Before he became a Ministerial nominee, Bosun Tijani was a quiet unassuming technology whizkid running the race on his chosen lane.
Yes, those in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry knew of him as a young man with guts and clinically daring. Some even saw him as a competitor. And with a number of physical achievements especially through the Co-Creation Hub (CcHub) which he co-founded and the modern technology cluster they built in Yaba, which is believed to be the largest in Africa, and many others, Tijani had scored many firsts in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa including Kenya, Rwanda and Namibia.
He has invested his time, expertise, and money in projects that have transformed not only lives but systems in Nigeria and the African nations.
On his invitation, three major global technology czars visited Nigeria at different times to witness the amazing things Tijani and his team were doing especially to empower millions of young people in Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, and Namibia with technology.
Mark Zuckerberg, Meta boss and owner of Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and lately, Threads visited Nigeria in 2016, while Twitter co-founder, Jack Dorsey came in 2019 and Bill Gates was here in 2023 all on the invitation of Tijani because of the confidence they had in him.
As a Minister, he is expected to do more by attracting many of such big global players who will not only bring in their money but also their expertise to grow the ICT sector to the advantage of Nigerians.
Such visits were expected to be at the instance of government but no, Tijani pulled these through by his prowess as a private player in the technology space.
And so when the President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu named him Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy Minister, Industry players in the ICT sector and knowledgeable Nigerians home and abroad described him as truly a round peg with an appropriate size.
And because of his pedigree, so much is expected of him and like he said last week shortly after he was named, he is ready to work with all stakeholders to make a difference in the assignment given to him by Mister President.
He said this again on Monday when he held his maiden meeting with agencies under his Ministry.
“We are going to be partnering with the best organisations and institutions in the world” he began.
He was not blind to the realities on ground as he said he was to ask questions about what has been done and take things up from there.
He admitted that there are challenges and one of such “challenges now is how to connect people to opportunities so that they can progress.”
And “this ministry is critical to unlocking opportunities for our people regardless of where they are.”
Tijani is not only young and well-educated, but he is also reasonably endowed and patriotic, and these are the virtues he brings to the job that should ultimately add value to the country. And as he goes to work to revive an industry that was heading for the precipice, Nigerians are optimistic that he will do well.
As a private sector man, he witnessed some of those policies in the immediate past administration that gave nightmares to investors, and having been a proven industry player himself, he is expected to provide leadership by leading from the front, unlike the immediate past minister who likened himself to a god.
Again unlike the immediate past minister who never invested a pin anywhere, Tijani has been an investor many times over and he feels the pains of what bad government policies could do to investors and their investments. He witnessed some of those policies in the immediate past administration of the telecommunications sector and so he should be guided accordingly.
Nigerians have hopes, especially about the multiplier effect of an industry that was seen as one of the government,s cash cows after oil and gas.
And with this appointment, bad policies that led to industry somersault when operators and customers were at sea and not sure of the direction of things will be reversed.
The industry experienced some form of haemorhage for the better part of five years, but all that is likely to change with Tijani,s appointment.
But he should not be carried away with applause as Nigerians are not likely to look the other way if things go bad again. He should be wary too of fair-weather friends.
In this connection and in what looked like a shopping list, the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) sent an informal agenda to the Minister welcoming his appointment as the new Minister of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy, and congratulated him on this appointment.
The Association feels encouraged that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu appointed a person with an ICT background to the post and the fact that he is relatively young shows that a dynamic approach to the industry is being targeted.
They are happy for the addition of “Innovation” to the Ministry saying this is gratifying and a further pointer to the direction the current government intends to take in the communications industry and “in consideration of the promises of a million digital jobs, a lot of innovation is truly required to achieve this.”
The Minister is aware that there are fundamental challenges that have continued to plague the industry, especially at the physical layer – infrastructure, which if unresolved will not allow success in the application layers where most of the digital jobs reside.
“ There is a great need to develop, secure and enable further expansion of communication infrastructure in the country, and with a solid Infrastructure Base, Innovative Digital Services which can take advantage of the growing Digital Economy can be further developed and expanded to all areas of the country, especially the unserved and underserved areas.”
ATCON however laments that issues ranging from funding, security and permits still bedevil the industry even though several strides have been made especially by the regulating agencies including the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Nigerian Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), and the Nigerian Data Protection Commission (NDPC).
The Association wants the new Minister to focus on the Creation of a special FX window for operators in the industry and a push for an Act for Critical National Infrastructure.
The issue of agreement on Right of Way has remained unresolved and it will be proper to revisit this.
ATCON is even more worried about Multiple Taxation / Regulations and believes that the Minister will take a critical look at this and see how it could be addressed once and for all.
The industry players believe that the success of the new Minister is success for all hence they propose to constitute an Industry Think Tank “to help the Minister to fast track growth and development in the sector.”
One particular player reasons that though the Minister is an expert in his own right “he still needs the expertise of industry Associations to embark on projects and programmes that would speed up the growth, efficiency, and effectiveness of the Nigerian Telecom and ICT sector .”
ATCON is extending its hands of fellowship and is ready to work with the Minister in order to make his tenure impactful.
In general terms, the Minister may revisit and review a number of misnomers in the industry especially drawing the lines between who the regulator is and which agency is empowered as a development agency, in that regard thereby erasing the confusion that was planted in the industry at the twilight of the immediate past administration.
Tijani has been around long enough to have firsthand experience/ knowledge and with his ability to harness ideas by industry practitioners and be careful with public service knee-jerk exposure if he wants to make a difference.
In 2010, Tijani co-founded CcHUB, a technology innovation centre dedicated to accelerating the application of social capital and technological innovation for economic prosperity.
In the early years, he led a number of social technology projects including Lagos Innovation Hotspots and the i-HQ concept (the umbrella initiative for Yaba – the fastest-growing tech cluster in Africa), which involved working with MainOne Cable and the Lagos State Government to lay fibre optic cables in the Yaba area of Lagos accelerating the growth of the area into becoming the home of technology startups in Nigeria.
Under his leadership, CcHUB has driven the growth of social innovation and influenced businesses and initiatives in different sectors including – environment (Wecyclers), fiscal transparency (BudgIT), e-commerce (Traclist), Healthcare (LifeBank), education (re-learn), wellness (Truppr) and transportation (GoMyWay), civic activity (GoVOTE), online and cybersecurity (SafeOnline) among others.
He has also driven the growth of social innovation using technology, producing initiatives and businesses that have influenced; the environment, fiscal transparency, e-commerce, Healthcare, education, wellness, and transportation.
His later work with CcHUB focussed on the company’s expansion into other parts of Africa and positioning the business as a vital catalyst for the African tech ecosystem promoting collaboration, knowledge sharing, and the development of groundbreaking solutions to local and global challenges. This has been done in collaboration with a number of global partners and founders who have backed his work extensively.