By Mubarak Umar
“Leaders instill in their people a hope for success and a belief in themselves. Positive leaders empower people to accomplish their goals.”
This inspirational quote always reminds of true incidence that happened to me around 2017, when Sam Nda-Isaiah, publisher and chairman of LEADERSHIP Newspapers decided to promote me from Editor, to Divisional Director. The then Group Managing Director, Abdul Gombe, hinted me about the appointment, and I thought, “am I not too young for such a position?” Meeting with the Chairman cleared my nervousness by saying “the moment you told me you can’t do the job, I felt you can do it” and that was what changed my perception completely. This is just mere incidence that occurred between Boss and his Boy who have known each other within a span of five years.
Whenever I look at the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami), one thing that keeps souring in my mind is his ability to instil sense of capability and efficiency in the heart of people around him; he is truly a rare gem in the history of Nigeria’s public service journey, especially in entrusting leadership skills.
It is true that many leaders in the past have betrayed public trust bestowed in them, it is heartwarming to note that a growing set of well-educated, world- class technocrats are coming to the public domain to help change inept and purposeless leadership narrative to admirable one.
A good example of these new purposeful leaders is Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, the Director General, National Information Technology Development Agency, (NITDA, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT, USA) – trained Information Technology strategist, Abdullahi, through Minister’s mentorship and guidance also equipped himself with leadership and management courses at Harvard University (USA) and IMD Business School, Switzerland before his appointment as DG, NITDA. He is one of the growing numbers of leaders many Nigerians can be proud of.
Abdullahi knows the ICT global terrain deeply and he is very aware of the challenges, limitations and constraints of Nigeria in the digital space – a nation of over 200 million is lagging behind in the evolving world of digital economy. Against all odds that faces Nigeria’s IT sector, the NITDA DG has an indefatigable vision and passion to take the nation into the comity of nations running on digital economy.
Tough, it is a herculean task especially at time when the entire world is fighting invisible enemy – Coronavirus, but that does not stop him from looking outside the box to find out the lasting solutions of the economic challenge posed by the deadly virus.
Abdullahi has already made it to a stage where he plays pivotal roles in Nigeria’s quest to be Africa’s largest digital economy. Since ascending leadership of NITDA in August 2019, there has been a steady and impressive implementation of the Strategic Roadmap for the Development of Nigeria’s IT sector envisioned by Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Honourable Minister, Federal Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy, as well as implementation of President Muhammadu Buhari’s core vision of Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) through Information Technology.
In order for Nigeria to effectively operate a digital economy, NITDA, during the then Director General, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami) mapped out 7 – Pillar Priority Areas, which are: IT regulation, Government Digital Services Promotion, Capacity Building, Digital Job Creation, Cyber security, Local Content Promotion and Development and Digital Inclusion.
Within the first four months of Abdullahi’s tenure as new DG, he continues with an impressive array of achievements based on adherence to the 7 – Pillar Priority Area policy.
The Agency set out strategies to digitize government functions and process and it successfully created over 150 user accounts to enable Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) submit their IT projects through the agency’s IT projects clearance portal, licensed of Data Protection Compliance Organizations (DPCOs), and of Nigeria Government Enterprise Architecture/Nigeria e-Government Interoperability Framework (NGEA-Ne-GIF).
Under his watch, the Agency has developed several regulatory frameworks for information technology development, which most of them have been published both on soft copy and hard copy by the Agency.
The Agency is currently embarked on the development of two regulatory frameworks for Information Technology development in government establishment.
The project is to give rise to digital skills in educational institutions and rural areas of the country. In addition, Information Technology (IT) knowledge is integrated into the underserved areas and cities so as to develop human capital and provide universal access to knowledge with the aim of creating a knowledge-based economy.
With the strategy already in place, the Agency has succeeded in programming, developing and mapping out digital process to cushion the effect of Coronavirus since it is outbreak globally; Nigeria COVID19 Innovation Challenge, an online innovation challenge, an idea of the Minister and nurtured by strong team of tech-experts which Abdullahi was part of, was set up to meet the challenges our society is facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the isolation currently being experienced within communities right now, developers, entrepreneurs and other creative minds joined to experiment and build software solutions to help address this crisis, received overwhelming applicants in Nigeria.
The DG has constantly remained in the forefront to bridge the gap between Nigeria’s tech gurus and our current realities; this was why the Agency under the supervision of Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, introduced NITDA Academy, a virtual platform to learn digital and entrepreneurship skills at any time.
Considering the vast technology possessed by the DG, Nigerians always ask why Abdullahi has such intellectual prowess which makes him extraordinarily discharging his duties.
He was born on February 21, 1980, a graduate of Computer Science from the prestigious Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi. He attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology – MIT Sloan – where he was trained as strategist. He mastered IT operations, business transformation and solution architecture, across both private and public sectors. He attended Leadership and Management courses at Harvard University in the USA, University of Cambridge in the UK and IMD Business School in Switzerland.
As the 1st Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) in Nigeria’s Public Sector, he is also a Certified Project Manager and Solution Architect. He also has many professional certifications in Networking, Telecommunications, Service Management and Solution Design.
Abdullahi has worked for nine years (2004 – 2013) at Galaxy Backbone and held several positions such as Network Engineer, IP Network Field Engineer, Senior Network & Lead, IP Operations Team, and Senior Solution Architect & Lead, Technical Solution Design.
In 2014, Abdullahi joined Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as a Technology Architect, where he dedicated his time to developing Technology Architecture Repository that gives 360 view of the Bank’s IT Infrastructure and facilitated ease of decision making on new IT investment. He was part of the team that executed software license rationalization that has increased cost savings for the Bank in license annual subscriptions.
Abdullahi was a key resource in the development of IT standards for the apex bank, which has reduced mean time to deploy/integrate new system by over 20%. One of his major achievements as a Technology architect was the production of 7 Solution Architectures for critical IT initiatives that helped in achieving cashless society in Nigeria.
He joined NITDA in 2017 as Technical Assistant to the then Director General/CEO. He was part of the NITDA leadership who increased ICT contribution to Nigerian GDP by over 13% in Q2 2018. He also coordinated a Local Content initiative that has increased ICT local production by over 200% in 2017.
He is a member of both Nigeria Computer Society (NCS) and the British Computer Society (BCS).