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Opportunity costs – Francis Ewherido

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By Francis Ewherido

In the short form, opportunity cost means the “alternative forgone.” In the long form, it means “the cost of an opportunity forgone and the loss of the benefits that could be received from that opportunity.”

Last week, I travelled from Lagos to Delta for the presidential and national assembly elections. By 4:30am on Saturday, I woke up to get ready and head out for my hometown, Ewu, where I had registered to vote, when I saw a text message informing me about the postponement of the elections. In frustration, or is it anger, I started checking one transport company after the other until I found one and headed for Lagos instead.

Waiting until Sunday to use my return ticket was out of the way. I was too agitated to spend an extra day in Delta. I thought of the many things begging for my attention that I abandoned to make this trip. I had a fundamental conviction to vote and it had been brutally aborted.

I was not alone. Thousands, if not millions, of other Nigerians made similar trips in spite of other pressing needs because of the same fundamental conviction or other reasons. It is easy to tell people to register in, or change their registration to, places where they are domiciled to save themselves the trouble of travelling long distances during elections. Hmmm, even the President, Muhammadu Buhari, registered in his hometown Daura, Katsina State.

People register in their places of origin for varying reasons, and it will remain so until Nigerians are fully integrated and accepted in their places of abode as “sons and daughters of the soil” (this does not include settlers, who want to subjugate the indigenous people and culture and take over their land and heritage). That was the way it was in the pre-independence and early days of post-independence before ethnic politics, like a dark cloud, took over the political firmament.

Anyway, the postponement of the election was very disruptive and Nigerians are still counting their losses. I personally know of a 50th birthday celebration that was rescheduled and two burials that were adjusted. I do not know how those who fixed their weddings for today are going to adjust. It is especially tight for Catholics. They have just next weekend left for weddings or burials. March 6 is Ash Wednesday, and from then till April 21, no marriage will be solemnized in many dioceses. That is the mess into which the postponement has put some people.

Reactions have been mixed, but whatever the true position is, INEC has a responsibility to deliver a free and fair election, the machinations of politicians notwithstanding. These political antics have been there and after 20 years of conducting elections, this electoral body should have antidotes for the antics of politicians by now. Today, Nigerians go out again to the poles to vote. Just like 2015, the two main divides are deep in their trenches and the convictions are fundamental. INEC must, however, let the side with the greater number triumph. Those beaten would be heart-broken, but they should form a formidable opposition and go home and re-strategise. In no time, 2023 will be here and they will have the opportunity to test their popularity again.

PROMISE MADE, PROMISE FULFILLED

On December 15 last year, I narrated my ordeal with Eko Electricity Distribution Plc and a promise by one of their staff, Chioma Okugba, to help me get a prepaid meter in two months. Well the good news is that I now have a prepaid meter which was installed on February 13, two months and three days after Chioma made her promise. I want to thank Chioma for keeping to her promise.

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But within the two months, plenty of water passed under the bridge and it is important I inform readers to guide them in their efforts to get prepaid meters. You will recall that I said my December 2018 electricity bill was N50,491.60. Chioma appealed to the marketer to reduce it to N30,000, which I paid. By the time I got the January bill, the N20,491.60 from the December bill was added. I went to see the marketing manager, who insisted I must pay the N20,491.60 the marketer had discounted or jeopardise my chances of getting a prepaid meter. Painfully I paid. About five weeks after Chioma’s promise, I was contacted to pay N41,400 into a bank account of a meter vendor for the prepaid meter and installation, which I promptly did on January 29,2019. I was told the meter will be installed within three weeks. On February 9, an official from the metering company contacted me that he was on his way. He asked if I was home; I told him I was not, but my wife was. He sounded reluctant and I wondered if he was going to install the meter on my body and not the building.

I sent my wife’s number to him, but he never showed up, citing transportation challenges. That was the day the APC Presidential campaign held in Lagos, but my daughter, who went out, said traffic was very light and she had no transportation challenges. By Monday, he gave excuses and did not show up. But when my wife called him, he asked if the extra wires and circuit breaker were ready. On Tuesday, we waited for him all day. He finally showed up at about 8pm with the almighty prepaid meter. After he left, we noticed that the casing was very rough and I thought it was an old meter.

He promised to be back on Wednesday morning to do the installation. He actually did.
We complained about the roughness of the meter, only to be told that the meters have dumped in wherever for a while. When he opened it, it was actually brand new. So why are these meters being dumped somewhere to rot away when Nigerians are yearning for them; when Nigerians are being fleeced via crazy estimated billings?
The circuit breaker of the meter was tripping off, and while we were it, an official of EKEDC came around last Wednesday. He was surprised to find out we now have a prepaid meter. He said our records in their office have not been updated to reflect it. Consequently, EKEDC will continue to send monthly bills. It means I will continue to pay for electricity I did not consume, while recharging my meter for the one I consumed. They want to punish me for their internal lapses. I am prepared and waiting for them

The young man, who installed the meter, had an attitude reminiscent of majority of Nigerians in “power.” Once people have special skills or are in position to render a service, they behave like demi-gods who should be courted, worshipped or gratified to do what they are paid or being paid to do. You see it in offices, among artisans and in just about every facet of our life. We need a paradigm shift. It is one of those areas holding us down as a people.

Anyway, thanks to Chioma’s intervention, I have my meter, but what about millions of other Nigerians, who have no Chioma or platforms to bring their plight to public knowledge. Surely, there are better ways to live; we are too Hobbesian in nature.

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