Nebo’s Rare June 12 Gift | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Nebo’s Rare June 12 Gift

Posted: Jul 4, 2015 at 12:01 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Immediate past Minisater of Power, Prof. Chinedu Ositadinma Nebo, represents different ideologies to many people who have encountered him directly or by proxy.

Nebo (middle) flanked by Onwuriri and Echebiri.

Nebo (middle) flanked by Onwuriri and Echebiri.

Although being minister in a sector as strategic to Nigeria as Power may have swung his name into the list of the country’s most popular Nigerians, Nebo remains an enigma.

He is seen in various context by various people. Some have been granted the opportunity to personally express their impression of his person to him, while many others wish they could, for good or for bad.

The night of June 12, provided a perfect opportunity for many people to do just this. It was supposed to be a very small event at the Nike Resort Hotels, Enugu on the day many Nigerians were busy with activities to commemorate the death of Chief Moshood Abiola (M.K.O Abiola). Nebo had said there should be no noise, no klieg lights, no fanfare. But even as all these requirements were met, it all ended up differently.

For a man who boasts of a very rich profile, including being former Minister of Power, former Vice Chancellor of University of Nigeria, Nsukka, pioneer Vice Chancellor, Federal University, Oye Ekiti, first class engineer, among others, another award may not really matter.

This was, however, not the case, as, for the first time since serving as Power Minister, Nebo came out to receive the symbol of appreciation on behalf of Nigerians.

For the guests, it was a rare opportunity to get, firsthand, some critical answers to some of Nigeria’s economic and social questions.

Director of Business World, Mr. Ray Echebiri, the group that packaged the event, captured the whole essence in a witty analogy on how a friend had to quit the job of privatising a local enterprise because of threats.

Echebiri used the scenario to underscore the enormity of what Nebo did with the privatisation of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) and the unbundling of the sector into Generating Companies (GENCOs) and Distribution Companies (DISCOs).

This opened a floodgate of praises, with former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Viola Onwuriri, taking the stage.

For Onwuliri, who served with Nebo at the same time at the Federal Executive Council (FEC), the award could not have been more significant at the time it came, given the message it sought to convey.

Recalling Nebo’s enormous contribution, she said: “He’s never disappointed us and we are continuously happy for him.”

Onwiliri said, it took the prayers of people like Nebo for Nigeria to have moved on, as she said, “Without prayers, even where we are today, especially in the power sector, we will not be, because it will seem there were lot of anti-Christs in that sector, especially with all the stealing, destruction and the people who were determined to take us back.”

On how Nebo helped to lift the sector, she said, “He came up with knowledge, with commitment and with prayers and we were able to make progress.”

Echoing the same views, Prof. Ernest Onwuasigwe of University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus (UNEC) said Nigeria actually travelled the right direction by fishing out Nebo to become the Minister of Power.

“I recall how some individuals were making some publications in the newspapers about how they were going to pull down Nigeria if the privatisation continued. And knowing that Prof Nebo is not a politician, they underestimated him,” he said.

Chairman, Enugu South Local Government Area, Oguejiofor Agbo, who recalled Nebo’s series of successes in difficult terrains, recalled how he banished cultism at UNN, building a brand new functional university in six months, as pioneer Vice Chancellor of Federal University, Oye Ekiti and prevailing over the odds to complete the privatisation process in the power sector.

Speaking on how PHCN’s privatisation as supervised by Nebo played out from Enugu, Agbo said: “I used to be a Special Adviser to the Governor on Agricultural Matters and my office at Garden Avenue sat across the office of the PHCN. What happened eventually made me learn that there is a great latitude between those who pray and the one who answers.”

Promoter of the South East Nigeria Economic Commission (SENEC), Chris Okoye, who also lent a voice, said a more appropriate forum would be created in future to fully capture and appreciate Nebo’s contribution to the power sector and building of the Nigerian economy.

The engineer and businessman said: “One thing that is unique about Prof. Nebo is the fact that he has stood for the pursuit of the common good.”

Nebo, full of appreciation, used the occasion to review his past and put the future in perspective.

He said: “I am very happy that I have become a private citizen, Chinedu Nebo.”

Acknowledging that it would be a big setback to ignore the gains already made in the power sector by the new administration, the former Minister said former President, Goodluck Jonathan, contrary to the views held in certain quarters, actually achieved a lot in the industry.

He also has regrets, as he said, “My greatest regret, is that we didn’t win the war against vandalism and against inadequate gas supply.

I tell you, if President Buhari were to win the gas war today, within two weeks, every Nigerian will be celebrating him, because what Jonathan has put in place for the power sector, is so immense that within a few weeks, if you get all these turbines fired up, instead of operating on 30 or 40 percent capacity, all of them fired up, every Nigerian will know the difference.”

Nebo, said he turned down many awards while he was minister, saying, “When you are in office in Nigeria, you are everybody’s friend. The moment you leave office, you will be very surprised as to how many people will remember that you existed in the first instance. So, I said, no awards until I leave office, because it is only then that you know those who are genuine.”

On his surprise of the days, Nebo said :“I didn’t think anybody will be here to entertain us like the cultural troupe, I really appreciate the entire evening.”

He, as usual, gave the biggest gratitude to God. He said: “I would have been a vegetable because of the accident I had when I was 10 years old. Doctors said that if I survived and not mentally incapacitated for life, that I should be regarded as a living miracle. And so, I thank God for that.”

The former Minister, has some words of encouragement for Nigerians on power. He said:“I want to assure all of you that Nigeria will win the power war. There is no doubt in my mind.”