Monday, January 29, 2007

The Gidi Grind

Everyone with any depth of analysis about the 21st century acknowledge that the combination of speed, abundance, interaction and choices makes many people bewildered rendering their Linear and planned world appear Chaotic. I call it the Adaptive Age but if I have any ounce of courage I will name it the Gidi Age. Gidi is an affectionate name for Lagos as a representation of Nigeria. The Adaptive possibilities that Rem Koolhaas sees in the city of Lagos is the same that the Nigerian Extractive Elite deride in the daily 'bitch' about the chaos or failure of their National experience. In Gidi the world has a nation living the Adaptive reality but it is the last to know or turn it into the Laboratory for Excellence in the 21st Century. The question of how the worlds most inventive people are citizens of one of the least innovative countries? Using the Omoluwabi concepts lets review Nigeria as it enters its make or break year again. Somehow the so called 'Third most complex society on earth ' seems to perpetually relive Deja vu all over again. Well lets start reviewing Gidi against the Omoluwabi elements:

Isiju or Olaju which is about exploring the many possible ways of seeing the Gidi reality. For most part people see a failing chaotic place, corrupt and decaying. Often they see a failure of leadership. This choice of reality is mostly designed to disempower and paralyse the ability of people to dream. It always finds someone to blame rather than acknowledge co-creative capacity of all the forces in the country. In the salons of Lekki and the beer parlours of Asokoro they pontificate and argue about the Nolywood drama of the failing political marriage of Obasanjo and Atiku. The stifled evolution of Gidi has a lot to do with the addiction to competition and its peoples ineptitude at cooperation. As I indicated under my view on Mzansi you need effective use of the dynamic equilibrium of both competition and cooperation to evolve. Nigeria or Gidi is a society where people compete perpetually even when they are signed up to cooperate. Even when there is collective self interest they just bid their time and cooperate under a flag of convenience. There are too many examples to list but the current President and Vice President fighting is a classic`example. It means inevitably that in spite of innovation and entrepreneurial overdrive society never develops the institutional capacity to evolve. The formal systems only provide and are used as platforms for never ending rivalries and competition. It is impossible to organise people who do not cooperate meaningfully.

Many view Nigerian under-performance as a failure of leadership but it can be simply described as a failure of cooperation. As a result of this competition everything is personalised. There is rarely a use of scale to observe how the system or dynamics is operating so problems are located in individuals and falsely so are solutions especially in the changing of the guards. This often demands drastic sackings e.g military coups. In fact a simple observation of the dynamics will reveal that cooperation occurs more consistently within informal interactions that are embedded in the local cultures such as extended families for social services and celebrations; ethnic groupings for socio-political development. However these mediums are degraded by years of lack of focus or intervention to consciously evolve them.Gidi is living through a very momentous period and the question is whether the Elites will stop at the brink of their voracious competition to cooperate for the benefit of the overwelhming majority of Nigerians who are under 18 and powerless to protect their future. A focus on the new possibilities will leverage the fastest growing telecoms market in Africa, the second most innovative society in the continent, the largest educated pool of Black people in the world, the biggest consumer market in Africa and the largest middle class population in the continent into a platform for evolving abundance for its people and partners. On the contrary the focus on the current simplistic reality will continue to elevate extractive resources over productive energy, increase the entitlement criminality as shown in the Niger delta, will reduce National census to competitive numbers game rather than socio economic data for evolution. It will continue to reward 'Agencratic rent seekers 'rather than genuine wealth creation as well as productivity.

