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EDITORIAL: What President Buhari should consider before appointing Communications Minister

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New innovations are destroying old ways of doing business, and smart young startup entrepreneurs are at the forefront of this quiet but historic transformation in Nigeria.  

Different strata of skilled programmers and developers have sprung up in innovation hubs, incubators and accelerators across the country to build information and telecom solutions that capitalize on the country’s mix of challenges and opportunities.

In fact, we are testimonies to a number of spinoffs of Nigeria’s unique entrepreneurial revolution reach across Africa and into other corners of the world, attracting global recognition for the country.

As in India and China, for instance, our innovators have learned that information and communications technology (ICT) has great potential to help propel the country out of unemployment and poverty quagmire.

EVC of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta

Government’s role in all of this is quite simple: to develop policies and programs promoting entrepreneurship and investing in new ventures. Yes, government has no business remaining in business. But government policies are like the fertilizers for business growth. When rich in nutrients, the plants grow to bear much fruits.

Such policies, laws and regulations are meant to infuse institutional development and the entrepreneurial endeavour and to create an environment that will encourage entrepreneurs to develop business and new ventures.

But in such a case Government chooses to appoint men and women who have not tested the troubled waters of entrepreneurship and not attuned to the changes of the time, to head Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), they end up putting everything in reverse-gear.

That is why we are using this medium to plead with His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari on his Ministerial appointment.

There is no gainsaying that appointment of Minister is more political than in professional lining. However, it will continue to be a disservice to the country if certain Ministerial appointments are not professionalised.

Therefore, Mr. President’s ‘lieutenants’ in the ‘recruitment’ process should see reasons the appointment of the Ministers, especially, for the Ministry of Communications should be based on competencies and capabilities.

Yes, it would be self-sabotaging to appoint wrongly, especially when such an appointment would hinder the economic growth of the Country.

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As you are reading this, the Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) in the telecommunications sub-sector is down by 81% to $32.3m. If you have seen New Telegraph report on Monday, July 08, 2019 you would read the President of the Association of Telecommunications Company of Nigeria (ATCON) Mr Olusola Teniola, lamenting that lull of foreign direct investment into the telecoms sector is also affecting operators’ efforts to deepen broadband penetration in the country.

He noted that Nigeria, more than any other time, currently needs FDI in the telecom sector to bridge infrastructure gap.

According to him, there are about 225 markets/communities that are yet to receive or make a voice call in Nigeria. The people in those areas, he said, represent almost 20 million Nigerians without Internet facilities. “One of the things we need to do continuously is to ensure that we make our industry attractive to FDI by ensuring we have a very conducive and stable environment. The stable environment will mean that policies have to be consistent and seen to be working,” he said.

NITDA DG. Dr. Isa Pantami

Your Excellency sir, we believe, it will be in the country’s best interest to appoint a Communications Minister based on experience, qualification and vision.

No body will deny the fact that Agencies under this Ministry, namely, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Nigeria Communications Satellite (NIGCOMSAT), Galaxy Backbone Limited and the Nigeria Postal Service (NIPOST), are striving to meet up with their respective mandate. However, great things never come from comfort zones. Yes, without change in posture by the Ministry, there will be no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvements on the part of these Agencies.

The best way to begin this case is to remind us why this Ministry was created:

Creation

The Ministry of Communication Technology was established  by the administration of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to replace the Ministry of Communications which erstwhile President Obasanjo merged with the Ministry of Information and Communication. But, President Buhari, upon assumption of office in 2015, reversed to the old order (Ministry of Communications). Even with the changes in nomenclature, the aims and objectives have not changed. The Ministry is saddled with the responsibility to foster a knowledge-based economy and information society in Nigeria.

In other words, the Ministry of Communications shoulders the responsibility to regulating telecommunications and postal services. It was created with the intention to facilitate ICT as a key tool in the transformation agenda for Nigeria in the areas of job creation, economic growth and transparency of governance.

Wake Up Call

Talking about economic growth, Nigeria has to wake up to the truth that she can’t depend on oil anymore. It is almost sung as a mantra that Data is the new oil. Nigeria cannot afford to expect that the oil price would rise again and then improve the economy. The world has moved on from industrial revolutions and is forging a digital economy. In such an economy, where ICT rules, data is king. If Nigeria would be a key player, as she needs to be, she needs a Communications Minister who understands this and has a vision on how to leverage available data for the progress of the country.

