IN what can be regarded as a summit-level sales pitch with a touch of class, a Kano State delegation, ably led by the Governor, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, returned to the country after a highly successful road show through the chiselled hallways of Californiaâ€™s Silicon Valley, raising the profile of the stateâ€™s Information Communication Technology (ICT Park).Â
The delegation was in the United States and the United Kingdom, between April 4 to 15, wooing investors and stakeholders to one of the legacies of the Ibrahim Shekarau administration.
The Kano ICT Park is already a household name, locally and internationally.Â The theme of the Park, making Kano a leading ICT player in Nigeria and the sub-region, however compels commercial and technical partnership with international players in the ICT sector.Â The idea and scope of the Kano ICT Park theme are huge, considering the stateâ€™s human resources potentials.
The ICT Park is designed to play a leading role in modernising Kanoâ€™s socio-economic structures and infrastructures, create a robust revenue base, engage millions of people in productive jobs and develop a manpower base that will transform the stateâ€™s human resources outlook.
It is also designed to attract and domicile foreign direct investment.Â It was in the pursuit of these noble objectives that His Excellency led the delegation to the United States.Â The first point of visit was Cisco, a high-tech ICT service provider based in Californiaâ€™s Silicon Valley.Â There, the Kano delegation was received by the Companyâ€™s Vice President, Cisco Service, Mr. Bill Ruh.
His Excellency explained to the Cisco team plans to deploy Cisco branded equipment in the operations of the Kano ICT Park.Â The Cisco officials applauded the news.Â Mr. Ruh confirmed to the Kano delegation that the local team of Cisco officials covering the West Africa beat will be mandated to explore ways to assist the Kano ICT project.
Next stop was search engine giant, Google, where the Kano State delegation was conducted round vital departments by the Business Development Chief, Mr. Marc Freed Finnegan.Â At Google, the State Commissioner for Science and Technology, Dr. Bashir Shehu Galadanchi gave a lowdown of the concept and theme, as well as the development path, of the Kano ICT Park project.
The two teams went into discussion on areas of partnership and assistance from Google.Â It was similar story at HP, where the delegation was received and briefed by the Companyâ€™s Director of International Trade Development, Mr. Walter Reichert.
Discussions were favourable in the three companies visited and there was agreement on follow-up meetings to concretize issues that were discussed.Â Formal agreements will follow at later dates.
His Excellency used the occasion of a town hall meeting organised by Nigerian professionals in California to further press home the benefits of the ICT Park.Â At the highly attended interactive forum, Malam delved into the strategies being pursued by his administration to sustainably situate Kano on a path of economic buoyancy and self-reliance.
The ICT Park idea, he said was conceived by experts in development economics along with stakeholders. The administration had put together the First Kano Economic Summit in April 2006, inviting over 1000 experts and critical stakeholders to brainstorm on strategies to address Kanoâ€™s declining economic fortunes, shrinking industrial base, booming population and declining revenue, in order to sustain the much idealized welfare state.
The Kano Economic Summit which was put together in partnership with Kano Peace and Development Initiative, a non-profit organisation, and other groups with the stated objective building consensus in the â€œdesign and implementation of appropriate strategies for restoring Kanoâ€™s economic prosperityâ€.
Following the SummitÂ recommendations, the Kano State Government set up an 18-man committee headed by Dr. Mansur Ahmed, the Chief Executive of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group to tinker new strategies employing the strengths and human resources of Kano people to prepare a blueprint for prosperity.
The core recommendations of the group included the establishment of an independent power, an expanded revenue base, development of agriculture, commerce and water supply and reconstructing the stateâ€™s crumbling industrial and economic infrastructures.
The ICT Park project was one of the ideas for achieving the grand.Â His Excellency explained his governmentâ€™s efforts toward the expansion of Kanoâ€™s economic base and empowering its people.Â After His Excellencyâ€™s presentation, the Director General of the Research and Documentation, Ibrahim Ado Kurawa, explored deeper themes in the administrationâ€™s development initiatives.
At the end, Nigerians in Diaspora present rose as one in saluting the commitment of the Kano State Government in repositioning the stateâ€™s economy and in establishing the ICT Park, in particular.
Chairman of Nigerians in Diaspora in America, California Forum, Dr. Steve Agbah, lauding Malamâ€™s vision in establishing the ICT Park and other projects, said the Administrationâ€™s courage in including non-indigenes in the cabinet was highly commendable and portended a future of mutual co-existenceÂ for Nigeria.Â Thanking the professionals for their interest, Malam challenged them to take interest in what is going on at home.
Citing the mass failure in this yearâ€™s WAEC/NECO exams, the former National President of ANCOPPSS and WAEC Examiner said there was need for all stakeholders to close ranks and ensure that only credible people were elected into public offices
The delegationâ€™s next stop was the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation office in Seattle, Washington State, where it was received by the Director of Delivery of the Foundation, Dr. Rajeev Venkayya.Â Dr. Vankayya thanked the Governor for his commitment to the eradication of Polio, adding that the commitment had brought down the infection rate.Â History will document the fact that no governor in Kanoâ€™s history has done more to safeguard the health of the people than Malam.
The commendation from the Bill Gates Foundation is an important endorsement on the efforts of this administration in containing such diseases as Polio.
Another town hall meeting with Nigerian professionals in New Jersey provided another opportunity for Malam and the Kano delegation to make a stronger pitch for Investors to do business in the ICT Park.Â The occasion was the Gala Night/Fund Raising Banquet of NIDO, New Jersey at which Malam was honoured with Exemplary Leadership and Excellence Award, alongside National Planning Minister, Dr. Shamsuddeen Usman, Hon. Abike Dabiri and former Cross River State Governor, Donald Duke.
Malamâ€™s last engagement on US soil was in Washington, where he granted an interview to the VOA Hausa Service, on Monday April 12.
The second leg of the delegationâ€™s mission took to Cardiff, Wales as Guest of the Cardiff University.Â After a tour round the University conducted by Ms Sara Hadwin, Malam settled for the main business of the day which was a public lecture.
In front a packed audience of Muslims and Non-Muslims, Malam delivered his lecture. â€œIslam and the West: Misconception or Misrepresentationâ€œ in which he argued that the association of Islam and violence is a common misconception that the general Western public has developed about Islam.Â He urged building blocks of understanding and forging a common front against ignorance and misrepresentation between Islam and the West.
â€œWhat matters most to Muslims the world over is that almost all todayâ€™s proxy wars are fought in Muslim lands: Principally Iraq and Afghanistan, and to lesser extent, Pakistan.Â These are not wars essentially between Muslims but wars initiated and moderated by the Westâ€.
The reaction of the audience to Malamâ€™s lecture indicates the development of an open mind to sound reasoning on such a topical issue.Â The delegation has since returned but the impressions of a successful road show to market one of the landmark achievements of the Administration, the ICT Park project will linger on.
In the near future, when this historic project takes off fully and begins to play the pivotal role it was designed to play in the transformation of lives in Kano society, historians will do well to acknowledge how a determined and talented Governor, staking his greatest personal asset, his integrity, linked up with the outside world to make a difference.
Mr. Yaâ€™u Sule,SSA on Media to the Kano State Governor..