Big shoes for small men?

 (By Dolapo Aina)

Whether African politicians and leaders like it or not, a majority of them can’t keep up with the evolving trend in technology, which the youths find easy to comprehend. When any president has young people advising him or her in the areas the young advisers are vast and well grounded in, thinking outside the box becomes a regular occurrence. But this would only occur if the young ones are reading like the politicians, who devour books with ease.

IN May 2011, I was surprised to hear a report that President Goodluck Jonathan travelled to Uganda to attend the swearing-in of President Museveni. Back then, I kept on asking myself one question: Why would our president associate himself with a president who has become intolerant to any form of opposition; a president who on Wednesday, May 18, 2011, said a law limiting the roles of local and foreign journalists in reporting Ugandan issues would be enacted to curtail their activities, to say the least, a president who spent over $350 million on campaign and over a million plus for his swearing-in ceremony?

   I wondered why our president would associate himself with the president of a country which elections were reported by local and international observers as not free and fair. Alas, I was unaware like most Nigerians of the reckless financial jamboree in Nigeria’s corridors of power till the January petrol price protests opened up several trucks of worms.

   Our president’s advisers should do a better job of advising him on the benefits of attending certain ceremonies in some African countries. Back then in 2011, I didn’t expect our president to have attended the swearing-in of the president in Uganda, considering that the opposition groups were, and are still aggrieved and were out to welcome their leader, Kizza Besigye, on the same day the Ugandan President was to be sworn in.

   Gone are the days when a dictator would invite presidents and the invited heads-of-state would jump into the next presidential plane while their entourage dived into the second plane. Our president’s advisers should realise that the world is changing in terms of technology and dissemination of information and they have to be able to think outside the box in giving him the best advice when necessary.

   If the president and his team of advisers could think outside the box by having a Facebook page (regardless if the idea was someone else’s), which has a lot of young people as friends and which endeared young and IT-savvy people to his cause and also resulted to a Tsunami wave of Jonathanism, to borrow a phrase from Dr Anthony Akinola, then his team should be able to think outside the box the next time they are faced with such a situation.

   I don’t expect his advisers to talk or advise him into accepting invitations from countries with deploring and deteriorating human rights records, such as Eritrea. What occurred in Uganda in 2011, to President Jonathan’s car, should be a prescription for the future. Never take the cries of disenfranchised citizens of any nation for granted. Tunisia and Egypt are ready-made examples.

   In 2013, if the president would have to reshuffle his oversized cabinet, he shouldn’t take the responsibility of picking his special advisers for granted. If he has to, he should pick the best of advisers regardless of lobbying in whatever form, even if they are young individuals.

   For those who don’t know, Barack Obama’s chief blogger during the 2008 campaign, Sam Graham-Felsen, was in his 20s when he was saddled with the task of blogging (I bet a lot of Nigerian politicians have no clue what a blog or blogging means) and his ideas, which were implemented, contributed to the $500 million garnered by the Obama team from everyday people and not a single dollar from the bigwigs who aligned with Hilary Clinton.

   His African-American Representative to the United Nations, Condoleezza Rice, brought in a young man by the name Jared Cohen to the State Department. Jared was in his early 20s when he was brought in and his track record spoke for itself. He was so effective at technology and its modern usage that Hilary Clinton retained him (a democratic administration retained a Republican staff). Now, Cohen is the vice president of Google ideas, travelling the globe proselytizing the use of IT to solve issues, and he is just 31.

   The above mentioned young men were in Lagos for the platform’s thinking outside the box conference on May 7 and 8, 2011. Can young Nigerians of like minds with those mentioned above be given such opportunities in government? Nigerian and African politicians have a lot to learn because the world is changing. Anyone that resents change in this 21st century is as good as obsolete.

   Whether African politicians and leaders like it or not, a majority of them can’t keep up with the evolving trend in technology, which the youths find easy to comprehend. When any president has young people advising him or her in the areas the young advisers are vast and well grounded in, thinking outside the box becomes a regular occurrence. But this would only occur if the young ones are reading like the politicians, who devour books with ease.

   Cohen was brought into the State Department and he showcased his talents because he knew how to make the best use of Internet, especially the social networks. His behind-the-scene input in the use of the internet in the Egyptian uprising of January 2011 and in Iran in June 2010 is well known by those who should know, which, unsurprisingly, are young, IT-savvy political minds.

   The wise ones and the senior officials in the State Department gave him the space because they knew that this modern age brings along with it a much faster way of accomplishing things. And also, this 21st Century needs people who are capable of comprehending and forecasting the way political developments would pan out, not only in government offices and in political party gatherings but especially through the internet.

   Anything that had to do with political developments via the Internet was left for Cohen to investigate and handle. President Jonathan should have young people who would always think outside the box for him, not government officials, who are meant to “inform” us, eulogising the president by proclaiming and thanking him for bringing Facebook to Nigeria, to name just one of the many official gaffes from 2010 to 2012.

   If the president did have young people who think outside the box, after that event in Kampala in 2011, his special adviser on media would have realised that his response to the incident could be verified by anyone who wanted to view the video on Facebook or YouTube. The world has moved from relying on only the official source of information to citizen journalism or eyewitness reporting, which international media houses rely on in some circumstances.

   Had the president appointed young advisers into his inner circle, recycling granddaddies for sensitive offices would have taken its place in the dustbin of history. One can’t but ask why President Jonathan surrounds himself with great granddaddies and individuals with discredited political and financial misachievements. So, there are no longer young technocrats to take Nigeria to the next level, only recycled horses, tainted Trojan horses at best?

   One can’t but concur with the title of one of Dr. Anthony Akinola’s articles written in 2012, Big shoes for small men! This phrase keeps on oozing out of the body language, pores and utterances of a majority of Nigerian politicians and especially office holders. The laced-up shoes are too big for their tiny feet, thereby hindering movement and mobility to the desired destination. This also goes for the state governments. A majority of state governments seem licensed to do nothing.

• Dolapo Aina, a writer, lives in Lagos.

“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”

RISE NETWORKS

"Nigeria's Leading Private Sector and Donor funded Social Enterprise with deliberate interest in Technology and its relevance to Youth and Education Development across Africa. Our Strategic focus is on vital human capital Development issues and their relationship to economic growth and democratic consolidation." Twitter: @risenetworks || Facebook - RISE GROUP || Google Plus - Rise Networks