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Science and technology drive in Nigeria: An innovator’s dream

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By Musa Wada

Mr Sunday Edet Akpan is a man with a dream. He dreams of a future of innovation and systematized existence for the Nigerian populace. As destiny leads, he found himself assigned to serve in the Nigerian Ministry of Science and Technology as its Permanent Secretary by the progressive and purpose driven Government of President Muhammadu Buhari.

What better luck could destiny bring his way, he has as his immediate boss, the visionary, open-minded and nationalistic Dr Ogonnaya Onu, Honourable Minister of science and technology Mr Akpan considers working with Dr Onu as a blessing and a God-given platform to pursue into reality, his childhood fantasies, and his life’s musings of a Nigeria that is as beautiful as Moscow, etc. Having previously worked with a couple of outstanding Ministers in various capacities and garnering remarkable experiences in the process, he considers his work with Dr Onu as simply inspirational. According to Mr Akpan, in addition to his genteel personality, the lightness of his spirit and his ever cheerful mien, Dr Onu, a professional of no mean repute is interesting to work with.

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His sense of understanding, empathy and encouragement create a feeling of shared vision and self-actualization in the work environment much as they motivate every of his lieutenants to do their level best in their assigned duties. Knowing Dr Onu for his principles and outlook of life, it is only natural that he and President Muhammadu Buhari would form a connection. And it can only be said that it is by pure serendipity that Mr Sunday Edet Akpan found himself sandwiched between these two men who share the passionate vision of a greater Nigeria.

Contextually, one can regard the Ministry of Science and Technology as Akpan’s point of departure from where he is engaging his dream in collaboration with the vision and mission of the Honourable Minister for the transformation of Nigeria into a technology and scientific innovation driven economy and, thereafter, into the continent as a global technology hub. For, his musings, as he calls it, surged to the fore and he is willing to do everything that needs to be done in order to prepare himself to play a part in bringing about the upliftment of Nigeria into a superior realm of technological development as a cardinal aspiration of his principal deriving from Mr President’s directives.

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His thinking, therefore, operates at two levels. He begins from the concerns of the Ministry in terms of focusing on activities and programmes that key directly into the core mandate of the Nigerian Science and Technology Ministry as well as the related needs of the individual Nigerian, and addressing the issues relating to the scientific transformation of the country. He recognized the need to create a conducive atmosphere for both to function freely in order to attain the desired goal of easy and flexible life for the society. Indeed, Nigeria is in dire need of digitization of processes which comes through technological advancement, Mr President having demonstrated appreciable political will, supporting leadership and drive based on organisational agility, engagement of skilled staff, proactive mobilization of support from technology partners, investment, culture, alignment of new digital technologies with existing IT, and learning from country experiences are required to complement the political will shown and achieve desired results. The main challenge is, indeed, to contextually manage and balance all these factors. Mr Akpan is seen utilizing his pivotal capabilities to support his principal, the Honourable Minister in providing the leadership required for the development of both the internal and external collaboration in order to co-produce ideas and strategies for digital changes. There is a distinction between pure theoreticians and pure practitioners. It is very rare to have one person possessing both attributes. Mr Akpan appears to be such a rare phenomenon for he is both a theoretician and a practitioner!

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A new dawn is unfolding at the Ministry of Science and Technology and its secondary agencies and departments. It is important therefore that visions are duly recognized and deployed in a coordinated and collaborative way that aims to optimize the entire science and technology ecosystem of Nigeria.

Musa Wada writes from Abuja and can be reached on muswady7424@gmail.com

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