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Nigeria needs and deserves a Minister of Communication who would make use of the incredible talents the country is blessed with and catapult Nigeria onto a respectable spot on the world ICT map.

No Internship Positions

Shooting the country to a respectable spot on the ICT map is no child’s play, considering the many setbacks staring at everyone in the country, including but not limited to an environment which is not enabling in any meaningful way.

Chief Executive Officer of Galaxy BackBone Limited, Mr. Yusuf Kazaure

The intricacies and complexities of ICT are such that a leader in the field has to be knowledgeable if he is to make an impact. It would take a person knowledgeable in Data Science and other important forms and parts of ICT to know how to drive a country like Nigeria in the right technological direction. As a Minister of Communications of a country with talents and start-ups, there is a need for him or her to be steps ahead. He has to be a visionary leader.

ICT is about innovation and disruption, it is about critical thinking, it is about transparency and it takes a qualified, experienced professional to know how to navigate self and followers in the broad world of ICT. It is not a job where one learns as they go. It is not for interns and so one has to know what to do, where to go and what to expect.

It is not a job for everybody.

The Option

The place of ICT or IT cannot be overlooked and it would be unwise for Nigeria’s Communication Minister to ignore the importance of these sectors. However, if the Communications Ministry cannot embrace and properly utilize ICT knowledge, it can be merged with the Ministry of Science and Technology.

ICT and STEM are connected in more ways than one can mention. A merger of the two ministries could be the solution to improving the country’s technological appreciation and pursuit instead of a Communications Ministry which wouldn’t appreciate what is, possibly, currently, the most important part of communications; ICT.

Maybe the merger would reduce the embarrassment that comes with being a developing nation among other developing nations.

Left Behind

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While some individual citizens and startups of Nigeria are breaking grounds, the country as a whole is currently playing catch-up with the rest of Africa! Rwanda, South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, and Morocco are the trailblazers and Nigeria is left behind.

The aforementioned countries have woken up to the reality of today’s need for adaptation for world-recognized growth, they target innovative solutions and provide opportunities for the citizen to innovate and explore with research and development.

NIGCOMSAT MD/CEO, Abimbola Alale

NIGCOMSAT MD/CEO, Abimbola Alale

While Nigeria still brags of being the Giant of Africa, as a mere result of its large population which could be an advantage in the hands of the right leader.

Crowded and Useful

One of the greatest advantages China and India have, which have made them great, is their population. With Nigeria’s increase in population, it would be hilarious to the world if we allow this potential advantage to be an excuse to our hindering growth in digitalization. Our population is one reason why Nigeria is a major market for technological products and it would be an excellent move for the right leader to use this to the country’s advantage. The population provides manpower, talents, and consumers for local products and services.

So, one may ask what the resume of the qualified Minister of Communications should look like. While this post cannot contain all we think should be considered when appointing a Minister of Communications, we expect that the competency of the appointed one should not be in doubt.

Whoever is appointed should have shown prior experience in innovation and projects; should have clear view of the ICT strides they want Nigeria to gain. They should learn for their global counterparts and see the advantages Nigeria has and use such advantages to grow the ICT section of the country. They should have a blueprint showing Nigeria’s ICT challenges and how she can overcome them.

NIPOST: PMG of the Federation , Bisi Adegbuyi

Professionalism, Not Emotions

The Office of the Minister of Communications is one so important, it affects the growth of the country as we live in an information age. Nigeria deserves a Communications Minister who attracts opportunities and is not ignorant of what the available data is inferring. We need a Minister who takes into cognizance the importance of the age we live in and adapts enough to excel while being innovative for tomorrow.

We will end by saying this; we have heard that numbers don’t lie but another version of that saying from the Convener, Data Science Nigeria, Mr Bayo Adekanmbi, in a recently attended tech event. In sharing the potential solutions that can be created using available data, he said, ‘Data beats emotions.’

We plead with Mr President to see that his appointment beats emotions and embraces professionalism.

Connect with us via: Twitter . Facebook . Instagram . TechEconomy.ng . YouTube

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