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05 Sep

NERC Boss Dr. Sam Amadi is a man of many parts. Everyone in the room is praying, about thirty people.

They pray for his enemies to fall. They pray for the protection of his family. They pray for God to give him wisdom to improve Nigeria’s power sector. These prayers are part of a birthday celebration for Dr. Sam Amadi, the Chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC.

Dr. Amadi is in the front of the room, praying on his knees with his head bowed. You can barely see him as he is positioned behind a table. At the end of the prayers, he begins to stand up. Everyone in the room stands up and they begin to toast.

“Give me a J!

“Give me an E!

“Give me an S!

“Give me a U!

“Give me an S!

“Jesus!”

Everyone shuffles forward to greet Dr. Amadi, to give him happy birthday greetings. His 46th birthday was actually almost a month ago, but he smiles anyway, receiving the compliments graciously. Merriment is in the air. This celebration, brought together by friends and youth who look up to him, is for a man who calls himself an “evangelist”; a man who heads the cleaning department in his church; a Harvard-educated lawyer, civil society activist, father of four, husband, reformer and regulator.

“Gani used to call me the great intellectual,” he says. Dr. Amadi worked for Gani Fawehinmi as a young, idealist lawyer and the impact on his life remains.

“Gani Fawenhimi is the greatest Nigerian who ever lived,” Dr. Amadi says. “In all of Gani’s life, he never failed his commitment to the ordinary people.”

Indeed, Dr. Amadi likes Gani so much that he decided to have an artist paint a portrait of Gani. That picture, which he says he paid about N150, 000for is a collage of public figures.Gani Fawehinmi, Enoch Adeboye, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, FelaKuti, Dietrich Bonhoeffer are all depicted in this painting that hangs on a wall in Dr. Amadi’s home.

“I admire them so much,” he says.

The life of the American pastor and civil rights revolutionary, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. not only taught Dr. Amadi that Christians can be activists, but that Christians are supposed to be activists.

That’s why for him, Enoch Adeboye, the general overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, is the utmost exemplary of Christian-oriented activism.

“His sense of duty to his mission is powerful,” he says, sitting on a couch and looking up at that picture where Enoch Adeboye casts a subtle grin. Dr. Amadi has his own mission: to bring power to Nigeria.

In his role as the executive chairman of NERC, he fulfills what he believes is a spiritual and moral calling to regulate the power sector with transparency. For Dr. Amadi, transparency and openness are key.

“I am a prisoner of the idea of open society,” he says. “I used to dream of living in a glass house, where everyone can see me… because I have nothing to hide.”

This idealist philosophy empowers Dr. Amadi’s actions, while his Christian perspective, largely shaped by the Irish novelist C.S. Lewis, defineswho he is. A man with a bold ambition to be a leader of righteousness in the power sector, Dr. Amadi says evangelismis a proclamation that all leaders must make.

But what is Dr. Amadi proclaiming?

As one participant in that birthdaycelebration noted with a smile for all to hear, “Dr. Amadi has not been able to defeat the demons in the power sector of this country.”

The beast of Nigeria’s power sector as we know it remains a primitive, gigantic, paradoxical entity that stumbles more than it runs, never performing at full capacity, eatingfood under the table where money is passed in bulging envelopes.

It’s this beast that Dr. Amadi was commissioned to tame when he was appointed to head NERC in 2010. The regulatory agency is expected to monitor the electricity business in Nigeria, issue licenses to private firms, protect environmental standards and fix the price of electricity.

The agency has been largely assisted by the likes of the World Bank and is viewed by many as the most transparent and efficient federal government agency. “We were the first regulator in the country to openly subscribe to a code of conduct,” Dr. Amadi likes to say.

Apart from the work in the power sector, Dr. Amadi likes to mentor youth. He organized a groupcalled the Joseph Company this year to bring youth together in a forum for learning and sharing ideas on how to attain their career and personal goals. The group meets monthly.

When Dr. Amadi is not lecturing young people on how to live with moral standards, or going through the documents laying on his massive desk in his spaciousglass-walled office at the NERC headquarters, or philosophizing with his friends, or praying in a corner somewhere, or sweeping the floors at his church or engaging with his wife and children, or getting a scoop on the day’s news, or supporting Barcelona in a football match, you may find him reading. He is reading two books at the moment: “The Universe Within: From Quantum to Cosmos” by Neil Turok and “The Leadership Lessons of Jesus” by Bob Briner and Ray Pritchard. These are the sort of books Dr. Amadi likes to read, because in the end, he is a man of ideas, who believes that Nigeria can be a dangerous place for a person with ideas and goals and dreams.

