Permit me to start by asking what is President Muhammadu Buhari reading? The question becomes pertinent in the light of the economic troubled waters Nigeria seems to have found itself. It is trite belief that reading expands the mind and the ability to read extensively widens creative engagement with everyday problems. Related to leading people or a country, reading opens countless doors of exploration, thereby fortifying the capacity of the leadership to project future happenstance and plan for them.
During the time of former President Goodluck Jonathan, we were made to understand that reading and knowledge sharing amongst the cabinet Ministers was a common feature and that Richard Dowden’s “Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles” was one of his favorite books – maybe, his background as an academic influenced such passion. However, in the current dispensation, the Spokesperson to President Muhammadu Buhari said his favorite part of even reading a newspaper is the cartoon section, which usually makes him laugh. I do not think I would have been bothered what anybody reads in a newspaper if he is not my President. Moreover, I love cartoons too but it does not take precedence over knowledge expanding reading.
Close to two years into what most Nigerians thought would be a wand wading change, President Muhammadu Buhari led administration is fast filtering away the good will that brought it into power. From the edge of his oval office, Mr. President – the presumed messiah, and his team should be wondering why their sleepless nights (if truly they do have one) seem not to be yielding the desired dividends of democracy nor surmount the savagery hunger that has pervaded the land.
For a government that came into the office dressed in the toga of change, disrupting the status quo should be a reoccurring decimal. Many of us who joined the change against transformation campaign did so purely in expectation of an effective leadership with sustainable plans to navigate resistance and create rapid growth and new possibilities within the country. But what has been observed so far, are the reenactment of the things voted against; underperforming and inflated budgets, subversion of laws, dawdling decision-making process, chauvinistic appointments, prioritization of self above the electorate, the spiraling cost of living and growing unemployment. The unchanging behavioral pattern criss-cross the different arms of government and levels of government without exempting the populace who wanted change but do not want to change.
The Judiciary still allows cases crept into long years, leaving able bodied men/women awaiting trials, wealth and means still determine judicial treatments while perpetual injunctions still sell at the bar. In the Legislature, showmanship remains a pride of place, oversight hindered by pecuniary interest and motions and bills moved in hundreds without corresponding efficacy. But in truth, if we sincerely desire change, then we must allow the government to run like a private entity desirous of making a profit for its stakeholders – the populace. It is in the light of the above, I think it is pertinent Mr. President picks up a copy of “How Google Works “, a book written by two Google Inc Executives, Eric Schmidt and Alan Eagle.
The book depicts how the internet century we find ourselves runs, where technology is roiling the business landscape and the pace of change can be equated to the speed of lighting. In the book, Mr. President will be fortunate to learn about how Smart Creatives (young people with creative ingenuity to apply what is learned) made end users the target of every Google’s product and drive the brand from a mere university project/ Silicon Valley startup to what we all know as Google today. Applying this to governance, the administration will learn what it is worth to inject young creative minds in the current dispensation with the mandate to take governance down to the people by formulating the policy that are people driven. In the view of Eric Schmidt and Alan Eagle, a “smart creative is a firehouse of new ideas that are genuinely new. Her perspective is different from yours or ours. It’s even occasionally different from her own perspective… She is curious creative. She is always questioning, never satisfied with the status quo, seeing problems to solve everywhere and thinking that she is just the person to solve them. She can be overbearing.” In simple layman’s language, we need to change tactics of Nigeria’s governance; we cannot be doing the same thing year in, year out and expect different results.
From the Book, Mr. President and members of his cabinet will understand that a prime Google philosophy is not profit but users’ satisfaction which on the long run ends in more product sales. This area of thought dwells also in Public Relations where a quality product sales itself through the word-of-mouth. The government need not spend heavily on publicity if it is doing the right thing. Until government stop attaching undue relevance to itself and stop seeing itself as the must-go-to entity, we might not be ready to drive change. A government is not an end product; it is a service, service to the people. When that service fails to bring about commensurate satisfaction, then the government has failed in its primary responsibility to the people. Getting and satisfying end users are its core responsibility from which it derives its relevance. Less regard is given to the government, its rules and policies today because services which it ought to render to gain trust and retain loyalty are being performed by a plethora of citizens. An average Nigeria is a government, rendering almost all services; power, water, road, and education.
There is a general perception that Mr. President listens to few counsels, particularly the HIPPOS ( Highest-Paid Person’s Opinion) in Aso Rock, but their views are often sycophantic, thus, derailing the government. “How Google Works” will give Mr. President the insight to understand that no government strives on the limited scope of a single clique’s idea or ideas. A major reason, the anticorruption campaign has been near comatose. While Mr. President says the corruption monster is fighting back, he believes his kitchen cabinet can do no wrong as exemplified in the most recent grass cutting mess, yet Babachir Lawal did no wrong! For Babachir to be so important that he cannot be unplugged should be a concern to all well-meaning Nigerians. Mr. President, ego creates blind spots, you do not know it all, engage the right people who are waiting for you to come to them. No one should be indispensable.
