Ministry of Science and Technology Under Prof. Essien: My Fear for the Future.

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Young Entrepreneurs had great hope on Governor Emmanuel before his inauguration as he promised industrious youths a facelift in their enterprises. 3 years into the administration, techies in Akwa Ibom State are now worried if the governor has no concern for the ecosystem or his commissioner for Science and Technology does not convey the developments in the ecosystem to the State Council for prompt action.

In 2014, I was working with the number one journalist in Akwa Ibom State – in my own ranking according to their offices in the union.  There were so many discussions within the press center and all tended to one conclusion “this man is quite different from all of them,” they all seemed to chorus, referring to the then SSG who was coming in as the governor of the state.  My faith in Governor Udom Emmanuel rose like the ancient Israelites singing the Psalms. All my friends that were rumoured to be cultists were either living one expensive life as councilors or handling one construction project worth millions of naira. The journalists sang the then SSG’s praises as my Boss promised us – those with skills, a life only angels can rival, I worked like a slave in a wicked master’s mill.

As the timing detected, the commissioner for Science and Technology was announced. I proceeded with a verbal proposal and the Honourable Commissioner then advised that I put into writing all I had proposed. All done, I submitted the document to the commissioner to await the call that will change the face of Information Technology with the new era of industrialization. Seeing the call neither came nor were there any changes in the ministry differentiating the past. I started querying some operations I believe was running at the detriment of the society and our collective future in the ministry. Thanks to some publishers who were faithful to the project, a change was effected in 2016.

Professor Nse Udo Essien came as a Doctor in Academics. Judging by my own international standard in academics, he has gotten the experience in working with young people to the point of attaining the ranking of being a ‘Doctor’. I celebrated the announcement while continuing to work in isolation from the ministry. But in August, the commissioner did a backbreaking favour to a startup in Uyo, and with the partnership with a successful Akwa Ibom born techpreneur, interns were groomed at the Ibom e-library under the watch of Mr. Hanson Johnson of Start Innovation Hub. I continued my support almost blindly.

In September I visited the hub and met with Mark Essien of Hotels.ng who actually anchored the entire process with his personal finances. “We have to support them,” the young entrepreneur acknowledged while holding my hand in a warm shake. At that point a thought from my youth flashed through my mind. “The voice of man is the voice of God,” I thought. This was a childhood warning whenever we tried to act strange among other kids.  At most times, if the warning came before you climbed a tree, you are most likely to fall if you refuse to heed the call. But here was Mark telling me to support an administration in the Ministry I am yet to feel its impact.

A road map for ICT Innovations in the State has been the proposal.  After going through the hubs in Uyo and interacting with community heads and co-founders, I have come to realize that we are all saying the same thing. I am not only disappointed as a skilled person but worried if the Nigerian governments which Akwa Ibom State is a part do really think anything good of the future of our State. If we all claim that the government at the center is not doing well, we should as Christian faithful strive to be honest with each other.  If we do not rise up now to build a system where our children will come back and rule in peace, it therefore means we are not doing anything with the opportunity God – The Creator, has given to us.

Read also: ICT’s Role in Achieving Sustainable Development Goals in Nigeria’s Niger Delta

Why am I referring to successful children abroad? With what we have done to our public schools, it is glaring that 80% of a decade generation has been destroyed already or is at the edge of such fate. I am a product of a public primary school, public secondary school and a public university. Having witnessed how degrees are obtained in Nigerian Universities, I had made up my mind to drop out in my 200 level.  But then, I had a family. The fear of what my family will label me forced me to stay in the campus until I collected a degree as a witness that I went to a Nigerian University. And as I returned from my youth service, I had sworn never to present such a degree as criteria for any engagement, but my skills and what I have to offer such organisation.

Today a Professor of a Nigerian University is the head of all affairs in the Ministry of Science and Technology. While we have Akwa Ibom StartUPS winning awards at National and International events, Akwa Ibom State government is yet to identify with the tech communities.  Who is to be blamed in this case? Is it because the commissioner does not understand what is happening in the ecosystem and so cannot convey his message to the governor or the governor was just deceiving young skilled people that he is enthusiastic about raising entrepreneurs?  But even if the governor intended to lie, having a fore knowledge of how young people have ‘dakkadad’ in tech – through his commissioner for Science and Technology, I trust the governor would have had a little patience to grant us audience in the tech industry.

Ministry of Science and Technology
Prof. Nse Udo Essien’s relationship with tech communities in Akwa Ibom State is gradually raising some doubts within the ecosystem as he has not been able to attract startup funding to tech startups in the State even when he shows interest in the development of young people.

Sad that most young people believe that the governor is a miser.  This assertion to me is in conflict with who the governor truly is.  Recently, the governor donated the sum of 200 million naira to a church in Uyo. 20 million naira was said to have been used to pay tithe to the pastor of the church. This to me is a good sign that such negative allegation is false about the governor. If 20 startups are given 10 million naira each including registered hubs and companies – tech.  This will go a long way to boost the economy of the tech ecosystem and it will become easier for these startup founders to raise more marketable people in the ecosystem. I can bet with everything I know, that if 5 of these startups fails, 15 will grow to become significant organisations taking out young people from the labour market. And with the reference to the above, our governor is more than capable.

Now to us core supporters, it is a crime for one to lift up a finger to the government as being part of our woes.  Recently one of my bosses has told me how a friend related with him that “if your boys are strong with the biro, let them remember I have the arms.” Here he was warning me of what I did to him. This has been witnessed many times when some of our leaders use the police to victimize whoever tries to express his fear of the way our leaders are going. Please advise me, how do I tell the Commissioner for Science and Technology that with the path we are towing presently, progress in technology innovation will be too slow and worst not attainable? How do I get to Governor Emmanuel – without being blackmailed as opposition, that we are making him proud already in the tech industry and so it is time he visits us with a fatherly blessings. Please I need your advice.

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