Professor Umar Garba Danbatta’s early days and actions at the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) as the new executive vice chairman, made a statement of intent that is already shaking the local telecommunication industry and echoing internationally that NCC is replacing the scant regulation of the past with the new era of the right road to travel.
While some of our compatriots have broken faith with the quality of instruction and of instructors at our universities and therefore expecting little or nothing from them, what these two professors have done should give life to the dying embers of hope we once had in our university teachers – sure in the knowledge that a certain institution will not fail the nation whenever it is called upon to supply true change agents.
That they are coming from BUK is not surprising, because I know this is not by accident. While I know very little about its students or even the graduates, I once experienced how BUK trains its teachers.
When we were graduate students in the diaspora, without it being mentioned, there was a clear economic ladder on which were the middle income rung, the lower income rung and a rung for the unfortunate students who scrimped and scraped. This lowest rung was peopled by those you may call the garri-eating almajirai in diaspora. However, at the top were lecturers from Bayero University Kano. They were kings who were well provided for by their university, because the MacArthur fund and other funds for teacher training were properly utilized by the senior management.
The vice chancellor at that time was Professor Attahiru Jega. He knew that the challenges of research were enough to encumber his lecturers, so it was unnecessary to subject them to financial uncertainty. While other universities withhold money from their lecturers training abroad, BUK utilized a well-oiled machine to take care of its people.
I was informed that when Professor Abdurrashid succeeded Prof Jega as the VC, he continued and even expanded on Jega’s programmes to the extent that a debate was often struck to argue who between the two was better. But that is missing the point.
The point is, such efficiency has become a culture at BUK. It is a system now and therefore, beyond any one individual. Due to its diligence, I dare say that BUK has more young PhD lecturers than any university in Nigeria.
Without even knowing he came from BUK, Professor Danbatta has been my hero for a long time. Also, he is not new to NCC. Actually, it was his struggles there and his crusades against the shenanigans of the Jonathan administration that made him my hero.
You see, he is a soldier in thinking, the way every PhD should be. While leaving room for flexibility, a PhD must remain constant. Truth must be told. The right thing must be done. On matters of thought and progress, everybody is welcome; nobody is feared.
Therefore, while the previous government expected Danbatta to roll over and submit, he elected to challenge the wrong things the government did. They pushed him out. He went to court; he won.
President Buhari searched for someone with the technical competence and Danbatta’s incorruptibility credentials and deemed it wise to appoint him as the executive vice chairman of NCC.
Once he asserted his presence, the bad guys began to shit their pants. I don’t know how tall Danbatta is or how much he weighs, but immediately he came in, he went after the biggest bully on the playground– by imposing a trillion naira fine on MTN (the biggest telecom company in Nigeria) for refusing to register some of its customers and thereby being complicit in compromising our national security.
The hitherto aloof and connected (pun intended) MTN began to beg. Malam Mohammed Haruna perfectly captured the change of stride of MTN in his column in Daily Trust of February 2 2016: “MTN … behaved arrogantly in the past, especially because its main Nigerian owners seemed to believe they had the past authorities locked under their armpits.”
Now Prof. Danbatta is scattering the darkness of impunity in the sector and birthing a new era of regulation from which Nigerians can take benefit.
On January 27, 2016, Prof. Danbatta addressed an international press conference in Lagos where he rolled out his 8-point agenda. The first and sixth items interest me the most: (1) “Facilitate Broadband penetration through provision and optimization access to and use of affordable fixed and mobile broadband in Nigeria.”
(6) “Protect and empower consumers from unfair practices through availability of information and education required to make informed choices in the use of ICT services.”
I learnt that he’s vigorously pursuing the broadband penetration policy which will also empower the ICT disadvantaged states. Also last week, Daily Trust published an advert from NCC on the sale of 2.6GHz spectrum licences that will generate 44 billion naira for the government. However, when I contacted NCC to enquire how many jobs will result from the sale, they simply told me “thousands.”
But NCC should do more to improve the sixth item on the agenda: customer engagement and consumer protection. It is lucky to have legion of Nigerians on the social media. Professor Umar Danbatta should use them to drive his revolution.
Kudos to Bayero University Kano for giving us individuals like Danbatta. While we wish the professor the best in his new assignment, he should be reminded that we’re confident that NCC under him is one of the Federal Government agencies from which we expect to feel immediate positive impact.