“The easiest thing to kill in Nigeria is a dream,” he says. “Everyday in this country, people, especially the youth, are having their dreams die.”

And dreams are important to Dr. Amadi, a man who is imprisoned in his own vision and a dream to see a corrupt-less Nigeria where efficient electricity is available to all.

As he says, “All the things I have achieved in my life came from a dream.”

For breaking news out of Abuja, follow us on Twitter: @MetropoleMag

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16 Jul

The initiator of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign in Abuja draws inspiration from her parents and the potential for a united Nigeria, writes Chika Oduah 

She’s the mother of two young boys, a wife to an economic analyst, and they all live together in a delightful home tucked away in one of Maitaima’s quiet, tree-lined streets near Ministers’ Hill. She works in her home office surrounded by a massive bookshelf with books organized into categories likes “development” and “autobiographies.” Rachel, the cook, manages the family’s meals. Juma, the nanny, watches the boys and the driver tends to the luxury cars parked out front. 

Everything in her life seemed relatively fine, routine and normal, until Boko Haram kidnapped almost 300 female students in Chibok in April.

Hadiza Bala Usman’s comfortable life was jolted.

“I couldn’t sleep,” Hadiza says. “I couldn’t sit back in my world to say it doesn’t affect me.” That’s when she contacted her older friend, the renowned barrister Mrs. Maryam Uwais, and together, they decided to start a chain of emails to mobilize others, mainly women, to get on the streets to pressurise the government to bring the girls back. She says she was shocked about how nothing had been done, weeks after the abduction and about how Abuja residents seemed to carry on with life as usual.

What began as a collection of emails has evolved into a street campaign taken around the world, empowered with a heavy social media presence – #BringBackOurGirls has been tweeted more than two million times. 

Hadiza says she chose red to embody the campaign, describing the colour as a sign for “alarm, danger, a warning.”

“This was just me randomly concerned, gathering other people,” she says.

But a closer look at Hadiza’s life reveals her concern is not as “random” as one may imagine. Hadiza’s concern reflects a larger perspective shared by many who call themselves active citizens, thinkers and activists. Born in Zaria in 1976 and raised on the campus of the supposedly left-winged Ahmadu Bello University with her three sisters and three brothers, Hadiza is the daughter of the late Dr. Yusuf Bala Usman, who was a passionate and respected lecturer of history at the university. She grew up surrounded by intellectuals and her father was especially inspiring.

“I grew up listening to my father challenging the government and questioning the status quo,” she remarks.

She remembers when her father was fired when she was about twelve years old. She says the government had become concerned about his public views. Her father took the case to court and he eventually got his job back.

The Emir of Kano is Hadiza’s grandmother’s brother and the Emir of Katsina is related to her father. Despite his royal lineage, Hadiza’s father regularly confronted realities that he disagreed with – poverty, corruption and weak leadership.

It’s these sorts of experiences, with an outspoken father and strong-willed mother and her life in Zaria, that defined Hadiza’s scope as a Nigerian. She says what is happening today, with terrorists rampaging uncontrollably in northeastern Nigeria and the government’s failure to return any of the abducted students, “exposes the intellectual deficit of the leadership in this country.”

And the activism runs through the family. Two of her sisters—a pharmacist and the other, an accountant—have joined #BringBackOurGirls. Her mother also marched to the National Assembly, participated in the night vigil and attended two of the sit-ins.

 “I would not be doing what I am doing without her,” Hadiza says of her mother, a prudent woman who Hadiza says maintained the family home with grace.

But the activism comes at a price. Hadiza says she is being followed by strange cars throughout the day and her phones – along with some of the other women of #BringBackOurGirls – are tapped.

“There is a lag time in my conversations on the phone and I see my text messages being directed to strange numbers.” But she says she is not intimidated.

Nor is she intimidated by the President’s disapproval of #BringBackOurGirls campaigners telling the government what to do. She disapproves of the President’s recommendation for Nigerians to direct their protests to Boko Haram and not to the government.

“When a thief comes to your house to steal something, you’re telling me I can’t go to the police, but I should go to the thief to get back what was stolen from me?” she asks incredulously.

She’s not alone in her questions. #BringBackOurGirls has gone viral. She believes it’s an ample opportunity for Nigerians to collectively rise for a single cause and with Hadiza and the other campaign organizers, Nigerians have united, irrespective of age, creed and ethnicity.

“Maybe the abduction of the Chibok girls is the beginning of an end,” Hadiza says. “We stand united.”

For breaking news out of Abuja, follow us on Twitter: @MetropoleMag

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