By A.F. Sesay
When we talk of politicians, we speak about them like aliens or spirits from the evil forest. People came with their own beliefs, attitudes, approaches to life, and different perspectives on divine justice and the torture in Hell. We talk of them like we do of cold, callous people 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 see this as something we all could do better? Should leaders and followers look at governance from the lens of user experience design? I think they should!
If every product, starting from the Constitution to the Curriculum, was designed with the people they will affect in mind. I am sure the outcomes would be different. Hardly anybody is going to 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 the Electricity House has the empathy to think that somebody is going out of business with every touch of the red button, 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 and so on. If he had ever approached his work like a user experience designer, many problems could have been solved by now.
If the northerner or southerner stealing from the public treasury realizes that with every kobo stolen, a citizen dies and that this corruption-induced death is agnostic of region, religion or tribe, we wouldn’t need an Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Likewise, if every contractor realized that every badly-designed road is a graveyard for his fellow citizens, then potholes will become history.
If every Nigerian who had the opportunity to lead ten people or more or even less realized that these micro leadership tasks are a microcosm of the overall leadership output of the nation, then the nation’s leaders will be as upright as we want them. Suppose every employer knew that every right violated is the beginning of bad governance. In that case, the next commander-in-chief will make it a personal duty to provide the enabling ground for every citizen to thrive.
When every day becomes a reminder of the responsibility we all have as leaders in our various capacities, we will witness the birth of the ‘beautyful ones’ (apologies to Armah). There will be thoughtful and resourceful leaders in every cranny on the road to building a great nation.
If every young person on Twitter and Facebook knew that every tweet or post could potentially destroy a life, fake news would be reduced to the barest minimum, even if it looks like a “catching cruise”. If every journalist knew that every fake report opens bigger wounds and increases the pain point of his readers, then nobody would invest millions in fact-checking. As a result, we all would have had less cause to verify the news and have fewer regrets for sharing harmful and divisive content.
We will be mentally ready to ask the right questions when we start seeing this all as a design problem and not just some issues caused by aliens or foreign species. And let’s know that INEC cannot give us what culture has deprived us of.
While scratching the surface for the past 60 years has given some temporary relief, the question of how far have we come and how many more years can we afford this mediocrity in governance here and across the continent?
We have ousted leaders we hate too much. We have brought in our tribesmen and “starmen” to power and opened doors to stupendous wealth for kinsmen. But in truth, the problems have compounded. So, it’s not an election problem; it’s culture, design and system that we have to work on.
Talking alone won’t win us good leaders. In the same vein, we can’t insult the elected into good governance. They have to want to. And the only way that happens is vision and a culture that makes it difficult for people to be bad at the top.
At the mention of Nigeria, everybody becomes an expert. But most of these experts 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 mindsets to the mindset of restless inventors, these problems are only growing bigger and more complex regardless of who is at the top.
We have to build a research culture and replace that with false assumptions and stereotypes. Until we see the governance 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 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 will require an effort that we are not yet ready for.
A.F. Sesay sent this article via firstname.lastname@example.org.