ByÂ Prince Osuagwu
Professor Dora Akunyili, Nigeriaâ€™s Minister of Information and Communications, seemed a lone voice in the wilderness when she initiated the project of re-branding Nigeria. The question which the minister herself struggled hard but could not convince anybody was how a new wine will test in an old can.
The greatest problem she had was how to convince her critics that a country that has long acquired the unfortunate reputation of a corrupt nation; a nation withÂ long list of advance fee fraudsters, political thuggery and election rigging, treasury looting and anything criminal, would turn around overnight to be accepted world over, as a very rosy, flambouyant and clean country, just because one woman who had done a good job of fighting fake drugs, had said so.
Much as she knew she did not convince anybody, she however stuck to her view that there could be a change of perception of the country if Nigerians began to view themselves in the positive light. At least she reasoned and also resonated on it at every fora that those who gave the country the bad image were in the minority while the greater number of good people who are doing wonderful things remained largely unsung.
She nearly brought scorn and mockery upon herself when she came up with the image laundering slogan â€œNigeria: Good people Great nation,â€ .
However, like every philosopher who normally gets vilified before his or her ideas begin to build institutions, Akunyili is proven right everyday by positive developments that happen in Nigeria in recent times. None the least, is the way even Nigerian toddlers are blazing the trail in Information and Communications Technology, ICT, which itself has turned the world into a single unified market.
All around the world people have read stories of Two Nigerian kids, Davidson Osaremen and Olarenwaju Shittu who can dismantle a computer set in twenty minutes and couple it in fifteen minutes. The kids at the ages of 11 and 12 joined the league of world recognised professionals like Microsoftâ€™s Bill Gates and Appleâ€™s Steve Job, among others, whose exploits at tender ages have revolutionalised the world.
In 2000, the kids, products of a Lagos based Private primary and secondary school, Doregos Private Academy, put their heads together to produce a world class computer named DASH, a combination ofÂ Osaremenâ€™s first name and Olarenwajuâ€™s last name. The product won the kids international awards.
Two years after, Osaremen at the age of 13 joined another of his school mate, Miss Oluwaseun Alade, 14, to sit and pass the Microsoftâ€™s rigorous and tough Certified Professionals exams. But before the prowess could get into the kidsâ€™ heads,Â another brilliant Nigerian kid of 8 years age, Miss Favour Nwaiwu quickly set the record aside, becoming one of the youngest kids in the world to sit and pass the same exams.
Little Miss Nwaiwu, a product of Abuja based Royal Family Academy thus became the youngest Microsoft Certified Professional, MCP.
That qualification gives her ample experience in handling problems using Microsoft programmings.
Putting to test the opportunities the MCP qualification gives her, Miss Nwaiwu designed for the Ministry of Information and Communications, a website she tagged â€œRebranded NIGERIANSâ€, which she says forms part of her little contribution towards selling the Ministerâ€™s Re-brand Nigeria project on the globe.
Since Nwaiwuâ€™s feat, more than twenty other Nigerian kids have joined the band, demystifying the twisting tricks in the Microsoft exams, to come tops and certified at the end. At least ten kids from a Lagos based private school, Queensland Academy, sat for the exams a few months back and all came out in flying colours.
Meanwhile, all these, are courtesy of a partnership between a local Nigeria corporate organization, New Horizons Systems Solutions Limited and some private and public primary and secondary schools in Nigeria. The partnership provides equipments and quality ICT programmes tailored to suit the schoolsâ€™ curricular in order to develop the kids technology-wise, right from the primary and secondary school levels.
Perhaps trying to connect the harvests of these partnerships with the re-branding project, Managing Director of New Horizons, Mr Tim Akano, ferried the three kid professionals, Favour Nwaiwu, Davidson Osaremen and Seun Alade to Abuja, to meet the Minister of Information and Communications, Prof Dora Akunyili.
For Akano what the Minister is preaching and what the kids have become are siamese twins and the Minister should not be kept in the dark.
While receiving the three kids, the minister said that the visit was the best courtesy call on her office since she assumed the position.
Akunyili who appreciated the intellectual capacity and unparalleled ICT skills acquired by these kids stated that Nigeria has all it takes to be great in terms of human capital resources that can compete favourably with the developed nations of the world.
For her, the achievement of these children is a manifestation of what Nigerians can do. â€œThis giant strides in Information and Communication Technology is a further attestation that there is hope for this countryâ€, she added.
The Minister commended Nwaiwu for designing the â€œRebranded NIGERIANSâ€ website and pledged that the Ministry will do everything possible to encourage her and other young Nigerians so that the country can produce 50,000 young ICT Experts on yearly basis.
She described the efforts of New Horizons and Doregos Private Academy as contributions to the progress of Nigerian children and enjoined them to encourage more kids in ICT, adding that â€œthese developmental initiatives are visible signs that the rebranding Nigerian project of the Ministry of Information and Communications is recording positive results within and outside the countryâ€.
Earlier in his remarks, Akano highlighted the developmental initiatives of his organization in identifying training, nurturing and producing highly skilled ICT experts who he said will not be job seekers but wealth creators and employers in the near future.
HeÂ also appreciated the vision, boldness and commitment of the Minister in national development and prayed God to give her good health in the service of the nation.
One of the children,Â Little miss Favour Nwaiwu in her speech implored the minister to key into New Horizons proposal to empower millions of children who didnâ€™t get the opportunity she got in order to make Nigeria a better place.
She further made a passionate plea to the Minister to help in securing her access to hand over a website she was building for President Goodluck Jonathan, personally. Nwaiwu also displayed the website, www.nigeriabrandambassadors.com, she wasÂ currently building for the ministerâ€™s re-brand Nigeria project, saying the site will carry information about people who have contributed positively to make Nigeria great.