By David Onmeje

It is a truism that opposition and robust criticisms suckle democratic wheels and allow governance flourish on beneficial templates. The problem in Nigeria is that a number of critics are more confused than the views they reel out in criticisms. Sometimes, they even reel out criticisms which burp with warped opinions, obviously pointing to the shadows of hirelings.

The National Communications Commission (NCC) Complex at Mbora was recently commissioned with President Muhammadu Buhari in attendance. It was a great accomplishment and a successful ceremony by all gradations.

But thereafter, a critic, apparently on a hatchet job, staged out with vituperations of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami. Apparently, he had personal or instigated issues with the Honourable Minister, but unfortunately presented them in an award-winning trophy of flawed style and lost senses from the first word to the last with his flawed ink. Candidly, he impressed himself, but no one else.

The critic, Emmanuel Johnmar was loud in condemnations of the Minister; labelled him a liar, corrupt, incompetent and a neophyte in managing Nigeria’s Telecommunications industry. Scrutinizing the contents of his criticisms, there was the confounding problem of establishing his real intent. He got himself confused more than the public he staged out to elucidate.

Was Johnmar attempting to praise Mr. President or berate him for appointing an incompetent person like Dr. Pantami to superintend on Nigeria’s communication’s industry and digital economy? At a point, the critic sounded like someone weeping for President Buhari for having a “disaster” like Pantami in his government. But could the critic be more catholic than the Pope?

What befuddled most was the critic’s parameters of what his intelligence could deliver to him as yardsticks of excellence or commendable performance on a job or public office. It was laughable that the critic’s notion of splendor in the case of NCC, one of the many agencies under the supervision of Dr. Pantami was that there is “no credibility in employment, promotions and awards of contracts.” Is this his idea of perfection in a public office? How could a normal person degenerate this poorly in reasoning?

Sadly, that’s the critic’s idea of excellence of a government agency or ministry and not service delivery to the public. It provided clear insights to discerning minds that disgruntled staff of NCC and their shadowy accomplices in the Ministry have contracted him to run down the Minister at all cost.

These are same critics who abuse President Buhari’s principle and philosophy that government is continuity. Nigeria’s landscape is dotted with billions upon billions of uncompleted projects. And public funds have been sunk into them, but every successive government abandon such projects. But President Buhari introduced a new approach to governance by completing these abandoned projects, yet the critics are still fuming and mouthing all manner of insanities in condemnations.

When Buhari completes projects abandoned by his predecessors, the critics claim he is devoid of wisdom to initiate and complete his own projects. If he overlooks them and apply his principle, in the greater interest of Nigerians, the same critics still complain. One is compelled to think whether Buhari’s predecessors brought out the money for such projects from their family patrimony.

The crux of Johnmar’s criticisms on President Buhari, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami and the Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer (EVC/CEO) NCC, Prof. Garba Danbatta is that the incumbent administration never appreciated the NCC Complex building they commissioned as started by previous administrations in Nigeria. What is the heck here?

The same senior officials Johnmar sought desperately and provocatively to disparage have traversed a long trajectory in public leadership. President Buhari’s public leadership antecedents are open secrets. Whilst Prof. Danbatta has an established niche as a famed academic in his field of specialization, who by virtue of public service, works under Minister Pantami. And both are crack brains in the Information and communication (ICT) industry in Nigeria.

Dr. Pantami particularly has come a long way in the ICT industry home and abroad. He established his fame years back, right from the point he was the Director-General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) at the outset of the President Buhari’s administration.

Buhari wanted to indoctrinate Nigeria into e-governance and he had to look for an ICT expert. He found an Information Communication Technology (ICT) specialist and Internet Technology (IT) czar, Dr. Isa Pantami, a Fellow of British Computer Society (FBCS). His briefs from the Presidency was to spearhead reformations and innovations that would restructure and reposition NITDA as a vibrant agency of the federal government that will drive the Buhari administration’s dream of e-governance for Nigeria.

And Dr. Pantami marshalled out a work-plan and a template, which accomplished this mandate within the shortest possible time through an action frame-work he christened, as, “The Strategic Roadmap To Transform the Nigerian IT Sector,” document. The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy elevated the Nigeria’s regulation of the IT industry and left relics such as e-governance in MDAs; enhanced cybersecurity; digital inclusion; platforms for private sector capacity building by IT stakeholders, development of local content and its promotion.

Nigeria as a nation benefited a lot from his initiatives in NITDA. Through e-governance, ghost workers from the federal civil service numbering over 34, 000 were fished out and government saved billions of taxpayers’ money to invest in other sectors. JAMB now conducts Computer Based Tests (CBTs) and several other federal government MDAs are seamlessly harnessing the treasures of Dr. Pantami’s IT knowledge in different sectors of governance.

It is the reliability and impact of Dr. Pantami’s performance in NITDA that ASUU is hesitating enrolment into IPPIS and advancing all manner of excuses. Its therefore, uncharitable for any critic to descend his contracted ink or axe on such a rare gift to Nigeria in the IT or ICT sector. Pantami’s elevation to the position of Minister streams from his preceding excellent performance as NITDA boss. President Buhari knows Pantami has the knack for the job and willing to do it to the fullest to salvage Nigeria. Whatever Johnmar wrote adequately expressed itself in frustration.

Nonetheless, as Minister, Dr. Pantami has taken full control of Nigeria’s Telecoms industry and IT world; he was first to decry to Telecoms operators that they are over-billing Nigerians on data. He was frank that once Nigerians purchase data, it should not expire. He is working towards implementing the pay -as- you-go package for all GSM operators in the country. He is perfecting plans to compel Telecoms to charge Nigerians less for the services they offer.

It is very unconscionable for a self-styled critic to brand Dr. Pantami and those who work under him with such baseless allegations. These are allegations even the so-called critic has not dropped any hint about their veracity. It’s not all about anyone sleeping to wake up and some demons quarantining his senses to scribble rubbish. The critic imagined and wrote frivolous allegations against Dr. Pantami because Nigeria is in a democratic government and freedom of expression is permitted. It smacks of the abuse of the same liberty of freedom of expression.

Minister Pantami remains one of the best leadership personalities in the new team of President Buhari and a vital cog in the #NextLevel blueprint. And it is definite that detractors such as Johnmar would maliciously come after him. President Buhari selects his team carefully.

So, those trying to crucify Pantami’s efforts are both local and international enemies of Nigeria who do not want the progress of the country and have conscripted critics to act at their behest. The Minister’s stewardship is stainless and
he is poised to add more value to the development of Nigeria in the ICT and IT sector. Let the angels of darkness allow the star to shine on Africa.

Dr. Pantami has demonstrated himself as a dynamite in ideas, which are beneficially explosive. The critics should take an honourable bow out of his leadership space. Nothing written against Pantami has any modicum of conviction. It is the simple and plain truth. Johnmar is however appreciated for exercising his freedom of expression in a democracy.

Onmeje is Group Managing Director of TheNigerian News Group and wrote this piece from London.


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