Electric Stories 

Dear Kpakpo, 

So this morning I got to the office and just when I entered the lights went off. Since the office was hot I and my fellow co workers stepped out of the office and as if automatically we started trading stories on electricity in Tamale and usually peoples’ reactions to disconnection.  

Kpakpo, northerners have a way of reacting to electricity officials depending on their mood. When it is a scheduled blackout and time is given for the lights to come back on, the people expect that at the exact time the lights should be on.  Otherwise when it doesn’t come on opinion leaders and community leaders will be scanning the radio stations to check which station the public relations officer is at explaining why lights still not back on. By the time he finishes explaining on air, they’re already outside waiting for him with their motorbikes. Most usually the delays are from the engineers so those waiting use motorbikes to escort the PRO to where the engineers are to see for themselves what is going on. Until it is fixed they all stay on site and even when it is done a young man is sent with a motorbike to check at home if the lights are back. Only then will the staff of the electricity company be released with smiles.. 

So one time on one of my walks I passed by a disconnection team putting out lights on the pole in some areas. In one particular area there was a guy on the pole and some youth playing cards sitting under a shed close by. One of the burly youth just walked to the car and then to the ladder the electricity man was on and called his attention. He spoke a few words to him in dagbani and then he went to join his friends to continue playing cards. He’d just said his mind but I realized that the man up on the ladder was disturbed and had stopped work. So I asked the other worker sitting in the car what the young man had told the man on the ladder and the dude in the car just kept grumbling that this work didn’t pay them enough for the kind of threats they had to endure on a daily basis. 

Now I was more curious to get the interpretation and explanation. 

Nii Kpakpo, when they interpreted it to me I couldn’t help laughing out so loud that I had to check myself because I had to respect their job. The guy had asked the dude on the ladder what he thought he was doing and when he replied that he was disconnecting the electricity he had blatantly told him that since there will be no power in the lines when he’s done, he should just use it as a route to get out of there without coming down because the land is also his and he’ll disconnect him off the land. What he meant in essence was that after disconnection don’t come down. Simple!  😂😂

What a world!

Anyemi, reminds me also of the speeches made during the anniversary of the electricity company three years ago, coincidentally celebrated in Tamale where the Chief Executive of the company warned that if northern peoples didn’t curb their attitudes with regards to threats to officers and staff the company was going to relocate its northern sector grid location to Techiman instead of Tamale. He was emphatic and serious in this decision he said. 

However in his reply the Dakpema, the chief of Tamale also stated that he couldn’t tell the Chief Executive how to do his work or take whatever decisions were best for the company and in the best interest of the people so indeed he could move the machines and equipment of the grid to Techiman as he threatened but then he’d have to find his own roads to move the things out of Tamale. He however promised to talk to his people to treat staff of the electricity company well since they’re only public servants. 

Nii Kpakpo Thompson, these people don’t play and when I’m in the capital the sort of things I see the electricity company staff and officials do will never happen in the savanna. Lie lie! 

Imagine that when they were changing to the prepaid meters the dude presses the door bell on our gate in the capital and when my dad opens it he explains that he is there to change the meter. Daddy explains in turn to him that he’s just on his way out on a journey and if he could wait to come after the weekend since it was a Friday and the units they put on the prepaid meter wouldn’t last till after the weekend. 

Apparently Kpakpo the contract was that the more meters the boys change the more money they make and so in his exuberance he wasn’t hearing what daddy was saying especially since in his line of sight he could see the meter, why not just do it especially since it would take only a few minutes. The frail old man was just being an unreliable nuisance. From my vantage point of my room overhanging the gate I saw the young man push daddy aside and head straight to the meter but what he hadn’t counted on was the house dog lying under the meter. 

Code, our dog, is in tune with whatever happens in the house so hearing the old man calling the young man back and to order for his insolence, the dog raised himself to his full height and just as the young man get there gave a bark whilst yanking on his chain. 

Anyemi! Come and see speed.  Usain Bolt you’ve been proud to have such a protege and the Ghana Olympic committee needs just take a dog into the tracks and this dude could just make Ghana proud. He ran out without booking back. The old man got shoved twice but he had the biggest smiles on his face as he patted Code and walked into his house. 

In a suburb of Tamale staff of the electricity company were driven away several times when they tried to fix the prepaid meters until officials went to see the chief who explained that they should have come to him first so that he announces to the people via town crier and call the community to inform them that this was a national sanctioned program to change all the meters and if the people agree then they can go ahead and change the meters. That area still doesn’t have prepaid meters because they said they don’t want it. Simple! 

So Nii Kpakpo Thompson, as for the electricity people we have no love lost for them up here and all the utility people such as water company staff are bundled into that category. They have learnt to be circumspect too in their dealing with the local people. 

Well I’ve told you enough electric stories and hope they electrocute you into telling the Public Utility Commission to put pressure on the utility providers to improve their services.  What is it that since we were growing up every time there are signs of rain then fuii! The lights go off and this hasn’t been fixed in forty years? Is this what Nkrumah gained independence for? 

Anyways lemme end here before I get angry and say plenty else. 

Till I write to you again I still remain 

Your Cousin in Law, 

Savannah Boy.