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Oja Village – metaphor for our CommTech Industry

May 7, 2012

Now you know it that I am one of those who believe that we now have an industry called CommTech (for Communication Technology), a nomenclature borrowed from those who authored the creation of that Ministry last year.  They went about it the other way round by creating a Minister who eventually told us what her Ministry was and what its mandate were.

But that is not the issue here.

In recent history a few incidents, one after the other, set everybody talking. First it was a harmonised ICT Policy Draft, then an Oronsaye Study Report and lately a NigComSat Bill (Bill keh?).

In my assessment, the Oronsaye Report must have given the greatest cause for alarm for those who choose to worry over its recommendation on NITDA and Galaxy Backbone Ltd (or Plc?).

Regrettably up till this time I have not stumbled on a copy of the Oronsaye Report, so I am unable to comment on it.

But I am told it says something that reminds me of what Mr Allison Ayida, a former Head of Civil Service (who, I think, also doubled as Secretary to Federal Government) told us what the true function of the civil servant is. Mr Ayida said ‘if a government goes out to make a fool of itself, it is the duty of the civil servant to make it the biggest fool of itself’.

Of course Mr Steve Oronsaye, today’s busy Consultant of Federal Government was until recently the Chief Civil Servant of the country. I also understand that he recommended that EFCC and ICPC should be ——– (please fill in the gap). That fellow called Oronsaye is the Civil Servant that Mr Ayida told us to give a thumb up to.

I choose this morning to talk about the latest of the three issues mentioned earlier and not about Mr Oronsaye and his report.

NigComSat Ltd, we understood, is a limited liability Company floated by Federal Government sometime somewhere in between General Olusegun Obasanjo’s first term of his second time. So the first question would be how come a Limited Liability Company (or a publicly quoted company, if it is a Plc), suddenly becomes a subject matter for an Act of Parliament?

I read in the PUNCH that a Chairman of one of the several Committees of the National Assembly which oversee our industry has denied all that some people told us they wrote in a Bill his Committee promoted.

If it is a way to avoid those of us who consistently argue against government venturing into establishing private companies, I beg to say on behalf of our constituency that the method of Hon Gusau is not yet ingenious.

Our argument is that using NITEL as our case-study, it is not good, in fact no longer fashionable, for government to toy with involving itself in participating as a player in a liberalised industry where it should rightly be the regulator. I thought that is very simple to understand.

Besides, we argue that civil servants are never business managers. They do not, and need not be involved in making Business Plans. Theirs is to make expenditure plans and for now we should make our civil servants develop skills in keeping to expenditure plans. I understand Chairman Gusau said they set out to copy what other developed countries were doing. Honourable sir, no investor will deal with civil servants when it comes to doing business together except where that business is to loot government treasury.

In the past two years, I had the privilege of making comments paragraph by paragraph on two documents which I was told were draft bills. On each occasion, the National assembly somehow stopped further discussion on the drafts shortly after sending my comments to those who asked for it. Since then I became no longer very anxious about reading any bills that are made in the Assembly for our industry.

There is this Segun Olusola’s ‘Village Headmaster’ which sets around an Oja Village, a truly rural community which boasts of a Headmaster, one or two cantankerous chiefs and one gossip called Amebo, all raw comedians. That is beside the Village Chief himself, a roadside doctor and one or two jokers who gave themselves other names. An issue just needs to be picked up by Amebo and using her house to house, mouth to ear media infrastructure, she regularly sets the village on fire and by the time it is all over, everybody realises that there had been no issue in the first place. In fact if nobody has said anything, the matter would have just died naturally.

Is it Parliamentary Bills that turn people into marketers?

It is poverty that ravages Oja village. It is corruption that ravages bigger villages.


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