BACKGROUND: After attaining a first degree in Computer Science, I worked for such companies as Pfizer Nigeria (later Neimeth Pharmaceuticals) as a programmer, JKK Limited as hardware engineer and helpdesk 1st/2nd line support, MBC International Bank as Network Analyst and Project Manager and First Bank as a System Analyst. I was an Application Support Specialist for Merchant Banking Corporation and later Head of Department, Branch LAN support at the Bank. I left MBC International Bank as head E-commerce support under the ICT group. I have worked in almost every sector of the ICT industry.
While doing these, I obtained different professional qualifications including Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer MCSE (1999), Cisco Certified Network Engineer CCNA (2002), PRINCE2 project management practitioner (2006), HP-UX System, and Network Admin 1 (2003) amongst others. I also attended numerous training programs including OCA with Oracle (Bitraxx-Axxent), HP-UX with HP South Africa, ITIL Service Management & PRINCE2 management with CCCT London, Swiftnet with SWIFT Worldwide Africa,
Banking application support with Misys-IBS Dublin and many more. I left the banking sector to start Digital Fortress Limited in 2005 in the United Kingdom, an ICT Company with emphasis on training. A subsidiary of Digital Fortress called ForteSoft Systems Limited was later established in Nigeria in 2006, going into Partnership with NIIT, a World-renowned ICT training Company. Other tie-ups followed with different corporate organizations and schools at different levels to meet their ICT training needs. I have an eye for opportunities in the Nigerian environment, with the aim of growing ForteSoft Systems Limited into multifaceted ICT Company with great contributions to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product.
I also hold an MBA management degree from the University of Lagos, as well as M.Sc. Business Information Systems degree from the Royal Holloway & Bedford College, University of London.
On helping young ones build and grow their careers
Simply put, the young ones of today are not just the leaders of tomorrow, they are the future itself. They are the determinants of what this nation’s tomorrow will look like, and are the ones that will bring that future to life. The repair of our nation and the drive towards Nigeria achieving its full potential and taking its true position among the league of nations starts with the youth. Therefore we need to focus on building a productive and vibrant future, by empowering the youths to take us there. We also need to ensure that they are equipped to hold their own wherever they go, especially as the world becomes a global village. They are going to have to compete with youths from all over the world, and we need to prepare them for that day. As they say, when opportunity meets with preparedness, success is guaranteed. These are some of the goals NIIT seeks to help Nigeria’s youth achieve.
A clear map and vision of success
It’s difficult to simply generalize what all Nigerian companies have been doing. I know there are those dedicated to youth empowerment. There are some who place a premium on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and focus on education. I also know certain states have created a platform for companies to do this. An example is Lagos State and its Adopt a School programme. On the flip side though, I think clearly defined lines need to be adopted in these programmes.
We need to define what is needed, what standards we want to achieve through these programmes; before we invite companies to partner or contribute. It’s not necessarily their specialties, and these companies are focused on their many different stakeholders and seek a balance of many and sometimes conflicting interests. I believe that the government, through its education and youth ministries and parastatals, is uniquely positioned to define the parameters for development.
The government needs to paint the picture of success, from the holistic viewpoint of achieving sustainable development. With the master template of what needs to be done to attain this objective, it can then invite companies to help. I have visited schools adopted by multinationals that still do not have ICT labs. The companies are willing, some of them, however, a clear map and vision of success are needed to guide them. I think getting right the general education clime, is critical as articulated above. However, this in itself is not enough to guarantee successful careers.
Furthermore, good career guidance and mentoring scheme in our secondary schools will also help the students select the right subjects at this stage, which will help them secure admissions into the right programs for tertiary education. NIIT supports this in our little way, by providing counselling to prospective students that come in for inquiries. We are able to guide their choices, by asking specific questions that indicate which of our programs is best suited to these candidates. It would be great to partner with the government and provide this service on a much wider scale, to ensure people do not spend time chasing the wrong careers and are able to be more productive and fulfilled in the long run.
Being an IT solutions company with a laudable pedigree, what is NIIT’s contribution in curbing cyber crime which has become prevalent among youths in Nigeria?
We have been focused over the recent years on helping re-channel the capabilities of our youths. Cybercrime has become a major issue in recent years for a multitude of reasons, a primary one being inadequate opportunities for work and advancement. You find so many unemployed graduates and under-employment as another prevailing condition.
Therefore, our response and focus have been on showing the youths the opportunities open to them to succeed, by channeling their capabilities towards positive development online and offline. We now have Nigerian youths developing apps on android and apple platforms that earn them a lot more money than from cybercrime.
We have also partnered with different organizations at different times to retrain our youths. A recent exercise was done with Amuwo Odofin Local Government to train 200 youths and develop their ICT skills positively, and we believe these trained youths are in a position to retrain others, thus significantly amplifying the reach of this programme.Our annual scholarship programme, which provides course to youths at massive discounts to enable those who would normally being unable to afford the cost of these programmes, is another avenue we are using to retrain our youths and harness their capabilities for the good of all – themselves, families, communities, companies and ultimately the nation.
How can the education sector take adequate advantage of the benefits in IT?
This is somewhat controversial. I believe we are a long way from taking adequate advantage of ICT, as a nation. I also believe that the root of this issue is our educational system. We have a curriculum for our schools that leaves huge room for improvements. We have not defined what to cover for some levels in our school’s system, notably secondary school level. Most government schools are inadequately equipped to even try.
Taking it further, some of the syllabus still being covered in our universities leave a lot out for our students. And I don’t mean just the ICT related courses. We have a long way to go in general and need to start brainstorming on concrete ways to fix it.
On capacity building for our youths
The major ingredient needed for a viable ICT industry is capacity – the mental ability to adequately utilize technology and even develop new ones.
I believe we have the capacity for growth in a general sense. We are a nation of some of the smartest people in the world and are capable of creating and utilizing technology well.
We are also adaptable and embrace change. However, we do need to invest heavily in capacity building for our youths, to enable them to embrace ICT, and prevent brain drain. Importantly, this must start at the schools.
How can the enthusiasm for IT-related careers be developed in the country?
First is the impression of difficulty and expense. Developing apps can easily be achieved by owning a laptop, yet the impression is that achieving this is too expensive. Also, the glamour of other industries like entertainment and sports do not exist in ICT.
However, they need to look at the recent list of the world’s richest men to understand the potential in ICT. Beyond wealth, youth need to realize that both advancements globally have been forged on the back of ICT. From health breakthroughs to new technology in varied fields such as transportation, nutrition, genetics, even the creation of new life; ICT has been critical to achieving all these. We also need to invest in Science Technology Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) as a nation. We need to focus on developing STEM capacity as a nation starting in schools. If we look at the examples of new countries breaking into ICT prominence, you will find that they all made concerted efforts to develop their STEM capacities decades back, investing in STEM subjects and thus creating generations of capable youths who are taking their ICT industries to whole new levels.
Look at South Africa, India and China for example. 15 or 20 years before they broke into the ICT world as a main power, they made deliberate investments in STEM at the primary and secondary schools level. They are reaping the rewards today.
How can the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board improve on its nationwide examinations which are now conducted using CBT to avoid failure amongst students?
I think JAMB has taken a major step forward with CBT exams. However, beyond this, CBT has created an unfair playing field for the students. We now have students who are using the computer for the first time in the JAMB hall. So JAMB needs to start talking to government and WAEC about redefining the school curriculum. They are in a position to talk and have everyone listen; therefore they need to join the trouble-solving group, the solution-developing group. JAMB has taken a bold step to push our education forward; they cannot afford to stop now because there is so much more to do. I must commend them on that first step though.