Pantami Again: When August Visitors Gather for Digital Innovation
By Yushau A. Shuaib
It was on August 23, 2021, that a man in a black suit walked into our office at 9.30 am. He introduced himself as the Protocol Officer in the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy and announced that the Minister, Professor Isa Ali Pantami, would arrive at our office by 11.00am.
Prior to that, we had sent out invitations to the Minister and the agencies under his Ministry, to a close-knitted and private event of a book presentation in our modest conference room at PRNigeria Centre, Wuye District, Abuja
While aware of the fact that a Monday morning is usually a hectic period for many chief executive officers, we had kept our expectations moderate and hoped that at least the Minister and the CEOs of associated agencies would send representation to the event.
As we went about organising the sitting arrangement of the anticipated guests with the protocol officer, the Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mallam Kashifu Inuwa, arrived, followed shortly by the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of cognate parastatals of the Communications Ministry.
The CEOs included Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Muhammad Abubakar of Galaxy Backbone Limited, Dr. Abimbola Alale of the Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited (NIGCOMSAT), Engr. Aliyu A. Aziz of National Identity Management Commission, (NIMC), Dr. Ismail Adebayo Adewusi of Nigeria Postal Service (NIPOST) and Mr. Ayuba Shuaibu of Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF)
We were flabbergasted and exhilarated in equal measure by the arrival of the minister at about a quarter to 11 a.m, before the start of the event, which is highly unusual for an official of his calibre in Nigeria. Following this, our premises became a beehive of uncommon activities.
Before that day, the last time I had met the Minister Face-to-Face was in August 2020, when I led editorial members of the Economic Confidential publication to his office for an interview. That encounter motivated one of our staff writers, Inyene Ibanga, to develop a keen interest in covering the Information Technology sector, going forward.
As a Mass Communications graduate, with a Master’s Degree in Public Relations, Ibanga not only started filing in reports on the sector but he equally wrote weekly articles on Digital Innovation, with a particular focus on activities at NITDA.
By July this year, Inyene Ibanga, who currently edits TechDigest, had developed a remarkable portfolio of published articles on the digital economy sector in Nigeria and other related developments in Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Blockchain technology, Big Data, the Internet of Things, cybersecurity, social media, among others.
In realising the paucity of literature on the Information Technology sector in Nigeria, the parent company of our publications, Image Merchants Promotion (IMPR), which was declared the Most-Creative PR Agency Worldwide in 2020 (check Statista), decided to compile and publish Ibanga’s articles into a book form entitled, Digital Innovation for Prosperity in Nigeria.
The book comprises eight chapters of 40 well-researched and articulated subjects, with the chapters of the book including, “Enhancing Start-ups”; “Strengthening Innovative Solutions”; “Managing Data for Productivity”; “Protecting Cyber Security”, and “Accessing E-Learning”. The other chapters consist of, “Promoting Digital Inclusion”; “Transforming the Way of Doing Things” and “Advancing the Digital Economy.”
Analogous issues and areas mediated upon in the book include elucidations on the smart city, smart campuses, digital transformation, disruptive technology, e-commerce, e-learning, e-tourism, fact-checking, the Industrial Internet of Things, virtual reality, augmented reality, e-voting, among others.
We were delighted, at the compilation stage of the book, when the Minister accepted to write the Foreword. And, in his recommendation, the erudite scholar and professor of cybersecurity noted that the “book will help expose its readers to the benefits of digital innovation and digital economy.”
As earlier mentioned, with the arrival of the Minister, the programme started with a welcome address by Chairman of the Board of IMPR, Dr Sule Yau Sule, who hailed the rapid development of the digital economy in Nigeria, with Information and Communications Technology (ICT) being the fastest-growing sector of the economy.
Whilst speaking in the same vein, the DG of NITDA, Mallam Kashifu Inuwa, who was also celebrated at the occasion for clocking two years in the saddle, expressed excitement that the well-thought-out policies, initiatives and promotion of digital innovation, as engineered by the Minister, are already yielding huge positive results.
As I reviewed the book, I informed our August visitors that the compendium explores ways in which Nigeria does not get left behind in the deployment of technology for providing solutions to economic challenges. The book also examines the roles of regulatory bodies, especially NITDA in the promotion of Information Technology across all the spheres, through the development of frameworks, standards, guidelines, regulations, and policies.
As the Special Guest of Honour, the minister commended the contributions of IMPR’s titles in constructive engagements and the media coverage of various sectors.
Pantami said: “The publications of IMPR, especially PRNigeria, Economic Confidential and TechDigest have demonstrated the quality of evidence-based journalism.”
Speaking on the book, the minister noted the author, Inyene Ibanga, as highlighting how digital innovation has led to surging economic prosperity in Nigeria, within the framework of the ground-setting and key initiatives of the Ministry of Communication with the full endorsements of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Minister, therefore, urged Nigerians to develop the habit of reading, as “Readers are leaders”, and that all noted world leaders are people who spend quality time reading.
Speaking on behalf of all other special guests at the occasion, the Executive Vice-Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Professor Umar Garba Danbatta praised the author and the publisher for the compendium on ICT in Nigeria, and with special reference to the significant milestones that have been attained by NITDA.
In commending the excellent synergy and rapport among the chief executives of agencies under the Ministry of Digital Economy, Mallam Yusuf Alli, one of the directors of IMPR, used the opportunity of the closing remarks at the event to also laud the rare leadership of Prof Pantami.
Mallam Alli, who is an award-winning investigative editor further stated that other ministries and agencies of government in Nigeria could learn a lot from the unity of purpose of these officials, as exemplified in their collaborations for the development of the country, alongside their humility, brilliance, intellection, and high senses of responsibility.
Days after, while the magnificence of that event still resonates, the coming together of a rich calibre of personalities to reflect on Nigeria’s digital journey so far, on a unique Monday Morning, is not only a great honour to many of us who have been toiling to produce information that enhances Nigeria’s image, but also a memory that will remain indelible in our minds for a long time to come.
To the August visitors, especially, the enviable Professor of Cybersecurity, we are indeed highly indebted for the surprise visit and kind words. As PR people, not just communicators, we cherish friendship and the sense of brotherhood through constructive engagements towards a greater nation.
Yushau A. Shuaib
Editor-in-Chief PRNigeria and Economic Confidential