By Prince Osuagwu
Those who predicted a fisticuff anytime the Minister of Information and Communications, Prof Dora Akunyili and the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, Engr. Ernest Ndukwe ever met, were handed a rude shock last weekend as the meeting of the duo in Radio house Thursday, was more of a warm embrace than the usual exchange of banters that have been going on in the press for a while now.
Ndukwe had gone to the radio house office of the minister in the company of the Secretary General of the International Telecommunications Union, ITU, Dr Hamadoun Toure, to pay homage to Akunyili who did not show up at the African Telecom Development Summit, which brought the ITU scribe to Nigeria.
Into the warm embrace of the amiable minister who was actually brimming ear to ear with smiles, was Ndukwe whose recent auction of theÂ 2.3Ghz Wimax license recently drew the ire of the minister, and stoked some fierce media war that was yet to die down.
But here in the radio house this Thursday afternoon, Akunyili and Ndukwe stunned all, to prove that what was happening was all official and has nothing to do with the individuals and the contributions they have made to take ICT to its pride of place in Nigeria.
The maturity in which these two prominent Nigerians conducted themselves drew some very frank observation from the visiting ITU scribe who noted that things were changing in Africa and indeed in Nigeria, as no more were ministers and officials struggling for positions, even at events. The short meeting began with the introduction of the ITU scribe to the minister by Ndukwe.
He introduced the Secretary General as the first African to have been elected to that position in over 140 years of its existence and gave details of the immense contributions that Dr. ToureÂ had made, especially to the African continent.
Right after the introduction, Toure admitted that his visit to Akunyili was to congratulate her on the achievements of Nigeria in the sector, adding that â€œas I said in my speech this morning, back in 2000, Nigeriaâ€™s figures were not even counted in Africa but today it is one-quarter of the subscriber base on the continent.
â€œYou need to have all the conditions together for the telecoms sector to thrive; the private sector vibrant and always there, you need technology, but you need a very good government that will take a regulatory decision, policy decisions, in addition you need a referee in the game which is the regulator, who is neutral and fair. â€œSo all those conditions came together in Nigeria and today we are very proud that the African Continent while I am Secretary-General of the Union is being quoted to have positive economic indicators. For five years in a row Africa has been quoted as the number one in mobile growth and is still growingâ€ he said.
But just before Toure dropped the microphone, Akunyili was to prove that the warm welcome to the NCC EVC was not a window dressing. She said, â€œI would not want to miss this opportunity to congratulate the EVC of the NCC for the good job NCC has done in this country since 2001 during the GSM auction which is still being celebrated in this country and the way they have ensured that growth is steady.
â€œWe will continue to work to ensure that we improve services as we are growing, so that we have service that Nigerians can smile and be happy because the average Nigerian is ready to skip lunch to buy airtime and actually we spend a lot of time on telephone.
In fact some people culturally pick up the telephone and praise God first which is wonderful, and then ask after your family before discussing the issue. That is why ten subscribers in the US or Britain equals one subscriber in Nigeriaâ€ she added.For her, itâ€™s a good omen that Nigeria was a force in the success story of the very good index, positive indicator on mobile telephony in the World, ascribed to Africa. â€œWe are very happy for this achievement, we are also very happy when we look into the future that we are even going to record more successesâ€.
Akunyili noted that with the way development of the sector is pointing, Nigerian subscribers could be well over a hundred million from the current 68 million, in the next five years.
She promised that the Ministry would work with the NCC to ensure that the quality of service improves ensuring that the operators give Nigerians what they deserve in addition to reduction of tariffs.Earlier before the visit, Chairman of the African Business Round Table and NEPAD Business Group, Dr. Bamangar Tukur had also described Ndukwe as the father of Nigerian telecom revolution.
According to Tukur, â€œthe story of telecom in the past 10 years in Africa in general and Nigeria in particular is one that we all love to tell for what is now called the Nigerian Telecom Revolution.
â€œBut there is no better way to tell the story than that anywhere you are, the rural women and the peasants in the most far flung parts of the country could reach you on the telephone.
â€œThis is made possible not just on account of visionary leadership in the nationâ€™s telecom sector but also because the Nigerian Government demonstrated ample willingness to create a properly deregulated environment that promotes competition and competitiveness in the Sector and this fulfils our heartfelt desire at the Roundtable and at the NEPAD Business Groupâ€ he said.At the end of the Summit, the visiting ITU scribe, Tuore, said he was pleased to see the event organized in a very collegial manner.
â€œMany ministries present here means that there is coordination at this meeting, no more fight to take leadership and that everyone understands the urgency of the matter and the need to grow together, it is complementary, so this is good news and I am really pleasedâ€ he added.