Oju Inu provides us with the insight as to why there is this constant choice of reality. Why people like Soyinka, Abati et al who are celebrated commentators on Gidi perpetually feed us their nightmares and rarely share their dreams. For most part Gidi is a triumph of Ego over logic, where confrontation replaces dialogue and power is used to achieve everything. I remember watching the Dog Whisperer (my favourite programme) and Milan the expert Dog trainer always draws the difference between dogs and human saying that the former are pack animals exclusively so. Treating them like humans leads to psychological problems for both the dogs and arguably the owners. In the West people treat dogs like humans and in Gidi humans are treated like dogs. Not in just a simply derogatory way but just as pack animals and they comply for survival but use their ever present humanity to undermine, subvert or disengage inventively. Two things emerge out of this that the core of current Nigerian disposition is a value system of 'Survival at any cost, prosperity by luck'. The second point is the addiction to authority , power and ego as problem solving tools over leadership, organisation and ideas. How does one of the most complex societies in the world seek the simplicity of a messiah to solve its co-created problems? How does it perceive transformation can occur in its public spaces when it hangs onto borrowed tradition of management like a crack whore to a smoking pipe? Simply the Agencratic elite would rather destroy or split up the country than let any new dispensation occur. Even though they appear to fight each other they are all wedded to the same thing, holding onto their colonial inheritance. For why will a new political party adopt Mr Atiku at least under suspicion of corruption in Nigeria and the US as its presidential candidate? How do two candidates for election brief the US government on sensitive national issues as if reporting to their mentor? Why do Nigerians set up NGOs to pimp their nationally pathologies for International pay off? Why are Nigerians the only people with no websites for problem solving only regular and convulsive bouts of critical analysis? Why are Gidi people so obsessed with academic titles with no system for vocational education? Gidi is the home of the Alpha male on steroids and the Nigerian male at his best and worst is world class with all its implication. The sheer arrogance of overdose of testosterone is abusive sexuality, failure of leveraging and partnering with female capacity and unrelenting or even unmitigated aggressiveness. Gidi needs a new approach from women not hampered by orientation for marriage or addiction to social mobility nor prisoner to religious catechism but a crop of worthy an honourable warriors who would fight for a win-win with men on behalf of the next generation.

In exploring Ami we see the patterns and omens on the horizon. Most people are looking at the elections as the main issue along with the tragedy emerging in the Niger delta. For most part these are already consequences rather than trends. With most of the reputed 140 million Nigerians under working age or thereabout the main thing is employment. Since most are male the primary worry is crime. Look out for whether the focus of 2007 remains politics or economics. The main thing that matters is whether the private sector takes responsibility for evolving cooperation and providing employment in their 10s of millions. Watch for whether the incredibly large, super-dynamic and ever present informal sectors from the Bukka to the Vulcaniser and Tailors are facilitated into the formal economic sector through the micro credit or other institutional support systems. Look out for the evolution of Intra Africa trade especially if Mzansi (South Africa) recognises the potential synergy and liberalises its immigration approach to Nigerian capital and business. The same goes for Kenya and Tanzania amongst others. It is especially possible for Mzansi to make a mint out of the perpetual Gidi need for Academic recognition as well as phenomenal entrepreneurial desires.The stock market provides one of the largest returns on investment in the world and as one is seeing in Kenya it is capturing the imagination of everyday Nigerians watch out for full liberation of pension investment beyond government bonds to deliver a new powerhouse in African markets. The engine for change is the unempowered majority of women and young people who are yet to use their numbers to produce a new agenda. The power of technology especially co-creative aspects of telecoms will increase complexity and destroy hierarchy's like in the rest of the world. It is time to explore new possibilities and risk for dreams rather than paralysed by fear of failure.

The choice of Gidi reality is reflected in behaviours that often appear to be pathologies but can easily been explained by 'survival at any cost' mentality and operating in an hyper competitive world. So Iwalewa affords us a look at behaviour and attitudes that can evolve Gidi and her people:

1) Take responsibility wherever you are for intervening and creating the society of your dreams

2) Check your Egos and power to cooperate for collective progress

3) Your financial success is depended on a productive economy not just your bank balance

4) Having a Phd does not mean that you are capable or have any original ideas

5) Teach critical thinking and problem solving in schools from Nursery

6) Educate for conscious evolution not for passing exams as well as complying with rules

7) Develop participatory business models based on indigenous culture

8) Challenge and evolve unproductive traditions and norms

9) Open public space to the world of dreams and possibilities not cynicism and criticism.

10) Stop substituting real spiritual and dynamic relations with God with religiosity and lining pockets of Pastors and Imams.

Enyan Lasomi for Gidi is ultimately about acknowledging that its destiny is linked to the realisation of the potential of its Daughters. Its power is in respecting the possibilities of its youth . Its future is in embracing the possibility for diversity as a powerhouse of creativity and innovation linking the over 250 meaning making system for a new original world that redefines how the rest can handle complexity. Then truly it can earn the title 'heart of Africa'. A truly African Renissance.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Mzansi Rocks

I can honestly say that Mzansi or South Africa is the most beautiful country I have ever been too. It inhabits all the landscape that makes my heart blossom. I remember a visit to Durban and staying on the coast in Umlhanga and Amaxinthoti. I often relive the effect of looking at the southern most tip of Africa where supposedly three oceans meet. Whether it is the beauty of Veldt of the Eastern cape or the lush grapevines overlooked by the Table mountain. It is truly Gods own country and this is not just a marketing strapline.The most awesome love pitch is President Mbeki speech on this issue titled 'I am African'. It is truly as he says. However in the middle of all of this is a nation with an amazing challenge because it refuses to come to terms with elements of its character that is the cornerstone of its uniqueness. Its Africaness.