A stroll through President Muhammadu Buhari’s social media handles on announcing he is going for a 10-Day Vacation tells you how frustrated Nigerians are getting with the system that takes pride in moving at the pace of a snail, even snails seem to be relatively very active at night, not this administration. Loathe him or like him, during his inauguration speech, President Donald Trump said something very instructive about governance in America and how it has to return to the people, not some few hands living fat on the toils of the people. Whosoever wrote that speech mirrored the Nigerian predicament where those in the capital particularly the Presidential Villa – Aso Rock, spend billions overseas while the Nigeria’s infrastructure suffers. We do not even take pride in ourselves again; vacation in foreign lands, prioritize foreign wars, feel less concerned that the factories are shutting down and do not even know the depth of hardship in the land. President Trump said what Americans want are great schools for their children, safe neighbourhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves, “these are the just and reasonable demands of a righteous republic.” Isn’t that the same inalienable request Nigerians seek for when they voted massively for President Muhammadu Buhari under the Change Mantra? A story is told about Israeli tank commanders heading into combat, rather than say “Charge!”, they rally their troops by shouting “Ah’cha’rye,” which translates from Hebrew as “Follow me.” Can Nigerians follow the President’s footsteps in this regard? Is he leading by example?
Like the mistakes made by Former President Goodluck Jonathan and his retinue of hangers-on, critics of the present administration are not the enemies of the state, Mr. President needs to look inwardly to find his albatross. From the analysis embedded in How Google Works, the ‘Hailing Hailers’ would learn that the ‘Wailing Wailers’ are competitors to power and competition make an organization willing to work, better. To paraphrase a section in the book, “critic keeps you sharp. We are all human and subject to complacency, no matter how often we tell ourselves to stay on our toes. Nothing lights a fire like a competitor.”
Google today prides itself on data-driven decision-making. But do we have reliable figures down here? We are used to bandying figures around, populations census are designed to be held every Ten years, ours was last held in 2006 with palatable figure differentials, yet the government is not prioritizing doing a new one. I think I would agree with the Minister of Works, Power, and Housing, that we need to do a census of houses to know the actual number of energy we need to drive change, it is a scientific way of planning. ” Decisions once based on subjective opinion and anecdotal evidence now relies primarily on data… London’s water pipes are monitored by thousands of sensors, reducing leakage by 25 percent. Ranchers embed sensors into their cattle that transmit information about the animals’ health and location; each cow transmits about 200 megabytes of data per year, allowing ranchers to fine-tune what, when, and how much they feed their cattle,” it was written in the book. And you just read rightly, water pipes are monitored with sensors and ranchers monitor cattle with sensors to get maximum output. Setting up grazing land or cattle marching down on the Federal Capital was not considered as the ideal way of change. Reading How Google Works will tell Mr. President, we need to be ingenious to excel as a nation.
One needs to do the statistical analysis of emigration from this country to know what we are losing, it is an obvious truth that it is the healthier and more vigorous that emigrate, and not the reverse, yet our government is not bothered. Videos emerged some weeks back showing how able-bodied Nigerians were held hostage in Libya, some even insinuate they were randomly being killed. Wages and salaries in Nigeria are not only ridiculous but pathetically frustrating, just imagine what Eighteen Thousand Naira buys in the market today when 4-litre of palm oil sells for Six Thousand Naira. To change, we must restructure our wage system to give priority to manufacturing, agriculture, education and research focused sectors and reduced drastically, the civil and public service; exceptional people deserve exceptional pay.
In the end, I suggest Mr. President also reads Adolf Hitler’s, “Mein Kampf”, particularly the first Chapter to understand the unending struggle that exists between the middle class and the very poor, how daily need to survive drifts families apart and a child trained in a presumably fractured home loses his human dignity and compassion to defend his nation. Mr. President must be humble enough to understand the social contrast, mere charitable relief of Five Thousand naira to the extremely poor or school feeding in a school that lacks basic infrastructure, will end in waste, particularly in this country alien to accountability. Mr President’s work is the sum total of the ingenuity of the team he puts together to achieve is electoral promises. “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts,” Mr. President needs to return to reading and apply what he learnt if he must achieve, 2019 is around the corner, either for the preservation of his self-glory or the upholding of the tenant of his All Progressives Congress, something needs to be done fast.
Sulaimon Mojeed-Sanni writes via [email protected], tweets can be send to @OmoMojeed. He lives in Abuja