By Yushau Shuaib
I arrived at GITEX 2022 in Dubai with the hope of waylaying Professor Ali Ibrahim Pantami for an exclusive interview on politics, alongside the challenges, excitements, disappointments, and accomplishments of his ever-inspiring exploits in public office, particularly since his appointment as the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy.
Pantami remains one of the few cabinet members in President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration who are highly pragmatic, charismatic, and results-oriented. He boldly builds partners with sincere allies, surmounts hurdles and never shies away from the good fight towards accomplishing what has been described as unprecedented feats in his Ministry. He is truly Nigeria’s Digital Economy maestro.
The results are certainly obvious for many to see: Apart from the digital economy sector now playing a pivotal role in lifting the Nigerian economy out of recession, it is continuously recording the highest growth rate in the country’s public sector.
Just as parastatals under his Ministry are remitting trillions of naira into the coffers of the Federal Government, a lot more in taxes and duties are also being paid by ICT companies and other sectoral players into the national treasury. It’s a case of the golden goose that is being properly tended to and which continues to lay the golden eggs that expand the national fortunes, especially in a period of global fiscal crisis.
I was interested in asking him about the spirit behind the significant number of policies developed and the hundreds of projects executed by his Ministry towards providing an enabling environment for the sustainable growth of the communications and digital economy sector.
Rather than being granted what I had expected to be a straightforward interview, the Minister rather got me into covering the week-long activities of the Nigerian delegation at the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), which he led. This was the 2022 edition of the annual Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (GITEX Global), from the 10th of October 2022 in Dubai.
The delegation led by Pantami was a powerful one, having officials from Nigeria’s public and private sectors, including regulators, academics, media practitioners, change makers, and young entrepreneurs. Nigeria has been attending GITEX because of its enormous benefits, especially in attracting foreign direct investment to the country.
Some of the distinguished personalities on the entourage were Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Professor Umar Danbatta; Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa; Director General of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Engr Aliyu Aziz; Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Galaxy Backbone Limited, Professor Muhammed Bello Abubakar, and Chairman of the Board of Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST), Barrister Maimuna Yaya Abubakar.
As the Minister went about attending a series of summits, meetings and exhibitions, I had the opportunity of being able to engage him intermittently, and I learnt a lot both from him and in my coverage of some of these events.
While inaugurating the Nigerian exhibition pavilion, Pantami informed the audience of how, in the last three years, the Federal Government had launched several programmes, policies and projects, which have been yielding results in great leaps and bounds that have contributed to the flourishing of the country’s digital economy sub-sector.
Immediately after the inauguration and tours of numerous stands, the Minister led the team to the Startups exhibitions, where at least nine Nigerian young technology innovators had spots in the semi-final of the GITEX tech-invention competition, known as the Supernova Challenge Pitch Competition, organised by North Star Dubai.
The Challenge is the biggest pitching competition in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia, where startups have the opportunity to become the next unicorns, with up to $200,000 in cash prizes up for grabs.
The Minister interacted and took pictures with promoters of the startups. He also had words of encouragement for the Nigerian semi-finalists, including Identity Pass, 9JaCodeKids Academy, Floews, Medtech, Paddycover, Pricepally, LiveBic, Technyon Technologies, and Wellness Health Technologies.
On the second day, at the Nigerian pavilion, the Minister received visitors and also held a series of meetings with representatives of governments and big corporations seeking partnerships with Nigeria in the areas of digital identity, cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence, among others.
Pantami held bilateral conversations and meetings with the Minister of Artificial Intelligence and Digital Economy of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Omar Sultan Alolama and the Minister of IT and Telecommunications of Pakistan, Mr. Syed Amin Ul Haque, among other top global public figures.
The Minister also met with officials of the Dubai World Trade Center to explore areas of collaboration, as Nigeria is the largest Africa digital economy. A Senior Vice President, MEA of Oracle, Antonio Mesa consulted with Pantami towards the deepening of collaboration with Nigeria on the growth of the digital economy, through universal licences and corporate social responsibility.
A strategic meeting was equally held with Vice-President of Amazon, Isabella Groegor-Cechowicz on a similar level of partnership. A dollar vault of investment opportunities was opened for the start-up community, as the Nigerian team engaged with Amazon Web Services (AWS).
