Few months ago, the country witnessed a comedy of sorts as members of parliament were either happy or hurting after a section of the media reported on what it termed ”Best and Worst performing MPs”. Some who felt they were not recognized for speaking in parliament took a swipe against the report, others who knew they said a lot of nothing but escaped unscathed were probably boasting to friends in dingy tea rooms where they hide from their constituents that ”they performed”.
I think we have lost the plot if we upgrade or degrade a legislator simply because they either stood up in parliament and spoke or they did not. We have become a society that is too long on the generalities and too short on the specifics, that has become too lazy to indulge analysis and get to the bottom of an issue. In the extraction industry, for example, gold lies beneath a lot of rubbish. In the same stretch, data which is the gold equivalent of the information age, where the volume, velocity and variety of the data stands for the heaps of rubbish that covers the gold, the tiny snippets that is the gold can only be gotten to after mind-boggling analysis. It is therefore an oversimplification of what we expected from our members of parliament. Speaking or talking for that matter is overrated. It is not the quantity of your speech but the quality that must separate the wheat from the chaff when we want to measure performance in any field. Someone can talk non-stop and end up saying a lot of nothing. When, have we as a society, began to rate talking for the sake of it as the ultimate measure of good performance or successful delivery of the job we elected members of parliament for that matter? It remains in my memory when an old woman few years ago told me that her MP is a good leader, contrary to what many of the electorates believed at the time, because according to her he was an ”orator”. I asked her how did his ”oratory” helped her and her lot? She said ”he is the least effective of all the other legislators who preceded him in terms of tangible development, but you know, he is a good talker”. I was baffled. A windbag can stand in public or in parliament and speak garbage and end up producing nothing because you cannot legislate with gibberish. In the end the mainstream media and the public will applaud you for speaking 50 times in the August house and achieving NOTHING!
There is a saying in Somali hadal badan haan mabuuxsho. I cannot do justice to its translation, because it means much more than the sum of its words. Its like saying too many speeches do not do the job or too many words do not fill a vessel. Now Haan is much more than a vessel for the nomad. It is what they use to store the milk of a cow or a camel and then use it to process the milk for a lot more. The Haan,is in other words an industry for the nomad. It therefore points to the significance they put on the product of the speech not the speech itself. If a speech leads to no change or is not understood by its audience, it is frown upon in the nomad’s world. It therefore behooves us, as the ultimate markers of state and public officers’ performance, to emphasis on the QUALITY and not the QUANTITY of speeches. Too many fine men and women who speak little and achieve more are thrown on the way side just because they dont take to too much talking. This has already cost us a lot of development but it appears we are not any wiser. Our insatiable appetite for too much talk from our employees is astounding and as the craving continues, development grows ever weaker and the masses suffer ever more. This is one of the reasons the availability of more resources does not translate into tangible development. We have given the job to the least qualified who talk the most. We are victims of association bias. Associating too much talk to quality talking because most of us come from cultures that encouraged ‘talking’ and disparage ‘silence’. Next time your representative tells you he has ‘spoken’ for 50 times in parliament, ask him how many times it had an impact or changed something. Ask not your MP if he ‘talked’ but if he talked sense.