By Okoh Aihe
I HAVE a lot of respect for one of my young friends, and he would not understand why. Not because he gave me a call on Sunday night. Really, that call came with some balm that my spirit needed. At this particular time in our nation, there are so many things to trouble the mind, but, for me, topmost is the fate of the university students who remain at home after seven months of industrial strike called by the university lecturers under ASUU. This is why the call was coincidentally refreshing. It means that hope is not dead yet.
Under the government of President Goodluck Jonathan, there was another ASUU strike that got irritatingly intransigent. The government had to set up a Presidential Task Force to manage the crisis. The Task Force had a number of ministries and highflying parastatals to contribute ideas to resolving this recurring irritant in the education sector once and for all. They were also to contribute to a common fund dedicated to putting a final nail to the crisis.
My former office was a prominent member of the Task Force. In one of those days, an emergency meeting was called, and the overall boss in whose office I worked (May God bless his memory) had travelled. We needed a new head to lead the team from our office. Fortunately, he picked his call while in transit.
Do you know this young man in Procurement? Please take him to brief the Executive Commissioner, Technical Services, who would now lead the team. Once getting out of my office on the sixth floor, the young man was on his way to another meeting when I intercepted him straight away. Go and get your meeting notes, I told him, we need to quickly update the Commissioner before he leaves for the meeting.
Let’s go to him, please. Once I introduced our mission to the Commissioner, I ceded grounds to this young man. This guy gave a thorough breakdown of previous meetings he had been privileged to attend as a middle level official, with some senior team members. Without notes. And with elevated sang-froid.
The picture was graphically painted – the demands and the expectations. My respect for this young man grew. I like cerebral people who don’t carry any smoke of importance on their heads. I like people always prepared to do their assignment without depreciating others with their inadequacies and petulance.
The young man is Dr. Chimezie Paulinus Amadi. When Amadi called me on Sunday night, it was to break the good news that he was taking some time off from the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, to serve as Commissioner for Digital Economy and E-Governance in Imo State. Once the necessary explanations were made, I was excited for him and quickly extended my congratulations. He was gracious enough to share with me his notes, what he calls the The Digital Imo Agenda. I am not excited because he got a political appointment. Rather it is because he earned it and there is a value proposition he is putting on the table.
“The Digital IMO project aims to train 100,000 youth, women and people living with disabilities in core 21st century skills in software development, blockchain, game development and other technical vocational skills,” he states as introduction to his document. The mission Amadi has set out for his Ministry is “to build smart cities which leverage digital technology to drive governance, innovation and entrepreneurship, while promoting value creation and prosperity for all.”
Is this just some fanciful language to dazzle and beguile some unsuspecting politicians and a government headed by Senator Hope Uzodimma, the Governor of Imo State? I don’t think so, as I can claim to be in a privileged position to speak to such doubt based on the document I have seen. Always, the problem with us in this part of the world is that we want to do a job without stating how; we want to embark on a journey without defining the route. Everything is buried in our imagination and assumed sophistry, which evaporates when subjected to very little interrogation.
Amadi’s document contains Action Steps, Timelines, Who to do a job, and expected outcomes. For instance, Action 3 states: Faciliate Broadband Penetration in all LGAs of Imo State. How? 1. Crowd-source Broadband Penetration and efficiency across all towns, villages and LGAs in Imo State. 2. Facilitate Broadband Penetration to Underserved and Unserved locations in Imo State via private sector partnerships, deployment of state-owned fibre highway for interconnection of business districts, communities and LGAs. Some of the stated expected outcomes include: Improved broadband penetration and coverage, increased e-government activities, improved digital inclusion and literacy levels.
The documents detailed how the Ministry will pull 100,000 young people from across the local government areas of the state and instil digital skills and competencies into them. The Ministry will be an enabler and a one-stop-shop for digital knowledge acquisition for the entire state operation. The Ministry plans to train other ministries on tech skills for the new Imo State that will run operations on technology and thus, be able to maximise resources for development.
The document is no baloney or a tech gobbledegook. This is about reality, something doable. As l looked at the CV which has equipped Amadi for this job, my mind went to the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, the kind of recruitment that used to be done there, my mind went to Ernest Ndukwe, hunting for talents across the states of the federation, to build one of the best parastatals ever in this part of world.
It was about knowledge, about capacity and the readiness to go to any place you were sent; it wasn’t about tribe or connections. When we travelled all over the world, we walked with a swagger and gait because we knew the head was loaded with enough stuff to captivate and titillate any audience. And there was demonstrable industry performance to add fillip to the enthusiasm of the nation’s tech ambassadors.
Something has prepared Amadi for this new assignment, and the CV shows that unequivocally. At the NCC, Amadi worked in various Departments which include: Procurement, Projects, Compliance, Monitoring and Enforcement, and most recently, Research and Development, where he headed the Emerging Technology Unit. This gave him the opportunity to design and organise nationwide stakeholder fora in the ICT space to facilitate ACADOPRENEUR, which is a collaboration between academia and industry.
Plus his impressive educational attainment: Amadi attended several training programmes on 5G: The Path to Next Generation; Digital Transformation: Unlocking the Potential of IoT; Enabling the Full Value of Wireless Technology: Game Changing Technology For the Digital Age; and Ethics Intelligence, among others.
The easiest verdict to give here is that Amadi is fully prepared for his new job as the Commissioner for Digital Economy and e-Governance. But that is not the way it works in government, especially at the state level, where petty jealousy and frivolous gossip are credentials for daily governance, where urgent files would go on circumlocutory journeys and may never return.
It is the responsibility of Governor Uzodimma to empower his new Ministry and support it to use technology to straighten administrative processes , and make governance, businesses and investment appealing and attractive. In fact, be the first to run a state on technology. In Amadi, the Governor of Imo State has made a good appointment. He will earn good returns from such a valuable choice. Imo State has scored a good goal.