One of the greatest achievements of Nigeria at GITEX 2022 came in the form of the opening up of massive opportunities as the Minister signed, on behalf of the Federal Government, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the global tech giant, Microsoft Corporation. This is for the training of five million Nigerians on high-demand technological skills that are needed for consolidating the capacities of citizens as native players in the burgeoning digital ecosystem and economy.
The Microsoft representative, Mr Deen Yusuf, said the gesture is bound to enlarge knowledge bases, and capabilities, and create massive spinoff potentials that will enhance careers, livelihoods and the national fiscal well-being. Commending the tech giant for the prospects, Pantami said Nigeria would continue to provide an enabling environment and ensure that regulatory instruments are developmental and flexible for Microsoft and other businesses to flourish.
The Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Dr Obafemi Hazmat met with the Minister and discussed how Lagos could benefit from the Microsoft offer. Lagos is the only state from Nigeria that sponsored startups to #GITEX2022.
It is necessary to state that out of over 800 applications received for the Supernova pitch competition from 37 countries across 13 categories, nine Nigerian startups emerged among the 140 semi-finalists. The 26 that made it to the finals of the Supernova competition also had two Nigerian startups. Eventually, ShapShap, from Nigeria, emerged as Global Best in the Mobility and Smart Cities category, winning a cash prize of $8,000.
The Minister was elated by the success stories of Nigeria’s participation at this year’s event. Apart from the award to the winning startup, NITDA was equally honoured with the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) Most Valued Partnership Award in recognition of the agency’s extraordinary dedication and service at the startup and tech event.
Similarly, at the end of a discussion on Digital Inclusion: Aligning Regulators and Network Providers to Bridge Digital Divide, Professor Pantami was presented with the prestigious DWTC Leadership and Commitment Award 2022, in recognition of his commitment towards advancing the digital economy at both the ATU and ITU this year. He was the only person honoured with the highly prestigious award this year.
Speaking at the Summit, the Minister said Nigeria has a lot of policies to close the digital divide and promised that the government would soon pass the Start-up bill into law for enlarging the vibrancy of the sector.
Less than a week after his assurance to the global community at GITEX 2022, on the eve of Professor Pantamis 50th birthday, President Buhari signed the Startup bill into law. Not only was this carried out as a tribute to the significant achievements of the Minister, the President said: “The appointment of Pantami was one of the best choices I have made because he has added tremendous value to good governance.”
Buhari went further in his testament that Pantami’s depth of knowledge of complex issues was amazing and remarkable, and his loyalty and dedication to duty were worthy of emulation. I also join numerous well-wishers in praying that may Almighty Allah continue to guide, protect and bless the Minister with good health and wisdom in the service of the country and humanity.
Yushau Shuaib is the author of An Encounter with the Spymaster
America’s Super Diplomat, Henry Kissinger, Dies at 100
Henry Kissinger, a former US secretary of state and national security adviser who escaped Nazi Germany in his youth to become one of the most influential and controversial foreign policy figures in American history, has died. He was 100.
Kissinger died Wednesday at his home in Connecticut, according to a statement from his consulting firm, Kissinger Associates.
Kissinger was synonymous with US foreign policy in the 1970s. He received a Nobel Peace Prize for helping arrange the end of US military involvement in the Vietnam War and is credited with secret diplomacy that helped President Richard Nixon open communist China to the United States and the West, highlighted by Nixon’s visit to the country in 1972.
But he was also reviled by many over the bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam War that led to the rise of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime and for his support of a coup against a democratic government in Chile.
But many members of Congress objected to the secretiveness of the Nixon-Kissinger approach to foreign policy, and human rights activists assailed what they saw as Kissinger’s neglect of human rights in other countries. No issue complicated Kissinger’s legacy more than the Vietnam War. When Nixon took office in 1969 – after promising a “secret plan” to end the war – roughly 30,000 Americans had been killed in Vietnam.
Despite efforts to shift more combat responsibilities to the South Vietnam government, American involvement persisted throughout Nixon’s administration – critics accused Nixon and Kissinger of needlessly expanding the war – and US engagement ultimately ended with the fall of Saigon in 1975 and more than 58,000 American lives lost.
In a highly controversial decision, Kissinger shared the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize with his North Vietnamese counterpart Le Duc Tho for that year’s Paris peace accords; citing the absence of actual peace in Vietnam, Tho declined to accept, and two members of the Nobel committee resigned in protest over the award.
