By Joel Popoola
The 2023 election may feel like a long way off, but the battle to succeed President Buhari is already underway.
But who would want to step into his shoes?
Just this week the influential international news agency Bloomberg asked the question “is Nigeria falling apart?”
It’s hard to argue that it isn’t.
The real question is “how are we going to fix it?”
How are we going to fix an economy where unemployment is 33% and inflation is running at 18%?
What are we going to do to improve the lives of the 80,000,000 Nigerians who live on the equivalent of less than $2 a day – a figure the World Bank predicts may rise to 100,000,000 following COVID-19?
How is a nation economically dependent on oil going to face up to a post-oil future?
What is to be done to repair an education system where more children are out of school than any other country on Earth?
And critically, how are we to unite a nation which has in recent months seen youth clashing with police, jihadist attacks in the north east, herder attacking famers in the central belt, piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, separatism in the south east and kidnappings and corruption pretty much everywhere?
People complain that President Buhari has no answers to any of these issues – but does anyone?
Perhaps Nigeria can be healed with a combination of the technology of the future and a traditional south-eastern practice of the past – the Igbo Apprenticeship System.
The Igbo Apprenticeship system has been described as an example of “stakeholder capitalism”– an economic system in which the aim of businesses is not just to make money, but to elevate their communities and where successful businesses aim to support the growth of other businesses in the local area and supply chain, rather than crushing the competition.
Stakeholder capitalism is underpinned by the idea that instead of accepting a society where a handful of businesses or individuals are super-powerful, we aim for a society where everyone is dependent upon each other, where everyone has an incentive to co-operate, where everyone is involved and where everyone has a say.
The idea that we will all achieve more if we work together is so basic we all teach it to our children practically from birth. So why has the concept become so alien in our economy!
Inclusive growth leads to shared prosperity by encouraging co-operation aimed at economic growth – and everyone benefits!
More importantly, the benefits to stakeholder capitalism aren’t measured in money. While Nigeria has average literacy rate of 62%, states where it is commonplace regularly record literacy rates in excess of 90% Nigeria needs a stakeholder society – a society where everyone has a say.
People need to know that their voices will be heard. Leaders need to listen. But in a complicated, diverse and dispersed modern world both sides need technology to make that engagement possible.
At the digital democracy campaign I lead, we’re trying to develop the digital platforms necessary to deliver a stakeholder society.
We have created a free smartphone app called Rate Your Leader which puts people in direct contact with their elected leaders – making sure their voices are heard by the people who take the decisions which affect their lives.
To make sure that the conversation is courteous and constructive, Rate Your Leader’s abuse-proof technology also makes insulting or offensive messages impossible.
Rate Your Leader also allows other registered local voters to contribute to these discussions – letting local leaders know what matters most to the people who elect them and accurately assess how widespread these views are. And voters can even rate their elected officials on transparency and accessibility – helping their peers to see what candidates are worth voting for.
The app empowers electors and elected to come together to address matters of community concern and to collaborate to make local areas better, as well as immediately highlighting issues in need of addressing to the people with the power to address them.
This sort of engagement, which can be carried out from the comfort of the home at the touch of a button, could be the first step towards a truly stakeholder society.
The problems faced by our nation can feel insurmountable. But they are not, as long as we aim work together and utilise the technology of the digital age to bring us together.
Joel Popoola is a Nigerian tech entrepreneur and digital democracy campaigner. He is the creator of the Rate Your Leader app. Follow Joel on Twitter @JoPopoola