one-year tenure as the Minister of Power from 2011 to 2012 achieved unprecedented heights in power development in Nigeria.

After reading Nnaji’s speech, I came out with a strong conviction that the Yoruba omoluabi has always been at play from the inception of Geometric Power. The omoluabi principle made the Aba IPP possible. Omoluabi is a philosophical concept among the Yoruba that makes working for the common good a supreme good. Omoluabi is the direct opposite of parochialism or self-centredness. Therefore, the new attempts by some politicians to sow seeds of enmity between the Igbo and the Yoruba since the 2023 general elections do not reflect who the Yoruba people are.

In the nationally well-received speech, Professor Nnaji noted that though the seed to build the thermal power plant was sown by the late World Bank President, James Wolfensohn, and Nigeria’s former Finance Minister, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, when they visited Aba on March 17, 2004, to see firsthand the potential of Aba as an industrial city, it was the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo which made the seed planting possible.

Until 2005 when the Power Sector Reform Act was enacted, the Federal Government, through the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA), had the monopoly of power generation, transmission, and distribution. Still, President Obasanjo carved out Aba as a kind of island for the Geometric Power team to generate its own electricity and distribute it. The whole idea was to accelerate Abia’s rapid development as Nigeria’s foremost indigenous manufacturing place. In taking this far-reaching and unprecedented measure, Obasanjo, a Yoruba, did not care about the part of the country from where Professor Nnaji hails.

As Nnaji revealed in his speech at the commissioning, ex-President Obasanjo has continued to support the Aba IPP with infectious enthusiasm even out of office. In recognition of his preeminent role in the emergence of the project, the IPP promoters insisted that the statesman commission the imposing building of the Aba Power Electric Company, their electricity distribution subsidiary. Even when Obasanjo was not going to attend in person because he was in Namibia for the funeral of the country’s president, Hage Geinob, the Geometric Power team expressed satisfaction that Obasanjo could be represented by a member of his family. Today, the Aba Power complex, which houses the corporate headquarters of the Geometric Power Group, proudly bears a plaque stating that it was commissioned by Obasanjo, who was represented at the commissioning ceremony by his son, Dr Seun Obasanjo.

It is regrettable that during the privatization of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) successor companies in 2013, certain powerful individuals in the government of the day bluntly refused to recognize the agreement signed between the Federal Government and Geometric Power in 2005 and, consequently, sold it as part of the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) to a consortium of core investors. The sale was despite the fact that the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) stated clearly in all documents presented to the EEDC bidders that the Aba Ring-fenced Area was not part of the EEDC. Analysts point out that the National Council of Privatisation (NCP) took this strange stance because of Nnaji’s opposition to secret moves by top government officials during the PHCN successor companies’ privatisation to corner the national assets when he was the Minister of Power.

The Yoruba omoluabi was demonstrated fully again during the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company’s privatization. Bola Onagoruwa, the Director General of the BPE, one of the FG agencies that signed the 2005 agreement between the Federal Government and Geometric Power, put her foot down against perversion of justice, arguing that the NCP must respect the agreement over the Aba IPP. Ms Onagoruwa, a lawyer and niece of Nigeria’s former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Dr Olu Onagoruwa, SAN, is imbued with conscience and a fighter for justice. She was fired instantly for her insistence on justice and due process. The senior Onagoruwa had earlier in 1995 been fired as the justice minister for opposing Sani Abacha’s dictatorship gravitation towards malevolent dictatorship.

The Yoruba omoluabi came to play again in the resolution of the nine-year-old legal battle between the Geometric Power Group and Interstate Electrics over the ownership of the Aba Ring-fenced Area which comprises nine of the 17 local government areas in Abia State. In his speech at the commissioning ceremony on 26 February, 2024, Prof Nnaji noted the resolution was done during the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, and quickly attributed the heavy lifting to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Power Minister Babatunde Fashola. In other words, these two Yoruba persons ended, at least legally, the mess that became the EEDC privatization in 2013 which caused Geometric Power a decade of waste. Interestingly, the mess occurred during the presidency of the man some politically exposed Igbo persons used to call an Igbo when he was in office because of their private gains.

The story of the Yoruba omoluabi at Geometric Power continues. Power Minister Adelabu disclosed at the commissioning that he had always intervened on the Geometric Power side on President Bola Tinubu’s instructions anytime agencies under his supervision didn’t quite agree with the private sector operator. Tinubu understands Geometric Power’s critical role in Nigeria’s electricity history. On the same occasion, Chief Adelabu revealed that Prof Nnaji was the only ex-minister invited to address senior members of the Tinubu administration when the new government came into being last May because Tinubu appreciates Nnaji’s mastery of the electricity sector. It may be noted that when Nnaji resigned as the Minister of Power in August 2012, Tinubu described Nnaji as “the only performing minister in this government”.

This article has only sought to establish that the Yoruba are a liberal people, and liberalism has always been a critical development driver everywhere in the world. Our omoluabi philosophy has made them contribute significantly to the Geometric Power success, an important Nigerian story.

Dr Adeniran wrote from Ile-Ife, Osun State.

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