Lets use the Omoluwabi elements to take a systematic view.

The first point is the Isiju or Olaju element. What are the revealations that emerge from seeing Mzansi with fresh eyes? It is one angry nation who in an attempt at respectability and western decorum stops itself from acting out like it feels other African nation have done. Somehow she tries to earn as well as keep the infracstructure and industrialisation by distancing itself from the premevial nature of what it sees as its Africaness. It is so rare to hear the noise, smell or even the colours of the rest of Africa in a city as large as Johannesburg. So it takes the noble course, rainbow nation, truth and reconcilation commission, model c schools. In spite of that, the duality plays itself out. The township protects the soul of the land, the blind unquenched anger of the young toughs, the possibility of a Zuma presidency, the loneliness of voluptous sisters waiting to exhale with dignity. The ever nagging doubt that maybe the masterminds of Aparthied might be right, exercebated by the glaring reward that is still bestowed on their benefactors whose inheritance are not being diminished but legitimised by BE programs.

Lets review another element called Oju Inu, the insight into the dynamics. The very things that helped the Black South Africans fight aparthied are now becoming burdens. The obsession for Social Justice is congealing into ever present sense of entitlement. A nation that protest incessantly that even the whites have no shame bleating discrimination even though they are largely a priviledged minority. At the top of the pecking order is an Activocracy always protesting one thing or the other. The highlight being the unions and their role in society. A society that focuses incessantly on cooperation treating her partner in evolution, competition with contempt. Its industrial development and infrastructure convinces her that life is linear and processed unlike the chaos in her sister countries to the north. Enter Ama Nigerians , brash, loud and big. Finding an angle in everything as well as bending rules everywhere, taking advantage through their sheer gall . All the insecurity of Mzansi finds a scape goat in them. Never mind the stereotypes of Hillbrow drug dealers it is the professional class in every university, hospital et al that is the real driver for insecurity. The Nigerian to use their individuality competitively sets them apart in a world that abhors confrontation and is easily embarrased to collude in its own timidity.

So what does this forecast or what are the signs or Ami of what is on the horizon. Everyone talks ceasellesly about HIV or AIDs and even Crime. The more sophisticated focus on the landless and the potential revolution in the manner of Zimbabwe. They lose sight that Mzansi has more powerful omens playing out. Watch out for the wealth at the bottom of the pyramid especially in the townships. Do not miss out on the drama of the Nigeria, South Africa investment and labour market twinning. What happens when South African Xenophobia becomes Nigerian anger? Does anyone remember 'Ghana must go' ? Also what will happen when the emerging , empowered South African women fight against the raw deal that seems to come with unaccountable males? Mzansi is where most of Africa meets and works in an urbane space, what trans african lessons emerge from that platform? Are white south africans a dying breed of Africans or a genuine and authentic representation of how everyone can embrace the Africa in them? Watch out for whether Mzansi acknowledges the heavyweight that Thabo Mbeki really is. Also watch how honestly it handles the Xhosa hateing green monster that is leading to the Zuma candidacy as well as support. Especially look at how inclusive the World Cup plays out either as a Pan African spectacle or an exclusive self congratulatory soiree.

The issue of Iwalewa i.e. the behaviours that can help evolve Mzansi are very specific and potentially liberating. In fact some are happening already:

- Reclaim the many African elements of its culture

- Allow itself to confront and compete openly and honestly

- Recognise the many sacrifices other Africans made to facilitate its current liberation. An historic amnesia that has to be corrected.

- Use the opportunity of townships to create a Renaissance

- Define differences beyond Race into culture

In trying to do these things she must recognise another element Eniyan Laso mi. Her success is dependent on the quality of its relationships. In defining itself a rainbow nation it must recognise the potential of mass migration to diffuse current unplesant ethno national rivalries. It must develop a more honest relationship between all its ethnic nationalities. It needs to develop a relatioship with other African countries that is mutually respectful rather than reward the wealth of the Western tourist.

It is difficult to see where the shift for the future will come from since the young South Africans need to be the force for their country as a new African possibility or as their President describe it a backbone for a new African Renaissance.