By Prince Osuagwu
The Director General of the Nigerian Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA, Prof Cleopas Angaye, may have crossed the line of fire of the President of Association of Telecom Companies of Nigeria ATCON, Engr. Titi Omo-Ettu, when he recently circulated a press statement which was reported in the media.
In the press statement, the NITDA boss had advocated that Nigeria should take a cue from the Asian countries which place priority in ICT policy frameworks, leading to countries like China and Singapore among others, using the fortunes of ICT to leverage their economies.
His take was that had the political class upped their political will, school themselves on the benefits of ICT to the economy, make proper policy and up the budget on ICT, the level of growth of the aggregate Nigerian economy would be more than what is obtainable today.
However, much as these are obvious facts, Omo-Ettu could not have any of it. Reasons, are that Angaye who took over headship of a government Agency since five years and allegedly could not give it a spark, may not be the best person to criticise the flaws in leadership.
Perhaps, it would be better to present it in his own words:
“An integral and sometimes unhealthy part of our discourse is the incessant carping about the failures and inadequacies of our political and socio-economic system. Whilst there is some merit in such arguments, some rant often offers nothing more than stating the bleeding obvious. While it has become customary to hear about public officials bemoaning the state of our affairs, it is a completely different kettle of fish when this whining comes from very highly trained professionals who sometimes, are put in a position of implementing reform – but fail to deliver.
It leaves us in a state of apoplexy but it is particularly galling when those who have the opportunity to change the system churn out the same old tired reasons of claiming ‘lack of funding’ or ‘lack of political will’ as reasons for poor performance.
One such bleat and using some media reports as guide, came in the guise of a recent claim that a lack of political will and high level ignorance were responsible for why our country has struggled in this ICT times. Prof. Cleopas Angaye, Director-General of Nigeria Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), who in a recent public speech was quoted to have said that ignorance on the part of our leaders and lack of political will were responsible for the poor state of affairs in ICT development of the country fits the aforementioned carp like a glove fits a hand.
The timing and indeed the inaccuracy of this interjection, at a time when our march towards creating a true ICT industry out of the present fledging telecom, broadcasting and computer industries is already playing in injury time, should attract our collective gaze at the performance of the Professor in allowing if not bringing about this precarious situation.
The objective of this eruption and its targeted audience remain unclear. If we accept Professor Angaye’s argument, given that he took office almost five years ago then it is certainly the case that Nigeria had fallen in its global competitiveness rating under his watch. Well, that certainly denotes, at best, ineffectiveness and at worse incompetence. Either way, the industry and indeed the nation can ill afford it.
A bad situation is made infinitely worse by the Professor’s disingenuous assertions of a lack of political will as there are few things that better express a political will than the Government’s approval of a recommendation of establishment of NITDA as an agency to implement the prescriptions of the National Information Technology Policy as postulated by its professional class and installing an eminent scholar of his ilk as its executive head.
The reality of Prof Angaye’s position is a clear abdication of responsibility. It is about time that he accepted the unambiguous truth that he does and should bear responsibility for the diminution in our global competitiveness rating, the failure to provide the necessary awareness platform for mass education as enshrined in NITDA’s mandate, and should it be the case, the political will which should see us further than we are now.
No one is better placed to effect the necessary reforms in the aforementioned realms than the head of NITDA. The Professor, in his official role, must accept that the buck stops with him and the use of the excuse of lack of a political will as a fig leaf to hide poor performance is not acceptable. His utterances are really an own goal as they beg the following questions. How would the Professor define the performance of an organization which is dwindling? What would he say of the head of such an organization if they had been at the helm for four years? And would he recommend that organization stick or twist with such a head?
He would do well to recognize that carping is easy particularly if you have no responsibility to effect change. When you do have such responsibility, action is what is required.
There are risks and costs to a program of action but they are far less than the risks and costs of comfortable inaction for not only does it flag up his own failings, it denigrates the collective action of those who, against all odds, have got us where we are. However a simpler and more important lesson is to understand that those in glass houses should not go about throwing stones.
If we do no respond to this annoying underestimation of our collective mood, people like Prof Angaye would think we are all idiots afterall”.