Adeleke Appoints Afolabi As Acting Chief Judge
Osun State Governor, Ademola Adeleke has appointed Justice Olayinka David Afolabi as the acting Chief Judge of the state with immediate effect, following the approval of the resolution of the House of Assembly.
This was disclosed by the spokesperson to the governor, Olawale Rasheed in a statement obtained in Osogbo on Thursday.
Earlier, Adeleke had approved the resolution of the State Assembly, that recommended the suspension of the State Chief Judge, Adepele Ojo.
Spokesperson to the governor, Olawale Rasheed, in a statement, said the House had approved Ojo’s suspension at its plenary.
“Meanwhile, following the approval of the resolution of the House by the Governor, the Deputy-Governor has been directed by the Governor to perform the swearing-in ceremony of the Acting Chief Judge of Osun State which will be held tomorrow (today) at the Executive Lounge, Governor’s Office, Osogbo,” the statement partly read.
NANTA: The Defining Moments and Quest for Mentorship
By Frank Meke
National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies ( Nanta) is about 47 years old, going to 48. The Association has contributed immensely to the history and growth of Nigerian travel and the tourism industry and does not gloat about it.
And until the brick breakers came to the Nigerian tourism space, nanta rightly held a board position in the making of Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation ( now Nigerian Tourism Development Authority).
Its two-legged operational importance in the tourism and aviation sector justifiably confered it the wisdom to share and contribute its knowledge, expertise, and support to growing need to reposition Nigerian tourism and the travel( transport)content in the aviation industry.
The founding fathers of Nigeria tourism, from its birth as Nigeria Tourism Authority, to Nigeria Tourism Board to Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation ( Ntdc), were supportive of the growth of nanta and during its trying moments, decreed and like the supreme Court judges, pulled away the rugs from self seeking spoilers who wanted to cause a slipt of the association.
These were during its dramatic and formative years in the early seventies, a development that foreclosed such divisive tendencies and through progressive constitutional righteousness, the association blossomed into greatness, stronger and open to new ideas and character.
Talking about character, whoever emerged as president of this iconic association, tends to define its character, deliveries, interventions, and growth or failings.
I will possibly dwell on a few of the presidents of this association that I knew closely and covered their times as a journalist. Their character of selflessness, boldness, and courage in the face of threats to their private businesses is beyond pedestrian definition and understanding.
And of these lots, I will mention and share the character models of Olufemi Adefope, Teresa Ezobi( now ojo), Soji Amusan, Dayo Adeola, Ahmed zabadne, Munzali Dantata, Bankole Bernard and Mrs Susan Akporiaye.
It’s important to highlight that the association leadership is usually dominated by men,and often takes to supersonic flight when women take over, and theirs is a challenge not only to engendering new business offerings but a zealous search for the best of nanta tomorrow.
I will come to the two women ceiling breakers in nanta later. Femi Adefope, in his days, was a daytime terror to foreign airlines. For each of the obnoxious policies which these foreign airlines subjected nanta members to, Adefope will scream blue murder, shot from the hips, and as a trained forensic expert, his clinical deployment of confrontational legalism, puts the unrelenting and domineering foreign carriers in disarray.
He was courted and hated at the same time, and he maintained an open door to the tourism media. He was always available to share his dream for nanta. Adefope avoided the temptation to remain in power beyond his call and worked hard to Unite nanta, and today, he is the octopus of the aviation downstream sector, where he runs his business with grit and wisdom. He indeed shaped the position and deliveries of nanta in his very unapologetic combative image. His menties, a story for another day.
Munzali Dantata brought fortunes to nanta leadership. He was then young, rich, and ambitious. A scion of the famous Dantata family of kano, Munzali Dantata, was a very patient and caring leader. He was during his time out in nanta, a General Sales Agent for Saudia, the national carrier of oil rich Saudi Arabia.
Munzali Dantata spent his fortunes on nanta, in a single-minded effort to change its image and also bring it into national tourism economic space. Though tolerated by the usual noisy and egocentric lagos cum South West nanta members due to his peace seeking outreach to foreign airlines, Munzali Dantata toned down nanta’s combative facade to suit his worldview.
Then came the fire spitting, fearless and courageous Tereza Ojo ( ezeobi). Her special advisers were Femi Adefope, Olu Ogunsulire, and Babatunde Akala. I had this feeling that these three musketeers dragged her into nanta leadership.
