Nigeria’s Advancing Communications Technology And Lessons For Government – Japheth J, Omojuwa

People talk about how this government has lost the media war; they often do not tell us why this is the case. It has always been the job of the media to be critical of the government of the day by default. What the government does in reaction often determines whether the criticisms are sustained or replaced with a certain level of balance.

The criticisms at this government have been sustained because certain influential people in this administration have since deemed certain people in the media persona non-grata. They call them “the opposition” and make no effort to engage them even on government’s successes. In contrast, President Obama, again, recently engaged not just social media actors this time, but YouTube influencers. Some of the people invited to the White House had published very critical, even abusive videos of the president. But at the end of the day, they were all taking coffee with the president at the White House.

It helped that the Ministry of Communication Technology as led by Dr. Omobola Johnson opened itself to the public, including people like myself who are often critical of the government. It is the right of the citizens to do more; the onus is on the government to always look to do better. The ministry has been one of the shining lights of this administration and one could see a bit of the “why” at a stakeholders forum organised in Lagos on Thursday the 29th of January. The ministry didn’t reel off achievements in the conventional ‘look-at-the-wonders-we-have-done-yet-you-refuse-to-worship-us’ way we have come to get used to. This was more about ‘where-we-used-to-be-where-we-are-now-where-we-intend-to-be-and-how-you-can-help-us-get-there’ way.

I was genuinely impressed and I kept wondering about other possibly great things this administration has been involved with but would hardly see the light of day simply because those who are in the position to help sell these successes have been blacked out as ‘enemies of our government.’ If president Jonathan returns, the ability of those around him to earn him enemies – both real and imagined – should be one area of his strategy and communication he must look into. The media will never be less critical and I do know that people like myself won’t be.

Support for Nigerian Start-Ups through the ministry has been unprecedented. Those in the ecosystem agree without a doubt that the Communication Technology ministry has been of help in creating an enabling environment for innovation to thrive. The minister has helped players in the system attract local and international funding. From being 5.46% of GDP in 2011, it grew to 9.58% of GDP (Q3 2014) and it is set to cross the 10% mark this year. That is extraordinary for an economic sector that hardly existed in the year 2000.

Today, Nigeria has a national ICT Policy, a national broadband strategy and a local content guideline. States like Lagos, Cross River, Ondo and the FCT Abuja are Smart. Anambra, Gombe, Osun and Delta will become Smart States soon. Companies like Jumia, Paga, Konga, i-Sec and Wakanow did not exist in 2011. The cost of internet access has dropped markedly. The cost of broadband subscription for a 3Gb package/year dropped from N93,000 in 2011 to N55,000 in 2014. Multiply the effect with the fact that our Internet penetration moved from 29% of the total population in 2011 to 52% in 2014. Nigerian women and girls have programmes intentionally and strategically developed for them. It is impossible not to be excited by the prospects of communications technology in Nigeria.

These are real numbers, these are real achievements and we know about them and are willing to celebrate them because those who executed these successes are not the, “Those who are with you are more than those who are against you” gang in government. These things are not personal and no smart influencer or columnist has a fixed mindset about a government. It is the responsibility of government to reach out.

Japheth J Omojuwa is the Editor of and this piece was published in the paper edition of LEADERSHIP Newspapers

photo: Dr. Omobola Johnson, Nigeria’s Minister of Communication Technology