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Monday, December 12, 2016

Isa Ibrahim-Pantami: A General on duty @NITDA

It is not very often you see a civilian sounding like a General in his field, hence, REMMY NWEKE writes that every eye in the industry is on the new Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Dr. Isa Ibrahim-Pantami, who mounted the saddle recently.
Prologue:
Frankly, the first time one may have heard of the term ‘Buharist’ was when one of the telecommunication icons in the country and chief executive officer of Cyberschuul, Mr. Titi Omo-Ettu, was advising the President, General Muhammadu Buhari (retired), months after his election and nothing seems to be happening across all sectors.

For him, there is no apology for being a Buharist, which from all intents and purposes, could be simply defined as ‘die-hard’ believer in the theorem and principles of President Buhari; moreso, as a no-nonsense person and little did any one predict literarily, the coming of yet another civilian general in this administration, as the chief executive of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).

Thus, it was at the least, surprising when the news broke that President Buhari had named Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim–Pantami, the new Director-General of NITDA, alongside 12 other Federal Departments and Agencies (FDA) chief executive officers (CEOs).

Confirming this development, Monday, September 26, 2016, the Director of Press at the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Bolaji Adebiyi, told DigitalSENSE Business News that out of the 13 new leadership changes comprised four Director-Generals, five Executive Secretaries, a National Coordinator cum chief executive officer, a Managing Director, a chairman and a Federal Commissioner.

A General defined?
Dictionaries of all kinds define a General in the army as a senior military leader, usually a General has five-star officer, and typically in charge of a nation's army either in part or whole. This rank is normally considered the equivalent of Marshal, Field Marshal, Fleet Admiral and other equivalent five-star ranks. Whereas the army is a large body of people organized and trained for warfare on behalf of a given country.

Also, DigitalSENSE Business News reports that Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim–Pantami took over from Dr. Vincent Olatunji at NITDA, who was acting DG since last year when Mr. Peter Jack was suspended for alleged misconduct. Until his appointment as the chief executive officer, NITDA, Dr. Pantami, was a professor of Computer and Information Systems at the Islamic University of Madinah, Saudi Arabia; and Chief Imam; Seeker of Justice; even as he is the author of ‘Orator & Conflict Resolution Student’ to mention but a few.

Pantami pays homage to Minister Shittu:
A few days after his appointment, the new DG of NITDA, Dr. Pantami, assumed at the agency headquarters and barely 48 hours later, was seen at the Minister of Communications office at the Federal Secretariat, to see his supervising Minister, Barrister Abdur-Raheem Adebayo Shittu, in what industry observers termed ‘paying of homage’ thus begets some respect in his personality to authorities.

Accompanied by Malam Nafiu Baba-Ahmed and Alhaji Shehu B. Umar, during the visit to Shittu, just as DigitalSENSE Business News noted that Dr. Pantami, an Associate Professor at the Islamic University of Madinah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and first-ever Nigerian to teach in the university of more than 63 years of existence.

Born and bred in Gombe State, where Dr. Pantami obtained his basic education, he completed his first degree in Computer Science in 2002 at Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi (ATBA), Master of Science (MSC), Computer Science 2008, Master of Business Admin (MBA) Technology in 2010 from the same university and he obtained his PhD in the United Kingdom. He was a lecturer at ATBU, Bauchi, for over a decade before joining Islamic University Madina. Pantami’s authorship cut across several books on ICT, STEM, Technology, Politics & Community Reconciliation & Religion.

Some of his books include “The Negative impact of ICT on human health.” Volume 2, no 2 Jomatech, 2010, An analysis of e-learning in Nigerian and United Kingdom Universities. Volume 2, no 1, International Journal of Computer and Information Technology, India, Information and Communication Technology, A Tool for Fraud Prevention and Detection. Volume 1, no 2 Jomatech 2008, Data Recovery and Back up Disaster. Volume 2, no 1 Jomatech, 2008, Analysis on the failure of Desktop and Laptop Hardware Components. Volume 2, no 1 Jomatech, 2008 among others.

Dr Pantami, has successfully participated in several international seminars, local conferences and workshops as resource person, speaker, presenter, and panelist. Notable among aforementioned were his participation in the Nigeria Muslim Forum UK (NMFUK) conference which held in Newcastle 2011, Leicester, 2013, IT Conference in Paris 2013, Oil and Gas Computing 2013, National Seminar on Graphing Calculators, University of Mathematics Malaysia, 2008 on international workshop on Family Planning and Reproductive Health to name a few.

How to make a difference in NITDA:
As expected, some Nigerians chose to offer their words of advice to the new DG. One among the lot that went viral was from a southern clergy and industry player, who counseled Pantami to ensure he surround himself with northern allies and players in the industry. He practically went ahead to give names which have been nicknamed the 11 ‘alrrusul’ - apostles, by some industry observers.

