By: Solomon Hamza
Masaka, the place I live in, has two distinct power supply phases. It is surprising that a single town should have two phases of electricity, and for someone like you reading this, you would think this is a privilege. Masaka might just be the second-best place to reside in Nigeria after Aso Villa.
Don’t they say two heads are better than one? But I assure you, in the case of Masaka’s power supply, I will prefer a head as empty as a matchbox devoid of matchsticks to the so-called two heads leading us down a slope into total darkness. And we were told The Dark Ages ended centuries ago, for God’s sake.
The two power phases have distinct names, with each winning portions of houses in certain areas. You would think it was a political rivalry. In fact, the relationship they share amongst themselves is sort of a first-wife-second-wife competition. I will not talk about the side-chick, generator, because only people with shops and money to spare to purchase a litre of fuel for ₦300 own them.
The first one is called Phase Eleven. It has a nickname, Jeun Primary Line, because the majority of its users reside in Jeun Primary, but most people prefer the first name. I do not know why it is being called Phase Eleven. Even the old dwellers do not know. Phase Eleven is the oldest power supply and history has it that the first time the people in Masaka shouted ‘Up Nepa’ leaping to the air for joy, the Phase Eleven power supply was responsible. The origin of Line Eleven can be traced to Abuja, but most times, I sit and ask myself which part of Abuja. Isn’t that the federal capital city where the most underdeveloped slums are assumed to have a steady supply of electricity? Where, then, is the true origin of this Phase Eleven?
Phase Eleven is generous to a fault, like politicians during campaigns itchy for the people’s votes. The staff rarely harass or trouble its consumers for light bills and it is certain that there would be electricity during festive periods. Periodically, they supply ‘apology light’, which is to say they leave the electricity on for hours and hours until we begin to grumble about their generosity, muttering statements like, “this one wey NEPA leave light so.” We usually enjoy this ‘apology light’ when they do not supply their regular electricity for days without good reason.
Phase Eleven is also a regular, six-hour electricity phase, and except the transformer explodes or there’s rainfall — either light or heavy or even the weather changes its colour from sky blue and white to black, grumbling with thunder and lashing with lightning — there would be electricity from 12 am to 6 am every day. Sometimes, when they feel light-headed or happy, there would be electricity in the afternoon.
Phase Eleven is the envy of the other electricity phase, even with its daily six-hour electricity supply. It has also attracted many secret admirers across the border.
The second power supply is called Phase Thirty-Three. It has the highest population of consumers. History has it that it used to be the better half of the people in Masaka — a replacement to their old, jealous, nagging Phase Eleven, which gives only six hours of electricity a day.
The inhabitants of Masaka witnessed a non-stop power supply during the first year of its arrival, so much that the consumers boasted about having more electricity than the president himself and this triggered more than 80 per cent of the dwellers to switch loyalty, running into the doting arms of Phase Thirty-Three.
The rivalry got worse because Phase Thirty-Three traces her origin from Keffi — a town located East of Masaka and they boasted that it was not only Abuja that had the best of things, electricity inclusive. A year passed and Phase Thirty-Three began to show its colours, from transformer explosion due to overloading to the sudden disappearance of wires and cables, and the arrogance of the staff. Not forgetting the sleep-over food that had gone sour and spoilt because there was no electricity to preserve them in fridges and freezers.
Worse is that even Phase Thirty-Three’s office in Masaka is rarely with electricity and its staff go on to switch on their generator during hot afternoons.
Phase Thirty-Three is a rapture-like power supply because nobody knows when, where, or how the electricity would come, but everybody is certain it will come. And when they supply electricity, they would leave it for two days at a stretch. It is usually for two days because the third day is Ladder Carrying or Billing Day. After that, there would be another phase of total darkness and rapture-like-anticipation that would stretch on for days or even weeks.
I do not know which is worse between these two phases; the consumers themselves are not in agreement. I also do not know when the power supply would be better, but like every Nigerian, I have hope. Probably both power phases would wake up from their slumber or maybe a third phase would arrive like a knight in shiny armour and rescue us from the shackles of epileptic power supply in Masaka. Till then.
Solomon T. Hamza is a Nigerian writer. He writes on various intricacies of life, especially ones that keep him awake at night and musing during the day. He tweets @ST_hamza001.