If I was ever granted 3 wishes I would wish for a better Nigeria and world peace (please, allow me my pageant moment). My final wish, as funny as it may seem would be for Africa's 'leaders' to hop on board the web 2.0 bandwagon. Since taking to Facebook, Twitter and the many other web 2.0 programs that pervade the internet, I have discovered many ways to communicate with like minded people and learn from those that might not necessarily share my views. Being as I enjoy observing people, (I am eternally curious and have found 'people watching' to be quite enjoyable sometimes), social media applications have proven to be quite handy. On Twitter for instance, I get to e-eavesdrop on interesting conversations and sometimes, I politely butt-in to certain discussions (but only with good e-friends, of course, anything else would be gauche and tacky).
There is something about the internet that encourages people to either share too much or simply say the most ridiculous things (this writer included). This is evidenced by the frequent gaffs many a popular celebrity or tweeter makes on a weekly basis. But, what would Mugabe say if he was unleashed online? The more I think about it, the more I realize that I might not want to know what Mugabe has on his mind, quite frankly. Presidents the world over stay away from the internet for good reasons - their gaffs can't be cleaned up by savvy PR people, and for some, a simple mistake online could create a domestic or international incident. Alas, allowing a president, African or otherwise, to expose their verbal diarrhea online is probably far from wise.
The internet in many ways has become the great equalizer. In some ways, it is an incredible example of the democracy many African countries are lacking but desperately need. Poor or rich, young or old, powerful or not, once an individual can get online, all bets are off as every person with a thought can technically share it. Not all opinions are of equal importance, of course, but with a little tinkering, some savvy, and in many cases, a touch of controversy, anyone can have an impact and carry some weight. Maybe that's another reason why Africa's 'leaders' opt out of the web 2.0 bandwagon - they would have to navigate the internet's highways with mere mortals. Or, maybe they simply don't wish to truly engage with others, after all it takes a certain combination of guts and humility to subject oneself to direct criticism and challenge, something many an African President is not accustomed to.
So, should Africa's presidents make use of the internet? That question will have a million answers and at the end of the day, I likely will not get my wish to engage directly with any of them using social media networks. As such, I unfortunately will not get to learn what any of them feel about the recent revelation that no single former African president was worthy of winning the Mo Ibrahim prize. Nevertheless, I can't help but wonder what presidents like Sudan's Omar or the Guinean military dictator, Camara, seemingly endorsed and emboldened by Nigeria's ex-dictator, Babangida, would say about the prospect of them possibly winning that prize in the future? Oh wait, they don't care! After all they can simply raid their nation's central banks for much more than Mo Ibrahim's foundation could ever give away. And, these 'leaders' don't even have to deal with consequences from their people in real life, talk less of on the internet.
I'm going to have to wait a long time for an African leader to get online, but hopefully many of them will choose to engage citizens directly offline sometime soon. And by that, I mean now.
Would you like to talk to the President of an African country? If so, who what would you say? Would you like to talk to them in person or anonymously via the internet? Or, do you prefer Africa's 'leaders' to stay away from the internet? Share your thoughts.