I was lucky a few days ago to meet the new minister of power, Eng Sale Mamman. I said “lucky” because meeting Nigeria’s big men is an issue. But this man is different I noticed. And he has been in the news lately for his appointments and whatnot. But I wanted to see beyond the maze and look deeper into his persona. Reading those veiled and open attacks tell me one thing: someone is finally doing something worth talking about at Power House. And we really do need an action man in a place that has remained relatively stagnant. The power situation in Nigeria is almost a spiritual matter as it has remained intractable. Ministers after ministers have had a go at it and are still grappling with darkness. All sorts of things contribute to this from the main players to the policymakers.
I became interested in the somewhat unknown new minister, who is also from Taraba state – the home of the Mambilla Hydro Power Project. I thought that was a masterstroke of an appointment. The minister will now have to internalise the project as patriotism will have to kick in. If that project is pulled off, the powerful story of Nigeria will greatly change.
I met the minister one early Monday morning at the office. An engineer given to straight talk, he had reduced the bureaucratic red-tapism at the office. With an imposing figure and a probing stare, I suddenly knew this man meant business. I asked about the latest controversies in the ministry. He smiled and said, ” I’m more focused on ensuring the country’s energy problem is solved. Some of the things that have bedevilled the sector has been this: the near absence of control. So I’m working hard to harness all the parastatal under us. We are not witch-hunting or trying to blame anyone.”
The minister also spoke of the Mambilla ( my main reason for the visit really). He tells me that nothing worthy of note has happened in the past. “But now, ” he said, “we are heading somewhere as very soon we shall be performing the groundbreaking ceremony for its take-off.”
Before leaving him, I told him he is on the verge of history and so should expect a backlash. He said he understands all of that, especially as he expected the “forces of darkness” to push back at reforms. As he eased me out I looked back at him and concluded he would do a great job. He has no option but to do so: he’s young, cerebral, and with massive power as one of the top members of the cabinet with unfettered access to the president directly. When I return by December, I expect to see more light.