By AF Sesay
When we talk of politicians, we mostly regard them as aliens or spirits from the evil forest. We often see them as people who came with their own set of beliefs, attitudes, approaches to life and different perspectives on divine justice and the torture of Hell. We talk of erstwhile compassionate friends who entered politics and suddenly became monsters. We speak about them like we do of cold, callous aliens whose race is bent on inflicting the greatest damage possible on the human race. But wait…who are these politicians?
Let’s keep the answer in the brain and move on to something urgent: the design of governance experience. Do we really see this as something we should do better? Should leaders and followers look at governance from the lens of user experience design? I think they should!
If every product, starting with the Constitution to the Curriculum, was designed with the people who this will affect in mind, I am pretty sure the outcomes will be different. Hardly anybody will look at the current Constitution and Curriculum and say: “Yes, these were designed with empathy, love and responsiveness to the needs of the citizens”.
If the guy who presses the button at NEPA or, more recently, NEDCO/KEDCO have the empathy to think that with every touch of the red buttons somebody is going out of business, a baby is dying in the hospital; an investor is packing his bag to leave Nigeria for good, a boy is missing vital lessons because he can no longer cope with doing his assignment in the dark, a family is exposing their lives to carbon monoxide generated by Generators. If he ever approaches his work as a user experience designer…
If the northerner or southerner stealing from the public treasury realises that with every kobo stolen a citizen dies, this corruption-induced death is agnostic of region, religion or tribe. Suppose every Contractor realised that every badly-designed road is a graveyard for his fellow citizens.
If every Nigerian who had the opportunity to lead ten people or more or even less realised that these micro leadership tasks are a microcosm of the overall leadership output of the nation. Suppose every employer knew that every right violated is the beginning of bad governance. Then, you would have seen around you thoughtful and resourceful leaders who would eventually emerge as national leaders.
If every young person on Twitter knew that every tweet could potentially destroy a life, even if it looks like catching a cruise. Suppose every journalist knew that every fake report opens bigger wounds and increases the pain point of his readers. Then, you would have had cause to verify less news and have less regrets for sharing harmful and divisive contents.
When we start seeing this problem as a design problem and not just problems caused by some aliens or foreign species, then we will be mentally ready to ask the right questions.
While scratching at the surface for the past 60 years has given some temporary relief, ousted leaders we hate, brought our tribesmen to power and opened doors to stupendous wealth, the truth is that the problems have compounded.
At the mention of Nigeria, everybody becomes an expert. But most of this expertise only hit the surface, compounding the problem with false claims, unverified and alternative truths, faulty assumptions, stereotypes, bigotry, and received “wisdom”.
We have got to wake up and smell the coffee. There is a design problem out here. Until we are heavy on researching root causes and being genuinely interested in knowing all the whys of the problem, until we see ourselves beyond the just-a-citizen mindset to the mindset of restless inventors, these problems are only growing bigger and more complex regardless of who is at the top.
We have got to build a culture of research and replace that with assumptions and stereotypes. Research could actually confirm some of our beliefs, by the way. But, until we see the products of today as collective input of everybody who played a role, no matter how little, until the people in power (from Local Government to Federal Government) create a mechanism to capture feedback and seek continual improvement regularly, we will still have to come to these basics many years later.
Go to the archives and read headlines of the ’70s and ’80s and compare them to today’s headlines; you will observe a pattern that will shock you. In short, the design process is faulty, but we are finding it difficult to rethink the process, because thinking itself is going to require an effort that we are not yet ready to put in!
AF Sesay is a writer based in Lagos. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.