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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Akunyili divides ICT stakeholders

Stakeholders in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector in the country are currently divided by the last Wednesday’s appointment of Prof. (Mrs.) Dora Akunyili, as the new Minister of Information and Communications.

Prof. Akunyili, was until her latest appointment, the Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) after serving in that capacity for several years, most of which marked the greater part of the former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime.

Reflecting on the appointment of Prof. Akunyili, stakeholders in the nation’s ICT sector seem to be divided on the side of the divide they are, both in support and against the choice.

In a chat with the chief executive officer, Amsco Telecom Group, Mr. Ndukwe Kalu, who commended President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua for finding Prof. Akunyili worthy to serve in this ‘all important’ sector.

He hinged his reasons on a tripod, namely the Ministry, Minister and President, saying that Nigerians should look out for Prof. Akunyili to repeat her magic in NAFDAC in the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology.

According to him, Ministry-wise, it’s only entity that could advance solutions for Nigeria economically and otherwise through ICT.
Stressing with an example of India and Asia, saying that today they make more money than Nigeria.

“Look at India and Asia for ready examples. India today makes much more money than Nigeria would make even if oil was $300 per barrel,” he declared.

Kalu also noted that their revenue has not crashed with oil price falling in recent times. “We need to position our nation for the future for ICT,” he asserted.

Mr. Kalu, who is a telecom expert and President, Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA), expressed optimism that in no time, the Ministry would transform to the much expected Ministry of Information and Communications.

“We still expect the reform to make it ICT Ministry; representing the most important ministry in these very trying times globally,” he said.

Secondly, he said, is the personality of Prof Dora Akunyili, who presently needs no introduction in Nigeria.

“When she came into NAFDAC Nigeria was in a sad state. I, for one only bought drugs from one location for fear of fake drugs that was killing us heavily. Today, we’re at a critical moment that if nothing is done to reposition Nigeria in ICT, we may go into recession that is unprecedented,” he said, stressing that he had explicit confidence in Prof. Akunyili to make it happen once more for Nigeria and Nigerians.

“She has got what it takes and with God on her side, she will make it,” he said.
The third aspect of his position was President Yar’Adua, pointing out that one thing he has going well for him, is that he means well.

“We may quarrel with his speed or choice of intervention but we agree he means well. So, for him to make this posting we would rightly assume that Mr. President means well and has a plan, an ace up his sleeve,” he said.

As said by him, when these three are combined, “I tell you that the minister and ministry to look out for is Prof Akunyili and Ministry of Information and Communications,” advising her to study critically the dynamics of this sector and how critical it is, and avoid sycophants and negative politicians but reach out to the professionals in this sector.

Another highly placed stakeholder, who does not want the names in print, told Champion Infotel that the day she was nominated, “I said she might be coming to Information.”

Describing Prof. Akunyili as a versatile person, our source beliefs she would bring life to the Ministry, due to her honesty and ever willing to learn, “so, she will be amenable to change.”

Our source also expressed the belief that what Nigeria needs now, especially in the ICT sector as the mover is the zeal and strength with which Akunyili worked while in NAFDAC.

“I personally trust God to use her to straighten a number of issues in the Federal Ministry of Information and Communications (FMIC). I wish her all the best,” our source said.

A member of the Nigerian IT Professionals in the Diaspora, who described himself as Mr. Dele, noted though he hates predicting failure, but this, was the same position he held when the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) boss was appointed and months after it is no longer hidden that “EFCC has gone to the dogs.”

Welcoming Prof. Akunyili, Mr. Dele also noted that she did well at NAFDAC and became a doyen of the international community, but wondered if her administration at NAFDAC was a one-man show.

“If it was a one man show, then Nigerians are back to square one of using tainted drugs,” he said, expressing doubt on how far she could go, especially because the Ministry is saddled with lack of infrastructure and needs proactive approach to move the nation towards digital age.

“Wishing her all the best at the same time; her failure will not be because she lacks the will, but because of the situation on the ground and the people she might surround herself with,” Mr. Dele cautioned.

For another member of IT professionals in diaspora and chief executive officer of San Jose-based Learning Right Technologies LLC, Ms Mary (Molly) Uzoh, who pointed out that Prof. Mrs. Akunyili does not have to be a “techie” to be an efficient Federal Minister of Information and Communication.

Although she said that Akunyili is not the Minister of Science and Technology, but its necessary that technology be fused into all Federal Ministries.

“However, if the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology is not tech savvy enough to drive the infusion of technology into all the federal ministries through its tons of agencies, including the National IT Development Agency (NITDA), any extraordinary effort by any “techie” minister in Nigeria will just be a struggle,” she said.
Uzoh was very optimistic that Akunyili’s track record speaks for itself.

“Yes, Akunyili’s track record speaks for itself. No, we should not predict failure for her before she fails. Her previous assignment was not an easy one at all. In fact, she has a whole lot of “non-techie” Broken Information and Communication issues to fix in that ministry and I’m sure she is equal to the task,” she submitted.

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