Friday, December 17, 2010

Breaking the Silence

RSVPA year ago today, Tejiri was born.I wrote this blog post while I waited for news of her birth and posted it once she was born.

A few days later, my mother-in-law held Tejiri in her arms. Well, a year has gone by, and on this day of Tejiri’s first birthday, my mother-in-law is not here to hold her. She will never hold her or any of her grandchildren again. My mother-in-law was taken away from all of us, in part by a deadly (but survivable) disease, but primarily by indifferent medical care.

We talk about poorly equipped hospitals. How about when a hospital is fully equipped, but is staffed by indifferent and inept medical personnel who more than likely got their jobs without merit and have no professionalism and little concern for the human beings entrusted in their care? When a needle can go in the place? Be administered at the wrong time or not at all?

We all rave, rage and rant at our leaders – the Senate, the House of Reps, government officials all. We forget that they are ordinary Nigerians like us.Ordinary Nigerians like doctors, teachers and messengers. If they were doctors, their patients would die. If they were teachers, their students would fail. If they were messengers, their despatches would be delivered a day late and a dollar short. Guess what, patients are dying and students aren’t learning. The problem isn’t just “them”. The problem is also us. It starts with us. You see “them” were once us.

However, by being in positions of authority, their impact is elevated above that of a grenade tossed into a room and become artillery fire raining down on a nation– 25% of our national expenditure. Their defence of it being only 13% (or did they claim 9%?) is ludicrous in their failure to understand that they shouldn’t even be up to 1% of our national expenditure. Instead they should be contributing multiplied billions to our GDP in growth-friendly legislation, but I digress.

More than ever, technology now enables us do what is needed to reshape our nation. If we didn’t know it before Julian Assange shows us how a few people, with cheap tools, can move the whole world – for good or for bad. We in this nation need to use technology to change things in favour of the multiplied millions in Nigeria. Assange’s method is one way. Khan Academy is another.  M-PESA is another still. As might be MainOne.

So technology will help us get information out about the upcoming elections. Where to register, where to vote and how the vote is being handled. Technology will help us know what the candidates stand for and what they have done in the past. Technology will help us protect the vote as we collate information from multiple sources that will give us a true picture of what really happened and hold it up to the world’s scrutiny. Technology will help us hold our leaders accountable once we have them in office.

Technology will help us come up with new educational paradigms and help the lowest of the low get access, at the minimum, to the same content as the privileged. Technology will help develop our communities like a Malawian village boy who created electricity by harnessing the wind or as a group of young men and women are doing with solar in Ondo. Technology will help us change the way we manage our personal health, as well as change our healthcare systems.

However, technology will only HELP. Unless, we the people, choose to do something, the technology cannot do anything. used the technology to get the word out, but it was the marching in the streets that got attention of those whose attention needs to be got. Similarly, technology must be used to support actual human activity for it to be meaningful. It cannot be used to abdicate responsibility.

A good place to start is with these coming elections. There are tools out there already available and being developed to help support free and fair elections. However, they are meaningless if we Nigerians do not go out to register and then to vote.

This blog has been on a hiatus, and this is not a return, not quite yet. However, I break the silence to honour my mother-in-law, to celebrate my daughter and to use both of them to appeal to whoever is out there listening: let us work for a day in which no more grandmothers are sacrificed on the alter of mediocrity. Let us bequeath a better Nigeria to our daughters, and our sons, than our fathers bequeathed to us.


Image Courtesy of Gbenga Sesan and The “Enough is Enough Nigeria” Coalition.