Tereza was graceful and richly connected. Her Tess Travel is the official travel implant in most foreign embassies, and she was big, I mean very big, in cultural tourism promotion. She filled the grounds of the kano Durbar festival with a chartered plane filled with foreigners and brought Ogun state into the limelight as a domestic tourism destination. As the then President of Nigeria Cycling Federation , Tereza Ezeobi ( Ojo) pushed forward the tourism content in that sport genre into national reckoning. The spoilers of Nigerian Airways hated her guts as she boldly confronted their thieving hands in honey pot the airline and at one of such heated meeting at the office of then Minister of Aviation located around Tafawa Balewa Square, she had to be smuggled out through the minister’s back door to avoid the raging Nigerian Airways leadership who could not tolerate her righteous indignation.
Tereza was a thunderstorm. If Adefope is known to shot from the hips, Tereza was the master snipper, all for the sake of nanta’s better tomorrow.
Soji Amusan is a disciplinarian to the core. Trained by the German lufthansa Airlines, he brought a new training and retraining culture to nanta membership. He took on nanta survival expectations with clinical precision, preferring to reason with nanta publics, particularly the foreign airlines rather than being combative. He led from the position of knowledge and education to the dynamic processes in the emerging world of travel as a trade. Today, some nanta members own aviation schools as a result of the campaign by Soji Amusan.
Ahmed zabadne is a Nigerian of Lebanese parentage. He spent fortunes trying to rubber stamp his business orientation background in nanta. He was collaborative and sought to have nanta members expand their reach beyond trade on airlines’ inventories. Ahmed zabadne is a born hospitality caregiver and operator despite being a travel trade professional. He was a jolly good fellow who loved Nigeria.
Dayo Adeola is subtle but with a huge appetite for deliveries. He built the three storey nanta secretariat on Ikorodu Road and a great mobilizer of men and resources. He will out spend others in the quest to transform nanta and also mentor young persons in collaborative ecosystem that clearly marked him out as a godfather to many trading their way to success. His trademark of competence and visionary commitment still speaks volume in nanta circles. Is he bound by his promises? One must learn to wrestle like Jacob to catch Adeola off guard.
Bankole Bernard is a pursuer of history and legacy. Young, stubborn, and fearless, Bankole Bernard tried to change the narratives of nanta and brokered efforts to gain back nanta’s board membership of ntdc, which the new pharaoh at ntda insisted to ambush out of fear of the powerful reach of nanta in both aviation and tourism space.
He also worked hard at getting nanta a focal constitutional authority and brought the association some political inroads, partnering to honour game changers in the industry. Energetic and confident, he fought internal schism and selflessly flew the nanta flag. He nearly lost his life in the untiring effort to leave his name in the nanta records of achievers. Some say he is arrogant and irritant, yes to many people who do not bother to study his character. He can trump a suprise change, and that makes him a highly misunderstood enigma.
Mrs Susan Akporiaye went through the tough lines of the nanta leadership structure to emerge as president. She confronted the covid pandemic and gave some lifeline to most struggling nanta members during the early days of global travel uncertainty. That pandemic period truly defined her willpower. Nanta nearly collapsed but she held strong, very strong, putting her critics on wrong footing. I will repeat that Susan Akporiaye is strong, bold, and beautiful inside more than mere physical eyes can see.
Her commitment and self drive opened the flood gate of new and old members of nanta , who now took their future into their own hands. She spoke courage and sold inspiration.
She is a Nigeria’s new tourism diva, steering nanta to other streams of income in the very dynamic and collaborative travel and tourism industry.
She has successfully shaped the nanta dream of tomorrow, frontal with foreign airlines, shadow boxed them into a corner, with same Adefope and Tereza Ojo punchy style.
She consults with wisdom but takes responsibility where others shiver in fear. Susan Akporiaye revealed and sustained the Tereza Ojo tourism goal agenda for nanta members and, above all, a dedicated and sacrificial mentor to the young and upcoming nanta members, many who rejoice at her leadership which has engaged and inspired them to rediscover their talents and strength. From South Africa, Kenya, Namibia, and London, nanta leads in promoting Nigeria tourism, even in tech start-ups.
By mid next year, a chapter in nanta history will be closed, and another opened. Susan Akporiaye has opened the gates for the nanta young persons to raise their heads and voice to give nanta sustainable leadership growth narratives, and so we say Amen and rejoice that nanta is on the match, greater and stronger because a true leader emerged. Will this trend gain sustained traction? We watch and pray!