Wednesday, 17 October 2012

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Late Cynthia Osokogu
Social Media and communications tools continue to serve as powerful enablers that connect us with the realities around us, as complementary platforms to conventional media. The “Aluu killings’ brought that power to the fore, as those who could withstand the horrors unfolding before their eyes, were able to view on YouTube the the level of savagery that we as Nigerians are now capable of.
Yes, many will contend that we have always lived with violence. However, to see a community gleefully bludgeon, dehumanize, and then roast young human beings, extra judicially, in an open, participative and almost ceremonial manner represents a shocking connection to the debasement that has clearly consumed the land – especially coming off the back of another display of brutality in Mubi, which consumed 24 lives - mafia execution style, and the almost voyeuristic dimension reported on the Cynthia Okosogu case.
There are deeply rooted psychological indicators inherent within these behavioral expressions. They perhaps point towards an oppressed, brutalized and increasingly disillusioned citizenry lashing out at themselves, if necessary. Eventually, if care is not taken, they will lash out at their perceived oppressors. Some will argue that we are already at that stage when the brazenness and viciousness that accompanies robberies, kidnappings etc, are considered.
ICT cannot address the deeper human factors that reside within the integrity of governance. Though it can contribute towards moderation and control of conduct, It is it cannot render a linear solution. However, ICT, more than ever, now has a critical and foundational role to play as an enabler of the urgent inputs required, if we are to have a fighting chance of restoring this nation to the path of progress, as opposed to the road to perdition we are currently on. With continued acts like this, and a seemingly reactive rather than proactive security network, we run the very real risk of abdicating state control to communities and individuals to interpret justice as they please, and take action as they deem appropriate. This absence of effective authority respected by all citizens is one of the major ingredients required for apotpourri of anarchy.
ICT platforms, devices and supporting processes represent a potent form of not only enhancing the ability of security to perform, but also represents perhaps the most efficacious means of diffusing whatever orientation initiatives we desperately need to roll out, in order to commence a mindset reset programme to address the issue of the emerging savagery of the Nigerian mind – and I use savagery to also include the mindless looting of resources meant to educate, nurture, empower and enrich Nigerian youths; consequently leading us to a dizzying descent into the pits of crude, savage ideals and practices.
There are three roles – critical ones – that ICT has to play in contributing to the framework which I will refer to as a Rescue and Restoration plan. I am mindful that some will say this is alarmist, and they are entitled to their opinions. But this is the same country where people we saw at shrines - adorned by human skulls - are occupying dignified senate positions today. This is the same country where access to the control of resources triggers off all sorts of demonic practices, especially during the election period. Some are reportedly as savage as the video of the Aluu killings, if it were indeed possible to grade savagery.
Indeed, if truth be told, it is obvious that appearances have subsumed substance and since every one has to provide their own infrastructure, a mad scramble for resources that observes no rules, boundaries or contentment point has since commenced. Weird people are in all sorts of influential positions, and many have clearly run amok. Allu is ultimately a reflection of leadership, albeit the savagery at the leadership level has always been effected in air-conditioned offices, by well attired men and women.
Security is a cardinal requirement for orderly societal existence, and it is now time for the President to set a deadline for the implementation and activation of all ICT related security initiatives that are designed to enhance communications between the citizenry and the security agencies, internal security communications systems and platforms and solutions that allow public spaces to be monitored. Any person or persons identified as stumbling blocks - either as a function of vested interests, or the shenanigans of power play - should be sanctioned and removed, because we can no longer afford to watch the country fall apart on account of the whims and caprices of a handful. The roof will collapse on everyone in that scenario – including the perpetrators, and those who acquiesced by remaining loyal and quiet for pecuniary interests, or even lack of courage.

The restoration and rescue plan framework must recognize that the average Nigerian mindset is almost dysfunctional, and at odds with harmonious and development oriented existence. We cut corners, lie, cheat, betray, resort to idol worshiping and yet paradoxically, we flock to churches and mosques in huge numbers – perhaps recognizing the gravity of our sins. We need a mind reset. As it stands toady, the Nigerian identity is perceived as only likely to invite suspicion, discrimination and other negative factors anywhere in the world. Little wonder we have to offer monetary inducement to footballers to perform, and for people to do things that are ordinarily borne out of love for the flag.
ICT content creation must therefore be a cardinal focus in resetting the mindset of the Nigerian – at all levels – from the leaders to the led. Content must emphasize humanity, contentment, integrity, self - dignity, and all those virtues we once laid claim to. There must be content that keeps the governance framework accountable by exposing corruption, capturing brutality, identifying and shaming offenders of all sorts; albeit with the utmost sense of responsibility and respect for privacy as appropriate.
Although conventional platforms like TV and print will continue to play critical roles, Mobile communications represents the most proximate method of engaging the human being – if the content is compelling enough.
Clips of our founding fathers and their inspirational speeches, images of a Nigeria worth building, learning platforms, gaming platforms that capture our cultural roots, content that emphasizes patronage of made in Nigeria goods etc; all have a place in our ICT content space, and in the ‘restoration and rescue plan’, and must be taken very seriously, because human beings are products of their mindset, and the mindset is conditioned by environmental factors and ideological input. If we do not create and diffuse meaningful content, our investments in access and devices will merely serve as a gateway to all sorts of content, some of which may only deepen our woes. ICT can indeed drive positive input assuming that government is sincere in development efforts and demonstrates this to the citizenry.
Thirdly, ICT must be a rallying point for the local manufacturing case. This has been severally canvassed by the Minister of Communication Technology in many recent speeches, and during the ICT policy finalization phase. When we see the huge volume of ICT devices and accessories on the market across mobile, desktop computing and mobile computing, one shudders at the immense capital flight that is built around ICT, and whether the corresponding value makes economic sense. Take mobile telephony at 100 m + connected devices. Average that conservatively at $100 per device, and that’s a tidy $10b that we are carrying around at any time 9even when you exclude the rate of upgrading and disposing old units) with very little participation in the value chain. It is simply not true that we cannot assemble locally. It requires big thinking, understanding of the demand profile, vision, planning, negotiating courage and ruthless execution. This country is too big to continue importation of mass utilization items like textiles, tyres and now ICT platforms and devices at the rate we do.
When examined critically, we are producing jobs for others whilst squeezing our own already scarce financial resources. The markets size is enough to make shared infrastructure ICT assembly parks a viable concept. Even if diesel is used 24 hours of the day, the economies of scale, and size of market will still make the ICT products competitive, and many other mechanisms can be used by government to support locally based manufacturing – whether by indigenous or foreign brands. The core issue is ‘jobs’ and the development of 21st century skills that count. It must be a ‘concession for jobs’ scheme where the concession framework is linked to the number of sustainable jobs provided. Local production will also ensure that access devices get into peoples hands en masse, for all the orientation reasons outlined above, in addition to the ordinary utility of making and receiving calls.
If we can leverage ICT to enhance security, revamp our mindset and create huge job numbers, then it would have contributed a significant quota towards halting our rapid descent into savagery. If we do not, every body may yet pay a heavy price in the hands of the Frankenstein monsters that decades of defective leadership have created and nurtured. That monster may be sat across your office desk, at your gate, in your kitchen, or at the wheels of your car.

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