In what the clergy tagged as thinking of how to assist Dr. Pantami, to succeed so that NITDA and Nigeria's Information and Communication Technology (ICT) can flourish in his tenure. “He will do best, to have Northern Moslems who are technologically savvy to assist him.” He said “Instead of spreading ourselves thin under the guise of ethnic and religious balance, we must align our thoughts with reality and concentrate efforts.

The clergy went on to recommend “some good candidates to be Distinguished Advisers and or Technical Assistants to the DG” which invariably did not went down well with most of the folks listed on clergy’s ‘DG’ shoplist, which also did not take the counsel lightly but confronted the advice. For some of them, this may not have been far-fetched when the DG, Dr. Pantami issued a note of warning to sychophants during his inaugural address to the staff of NITDA.

Like Baba like Pantami … I belong to nobody:
The newly appointed NITDA Director-General, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim-Pantami sounded a note of warning to presumed sycophants to stay off the agency and precisely his office as he belongs to everybody as much as he belongs to nobody, insisting that he came to serve his fatherland, Nigeria with success as his priority.

Declaring his averse to sycophancy, Dr. Pantami asserted during his inaugural meeting with members of staff of NITDA on penultimate Tuesday in Abuja that “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody” in a similar fashion like Mr. President, Muhammadu Buhari, during his May 29, 2015 inaugural speech.

He also told those who cared to listen “Don’t approach me with gossip. Don’t come to me with malicious, ill-natured reports about other people. But I welcome any suggestion or information you have that will help grow this agency we all love and work for. Remember, too, that you are welcome to call my attention to where you think I am going astray. Although I have a PhD in Computer Information Systems, I don’t know it all; nobody does. I came here to serve Nigeria, and success is my priority.”

Pantami also outlined three qualities, he said would make people successful, especially in working with him, namely “integrity, expertise and professionalism; and commitment to your duty. “ Pointing out that his nature is allergic to corruption; both in practices and favouritism, warning that he will not tolerate these twin vices. “So let us join hands and say ‘No to corrupt practices and favouritism’” he insisted.

Staff welfare on front burner:
The new DG assured that in order to encourage productivity and motivate honest, ethical, hardworking members of staff, he plans to put staff welfare to the front burner, and introduce special awards for best performing staff.

For him, contractors with NITDA should not lose sleep as long as projects are good and within the confines of due process. “I am glad to continue with all the good projects of the agency as long as they meet irreducible minimums in due process, and conform to the law that established the agency. Where projects violate due process or impose needless burdens on the core mission of the agency, they will be reviewed in the interest of the nation,” Dr. Pantami assured.

He emphasised that his doors were open to all staff members, including messengers and cleaners and urged them to come forward with suggestions, ideas and observations, although official communications, should follow “official routine channels.”

Pantami further commended the erstwhile acting DG, Dr. Vincent Olatunji for holding forte and for the handover note made available to him penultimate, Friday.

He did not stop at the staff meeting as lately a few public outings the DG attended were embellished with warnings upon warnings to what he tagged ‘contractors’, insisting that NITDA is not a contract agency which unfortunately was what it had become.

For instance, the DG while speaking at the 2016 West Africa Convergence Conference in Lagos, alleged that his predecessors turned NITDA, the government IT clearing house, into more of a contract giving agency, just as he promised to soon unveil his strategies, noting that since his appointment, that the major challenge before him with stakeholders, has been the flooding of the agency premises for contracts that are not tied to the NITDA’s mandate.

He disclosed that NITDA, under his watch is working on a blueprint that will reorganize the agency. Stressing, “I wouldn’t like to disclose our plan at a forum like this, but we are working with some partners and stakeholders to come up with a blueprint for the IT industry, especially as it concerns local content and capacity building.”

Conclusion:
As much as DG Pantami is welcome, he may not be alien to the Nigeria IT industry; therefore, it is believed that he knows his onion. Given his declarations so far, there is no doubt this Director-General is a General on duty, but going beyond the body language and assertions is work that is expected to touch lives. This being the case, one can only but hope that his dreams to reposition NITDA scales through the seeming disintegration in the nation’s public service which is capable of scuttling the Pantami stratregies.

Although some industry watchers were already expressing uncertainty over what they called rigidness may mar his proposed strategies for NITDA even though he may meant well, coupled with civil service bottleneck.

As the IT industry awaits Pantami’s strategies, caution must be applied in the generalization of claims at this early stage, especially the negative ones.

It is a good omen that this General at NITDA fulfills his dream being in that position by the time his tenure will be over either in the next four or eight years as the case may be in accordance with NITDA Act of 2007.

Before then, history awaits Dr. Isa Ibrahim-Pantami at NITDA as his background and past have prepared him for today.


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