Reading Time: 4 mins read
From the cover of Pantami: Trials and Triumphs of a Digital Economy Maestro, one could see the short blurb on the book by Professor Adeola Akande, the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners of the Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC).
According to Akande, the book is: “Much more than just being a chronicle of the vicissitudes of a respected scholar of the digital experience and faith, it is a testament to a crucial period in the life of a country.”
The NCC Board Chair’s blurb sets the tone for what readers would encounter in the revelatory contents of Yushau’s masterly choreographed piece of non-literary writing.
Pantami: Trials and Triumphs of a Digital Economy Maestro unfolds across four sizeable sections, with each having at least three thematic nodes.
In Chapter One, titled, “Personal Opinion”, the author mediates upon and gives further eludication of issues around the subject of the book, which he had earlier written on, in pieces such as “That Friendly Call from the Scholar”, “The Memorable Visit for Digital Innovation”, “Authority on Cybersecurity and Datafication”, and “Encounter with a Digital Economy Maestro.”
The second Chapter of Yushau’s book centres around “Inter-Agency Engagements” within government, of which Professor Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami), his redoubtable subject, has been a highly consequential figure in over the past half a decade. This deals with issues around rivalries among federal agencies and pertain to concerns such as: “
Resisting Multiple Telecom Taxation”, “The NIN-SIM Linkage Palaver” and “The War on Stamp Duty.”
Similarly, Chapter Three of Trials and Triumphs of a Digital Economy Maestro on “Managing External Factors”, illustrates major battles or challenges Profesor Pantami contended with during his tenure in office as the Minister. The concern the issues of the “ASUU Battle over IPPIS-UTAS Payment System”; “On FUTO Professorship” and “Witch-Hunting or Boko Haram Saga?”
“Operational Exigencies” is the organising theme on which Chapter Four of the book is anchored, as expressed over matters relating to “NigComsat and the Fear of Privatisation”; “The Galaxy and Visibility” and “Record of Accomplishments.”
Most of the issues in this book on Pantami revolve around the activities and mandates of agencies under the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy. Some of these agencies, which have conspicuous presence in Trials and Triumphs of a Digital Economy Maestro, include the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Galaxy Backbone Limited, Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited (NIGCOMSAT), National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), and the Nigeria Postal Service (NIPOST).
I found a number of the themes in the book highly interesting, intriguing and seemingly controversial. For instance, the author takes the reader though the compelling narration of how a very long ASUU strike was motivated essentially by egos and the intrasigence of the refusal to yield ground, leading to a protracted disagreement industrial action over the required payment system for Nigerian universities’ lecturers, among others.
In Pantami: Trials and Triumphs of a Digital Economy Maestro, the author chronicles the feats achieved by a highly unusual but extremely modest public official, who has served as Nigeria’s Communication and Digital Economy Minister since 2019, to include: the implementation of broadband connectivity across the country, leapfrogging the ascendant economy around the digital ecosystem, and the empowerment of citizens through the cultivation of ICT skills.
Others areas of his direct impact comprise the implementation of a Digital Identity Programme, attendant upon a National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy, the digitalising of government functions and processes, as well as deployment of the 4G spectrum across the country.
Yet, the controversy over the appointment of the Minister as a Professor of Cybersecurity at the Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO) and also the debate on the Minister’s links to Boko Haram terrorism, many years earlier, were dispassionately analysed by the author.
Yushau, equally, was very fair in his narrations, as he details the genesis of the aforementioned thorny issues and how they all ended with the Minister’s triumph over a renascent brigade of catawulers, hecklers and naysayers.
Through the frame of Pantami’s travails as a public office holder, the author observes in this book that the media are generally more inclined towards celebrating conflict and crisis, while reveling in a single story that represses, if not censors, the other crucial sides to issues, which could have tempered the public drift towards hysteria.
As one who marvels at Pantami’s erudition in both Islamic and Western education, I was appalled by the controversy that trailed his elevation to the rank of a Professor by the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO). While I am aware that he is a person with an aversion for being addressed as a “Sheikh”, in line with his deepset humility, I had expected the minister to, in like manner, cast away the pulpy endocarp of the mango to rid off the flies that were then swarming around.
Whilst the different fireworks intensified and the controversy raged, such that the Presidency was forced to take a position on the matter, Yushau Shuaib, a PR storm-chaser and warrior, rallied his his top commanders and infantry persons in his bunker in Wuye (must I say he is one of most gender-affirming executives in the industry, who gives as much opportunity to all, male and female). From there, he deployed arsenals strategically, firing from the cylinders of traditional and new media with remarkable marksmanship. At the end of the day, the author’s PR warfare paid up. The rest is now history, as we say.
Indeed, I share the sentiment expressed by Yushau that Pantami, to a great extent, triumphed over the recurrent trials, travails and tribulations that sought to grate at his rather exemplary and achievement-laden period in public office.
In conclusion, I recommend this edifying and intellectually-stimulating book to PR practitioners, students, communication experts and players in digital innovation and ICT, among others. PR managers, in particular, will find the book relevant in learning the ropes of solving seemingly knotty image crises.
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