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Opinion

A Generational Shift At The NCC? -By Okoh Aihe

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, last Thursday, appointed Abraham Oshadami as the Executive Commissioner, Technical Services at the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC. When I stumbled on this bit of information taken from the statement by the Special Adviser to the President, Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, at about 2am Friday, my heart literally stopped beating, momentarily.

Also appointed is Rimini Makama who will serve as Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management.

Oshadami. I know that name as it kept ringing in my head. It wasn’t time to sleep any more. Some good things are happening in our nation in spite of the desperate times. Two pictures came to my mind that very morning: the Nigerian Communications Act 2003, establishing the NCC, and one glorious afternoon I was privileged to spend with former chairman of the NCC Board, Chief Olabiyi Durojaiye, in his house at Ikeja, Lagos. May God keep him in a good place. All alone in that house, the venerated elder told me the story of life, a tiny bit of which I will reveal here.

First, the Act. The Act which sets up the Board of Commissioners – chairman, executive vice chairman, two Executive Commissioners and five non-executive Commissioners – states their qualifications and fields of competence as follows: finance or accounting, law, consumer affairs, telecommunications engineering, information technology, engineering generally, economics and public administration. At all times, the President should ensure that the Board is properly constituted with at least six members.

Particularly the Act encourages the President to make his appointment of the Commissioners from the six geo-political zones. The Executive Commissioner , Technical Services has to be homegrown or sourced from within the Commission to serve as the curator of institutional memory and referential experience to the Board.

A little recall validates the foregoing – Mallam Abdulrahman Ado, Steven Bello, Dr Bashir Gwandu, Ubale Maska and now Abraham Oshadami. That is the way the Act was designed which makes it one of the best anywhere in the world. And it also protects because the political locusts have not been able to eat up the NCC in spite of their irritating greed.

The Act has served the industry well. Now, let’s go to that memorable meeting with the former Board chairman. I would not know the depth of politics that was eating up the system from within. But that very day he told me: don’t mind all these people running around the place claiming all kinds of achievements by the NCC. The only person who really knows something about telecommunications among the Board members is Maska who, interestingly, is a very quiet and humble person. Few months later, Senator Durojaiye was removed unceremoniously in such a manner that constituted a brazen assault on the Act.

Maska, who yielded grounds for Oshadami to step in, was homegrown, just like his successor. They epitomise the lore of the regulatory institution which often provides the compass for the regulator to steer the industry. After a troubling period of regulatory capture under the Muhammadu Buhari administration, the regulator needs a genuine reload for the challenges and excitement ahead.

The appointment of Oshadami and Makama is therefore particularly significant as the beginning of a regenerative process to bring life back to a regulator that was raped serially by political appointees, whose obsessed object of pursuit was pecuniary settlement for self and generations yet unborn. This is why the appointment of a tested technocrat and professional as stated earlier may serve as an encouraging inflection point for an industry in search of rebirth.

This is what they bring to the NCC. Oshadami is a First Class graduate of Electrical Engineering from the University of Ibadan, who has worked in the computer and telecommunications industries for 29 years. At the NCC which he joined in 2004, he has been trained over the years to play fundamental roles in Telecommunications Regulation, Information Technology, Spectrum Management, and Traffic Network Optimisation.

On behalf of the Nigerian government, Oshadami has served as the working Group Chairman on Emerging Technologies for the African Telecommunications Union, Chairman, Nigerian Delegation to the International Telecommunications Union, ITU, World, Vice Chairman, ITU Study Group 1 – Spectrum Management (2015-2019), and Vice Chairman, ITU Radio Communications Advisory Group (2023-2027).

Oshadami has enjoyed the privilege of seeing the industry from great heights and, without doubt, his experience strikes the fundamentals of telecoms regulation and global industry practice, and this could be the reason there is joy within the Commission and industry as his training has positioned him to give maximum support to the new EVC who is desirous to steer the telecommunications industry to a new height of growth.

A highly placed industry source told this writer that “Abraham Oshadami is a square peg in a square hole”.

Makama comes to the Board with her own bag of achievements having been embedded in the rich but strategic tapestries of the technology sector. A lawyer by profession, Makama has mostly worked in the technology sector, apart from the period she spent with the International Criminal Police Organisation, Interpol, as a Principal Legal Assistant in Lyon, France, between 2007 and 2009.

Named in Forbes ‘20 Youngest Power Women Under 40 in Africa, 2014, Makama describes herself in her CV as an “Experienced senior executive with a proven talent for leveraging government relationships to advance the corporate agenda. Former Government Affairs Director, MEA Emerging Markets at Microsoft specialising in public sector cloud adoption.”

In her time with Microsoft, from June 2016 to May 2023, Makama was a key driving force behind the continuing upward growth trajectory of Xbox globally; and advanced global vision and strategy leveraging international market analytics and insight for her organisation’s business. Being put in charge of Stakeholder Management, she has found a good place to exhibit her wares.

Makama is credited with launching Xbox Cloud Gaming in Brazil, Mexico, Japan and Australia, and represented Microsoft’s interests on the board of the Digital Economy Task Force of the US Chamber of Commerce, SMART Africa Alliance and the American Business Council – Technology Group.

It is safe to say that between Oshadami and Makama, the President has appointed raw talents to the Board of the NCC in what many may see as a needed generational shift at the Commission. But there is something else.

During a staff delayering process which happened at the NCC recently, some guys whispered to me that Dr Aminu Maida, the EVC, has said that he was only prepared to work with young people. My candid observation here is that those who are older than him, and there are so many of them, may have reasons to be uncomfortable at the NCC.

A little lesson here. There is what they call the Rehoboam Syndrome, the complex of a young king in the Bible who despised the advice of the elders to follow the hot blood of his age mates. His action broke his kingdom into two.

My little advice here is that Maida will need the wisdom of the elderly and the tech craziness of the young at heart to make a difference at the Commission. He will also need the maturity of senior NCC staff to manage and retrain staff that were arbitrarily employed under the last administration, although this writer has been warned that some of them are not trainable at all, as their primary qualification for being at the Commission was being wired politically. They find no joy in the work. Not even in the money. Complete misfits.

I congratulate Oshadami and Makama and welcome them to the NCC. There is joy and excitement in their new positions. But there are challenges ahead, lots of challenges because the management of the Commission before Maida nearly ruined the place. The rebuilding process will not be easy. Their initial actions will be held in suspicion by those who still feel disappointed at the disaster that nearly wrecked a revered institution. I wish them well.

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