The Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria was founded on 4th October, 1962 as a vision of the then Premier of the Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello of blessed memory. Looking at the size of the land of the university, it was obvious the Sardauna’s intent was not just for that moment alone considering how many of the population of those years were really interested in attending schools. Behold, the vision has today manifested through massive education of the northern populace through that institution from inception till date. Visions are usually long term in nature and this is very instructive to note.
One cannot also refuse to recognize the free education policy of Chief Obafemi Awolowo of the Western Nigeria. The idea couldn’t have been for that moment alone as evident by the dominance of the South West region of Nigeria in the economic, judicial and educational sector of the country today. Visionary leaders build shades they may never rest in.
Since the demise of the people I highlighted above and their ilk, Nigeria has run short of visionary leaders who have practically demonstrated an understanding of what it takes to be visionary. However, after a cursory analysis of the movements and leadership style of Dr. Isa Ali Pantami, the current Nigeria’s Minister of Communications and Digital Economy (a name that he christened the ministry), it was obvious another leader in the realm of the Sardauna’s, Awo’s and Zik’s had emerged and he meant business.
Before I delve into the crux of my subject matter, let me remind us that most Nigerians of today have totally forgotten that in governance and policies there are short, medium and long term expectations and it was only through such understandings that we could appreciate the efforts of leaders and also rate them appropriately.
Majority of the citizens nowadays expect magical wands to the fixing of the issues of the society and that has never been obtainable anywhere and will never be around here. Let me borrow from the words of the musician Drake who says “we are dealing with a generation that is lacking in patience” and that cannot be farther from the truth. These problems are however compounded in our climes by the absence of awareness like this one. The media and civil society can do more in this regard.
So then let’s move to see the short-term imperative of Dr Pantami’s digital vision for Nigeria. Even though it had been long overdue for Nigeria to get into the queue of recognizing that the world had since fully recognized and embraced digitalization as the new normal, that awakening actually had to become Pantami’s short term goal as he quickly rebranded the ministry and mobilized the agencies under it to understand a need to come together and work towards a similar goal which was that of entrenching Nigeria’s digitalization. Pantami’s short term goal has been fully achieved as Nigerians now fully understand the importance of digitization and that there was full policy direction towards consolidating on perhaps the few gains that had been achieved through personal and accidental tendencies.
Further to the short term goals that had been laid of the vision, the minister had been on his toes trying to reach out to all the stakeholders of the ecosystem so as to gain their confidence to come and invest in the sector or better still improve on their current investments. Some of this improved interest in the sector was the recent launch of the TD Africa Tech Experience Center by the Honorable Minister on October 1st in Lagos. Also, you would remember how there had been improved mentorship to startups by the OIIE sector of NITDA which even led to the Chiniki Guard Startup becoming top of the Startups at the GITEX Global event in Dubai, 2019. All of these efforts are in the medium term.
More of the medium-term efforts are those of the provision of the infrastructure necessary for the provision of the digital skills to the populace. This is evident through the massive provision of intervention for ICT Hubs and Centers especially to Tertiary Institutions by the NITDA. Similar interventions have also been provided by USPF and NITDA to secondary schools and organizations that have indicated interest. With the pace and quality of the provision of these infrastructures, so much will be achieved in the time of his administration that will guaranty the security of Nigeria’s digitization agenda. Juxtapose this with Nigerian’s ingenuity and imagine the outcome in years to come.
Ultimately, the outcomes of all the efforts above will be the long-term emergence of a digital savvy populace that was capable of providing breathtaking solutions to the problems of the universe. The recent $200m buyout of Paystack by Stripe will be a child’s play compared to what Dr Pantami’s vision will birth in the long term.
Let me use this opportunity to call our attention to the recent protests in the country and how they relate to digital economy. Remember that part of the efforts of Dr Pantami is to get all the Ministry’s and Departments to become digital compliant through the E-Government Enterprise Architecture. These efforts will eventually involve the security agencies so that everyone then understands the reality of the moment which is that of the age being a digital one.
So for example, if one is digital savvy it will be easy to understand most people nowadays will carry laptops for their businesses be it Blogging, Social Media Influencing, Comedies, Movies, Music and so many other digital trades. It will also be easy to use digital means to track down online fraudsters without necessarily having to make physical contacts.
Finally, while I applaud President Muhammadu Buhari’s democratic handling of the protests, I strongly believe that Dr Isa Pantami would have to be central in the efforts that the government is going to initiate for reforms in the security and even the youths angle because at the end of the day all the issues revolve around digital issues and the expert and visionary Pantami will be a key in finding a lasting solution.
Nigeria is a great nation!
Hashim Suleiman can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org