Let’s kickstart this one with some cheesy jokes. If dum = ma and sor = ha, solve for dum-sor-dum. Here’s another one, everyone who works at ECG is atheist. How do I know? When God said let there be light, ECG was like, who is that guy? I hear people now give testimonies in church for having one full day of power. They say even pastors now sell anointing oil called “let this darkness pass me by” that can make ECG forget to put off your light. Remember those days when you used to get “che-che” girls for being a University student? Well, now people are getting girls for working at ECG—electricity, not knowledge, is the new power. Should I stop playing the fool? Okay, last one. What did the light bulb say to Mahama’s hair? “I wish I could shine in the darkness as you”.
Perhaps I am the only big fan of dumsor because in my opinion, it is the best thing that has ever happened to Ghana, apart from soobolo, of course. Dumsor does not discriminate; it torments everyone alike, rich or poor, young or old, NDC or NPP. It has created an era of open letters, I wonder who opened the letter koraa, “celebrity” vigils, ahemm, revealed that the President was after all a Pass student, my Motown people will say, he is an Atico list king, “w’abon”. There is some inherent mischievous, but fulfilling fun in taking a dig at your President. Ah, Mahama abr3. I know you feel like punching me in the face, but you can’t see me because the lights are off. I am laughing my balding head off now. I have to, because when all the jokes end, when the vigils are over, when the open letters close, when the celebrities return to being celebrities, dumsor will still be there, and the tragedies it leaves behind are needless to say, at crisis point. It gets serious.
Due to the chronic power outages, businesses are now dealing with producing below capacity, or paying more to produce at capacity. Whichever way, cost of production rises and profits are plummeting, which affects taxes, government income, which is needed to support any infrastructure towards the power crisis. People are being laid off to cut cost, but when they go home, the same increased cost of production has led to an increase in commodity prices, which already was difficult for their now missing source of income to buy. Together, inflation goes up, people are not spending, so the economy slows down, and with it, down goes the already battered cedi. But nothing beats coming home on a hot night to sleep in darkness, sweaty, with inconsiderate mosquitoes all over you. When you wake up the next morning, well your phone is off, so you can’t even get on social media and #dumsormuststop. It is painful, hellish, and not funny at all. But, as I see it, we had it coming.
Let’s be candid, dumsor is not Mahama’s fault. It’s nice to see influential people take leaders to task; it’s great for our democracy. However, in all sincerity, dumsor is not Mahama’s fault, at least not entirely. First, dumsor is happening now because our history has been filled with too many myopic leaders who failed to think ahead. Nkrumah was sensible once; he built a dam that even at the time was opposed by some people to be overambitious. Well, that over-ambition was all we had for half a century, until Bui came, but it was a tad too late, too little to salvage what we are experiencing now. So let’s spare the President, or anyone with the blame game; it’s a waste of time. Dumsor is teaching us an important lesson that we are still refusing to learn. We have to learn to think ahead of the present needs of now. Like the Akans say, when you grow plantain, grow banana too, because hunger always comes.
Even now, we are still making decisions that show that we only have our heads stuck in the urgency of today, with no ambition for posterity. The same attitude with which families wait till their kids are in the final year of senior high school before they start saving for their University education, is the same that we take to managing our national issues. From we who litter the streets, forgetting that it has a long-term environmental impact to the government official who builds roads narrower than the path to heaven, forgetting that the number of cars will only increase, we are all being foolish, and that foolishness always comes back to bite us. Karma is not a bitch, we are; karma just reminds us!
Conserving energy is an old gospel, but we know people just don’t care. From ECG, who refuses to find ways to regulate streetlights to the ordinary Ghanaian who just won’t turn their lights off when they are not in use, we are all guilty, and today we are paying the price. They say when you see your friend’s beard is burning fetch water besides yours. That is typical African nonsense, reactive, not proactive. I say when you see your friend’s beard burning dip your beard in water. Today it’s dumsor, but there are many other areas, from roads, to city planning, to education, to sanitation, and even health that are at tipping point, just because we fail to think and plan ahead. Management myopia must stop, and with it, hopefully, dumsor.
Indeed dumsor must stop, but will it? When? The fact is that it will take time to salvage three generations of stupidity. So I have an unsolicited advise for the President, because he has one huge problem. If Mahama was born an Ewe man, his name would not have been John it would be Promise. Ask him any question, and he will make a promise. When he makes the promise, and we are looking for our Johny to fulfill his promise, then he dumsors on us. Mr. President, I have always maintained that you are a fine gentleman. Promises give expectations, and when they are not met, they lead to disappointments. Please, don’t feel the need to promise, even though Ghanaians love to be promised. You know the facts; the power deficit is too huge and will require some years to fix, and insulate us for the future, even with superb planning and rapid funding. Don’t tell people dumsor will be a thing of the past soon, because it is a project which finality is spread into an unknown future. Sincerity and tact maketh a leader, not speeches and fancy campaigns. Tell us what is being done, and how long we should expect results. Not every issue is a campaign platform, Mr. President, with all due respect.
Dumsor must stop, and we need solutions. We can demonstrate till the second coming, but we need a national conversation on the power crisis. I don’t have the answers but in my always-insignificant opinion, first we need to revise our utility billing. Electricity is too cheap in Ghana. Of course, you will disagree with me, but it’s part of the problem. You will say the population is poor; they can’t afford to pay higher bills. Well, they are paying higher bills now, aren’t they? The cost of dumsor, and I say this without fact, but pure speculation, in practice outstrips what we would pay if were paying even twice our current price of electricity. Perhaps if we paid more, people would be more careful about conserving energy. I live in a country where if the light goes off, it will make headlines the following morning. By Aussie standards, I am a poor, below minimum wage student, but I pay a good sum of money to enjoy this constant electricity, and the market fixes those prices, as electricity supply is privatized.
Should we privatize electricity in Ghana? This calls for a bigger national conversation, but I would consider that idea seriously. If our telecommunication industry is any indication, it’s not a bad idea at all. I admit it is a challenging strategy, but one that I find both feasible and more effective. Our government is broke because we know that tax collection is a problem; the same people are being taxed over and over again, and those who evade still do so with impunity. Even the little that is collected is partly consumed by corruption. So admittedly, the challenge is more complex, but at least the market is way more transparent. In this 21st Century, governments should not be dealing with utility wages; it’s not too smart.
What do you think? It is fine, but definitely not enough to demonstrate and hold vigils. That doesn’t make us any more aware of the seriousness of dumsor, than we already are. We need ideas from the populace. We need the government to be honest with us, and spare us euphoric promises. We all need to accept that this power crisis is going to hang around for a while. We need to adjust. We need to be judicious with what we have. We need to seek alternative solutions. Most importantly, we need to learn to plan ahead. And now, a eulogy. I have come to berate dumsor, not to praise it. The myopic decisions that we made leaves after us. The good is interred in our will, and now we must channel it for our future. #myopiamuststop