Back to the Oil City

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If life is lived twice at a time, then I must be in the second phase. Or how do I explain the nostalgia that came with my Kano-Port Harcourt trips of 2003 and 2007, both of them for ICT-related assignments. I arrived in Port Harcourt with the Computer Aid team at about 7pm on March 16, having completed the Owerri-Port Harcourt segment of the trip with a very passionate driver who didn’t spare any words in expressing his concerns over the April elections — and I’m glad he agreed with me that it was high time Nigerians translated political frustration into practical change through the power of the ballot (participation, voting and the defence of our collective desire for change!)

The city hasn’t changed much — many streets are still named Roumu-something; traffic situation is still predictably frustrating; the sharp contrast between the city’s potentials (as an oil city) and it’s present outlook still amazes every visitor; etc. My October 10 2003 visit for the Policy Train was with Tope Soremi, but unlike Kano, I have been back here a number of times. This 2007 visit started with a meeting with NGOs at the Aldgate Congress Hotel and was spiced with the meeting with Fela Durotoye, who is doing what he does best with one of his many clients in the same hotel. FD (as he is fondly called) has been an inspiration to me and I always remember his words during our earlier discussion: “… it begins with passion, and then it grows to the level of influence, after which the next natural thing is affluence.E se egbon, your words ring so true!

In the report of my 2003 trip to Port harcourt (written by Tope Soremi), the following stand out:

We arrived Port Harcourt at about 2:30pm on Friday, October 10, 2003 … Dominic, an official of Anpez Centre gave us a brief tour of facilities and conducted us round the
administrative office(s). Together, we ran through arrangements made for the event proper the next day…. At the Policy train, twenty-one (21) participants were present with representation both from the private sector and the civil society. The event started at about 10:05am with ‘Gbenga Sesan giving a brief welcome address. Thereafter, the first presentation on ICT & Policy was made by ‘Tope Soremi.

A second presentation by ‘Gbenga Sesan on Youth @ WSIS … was to give an overview of what the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) is all about and how Nigerian youths have participated in it so far. The WSIS would hold in two phases with Phase one scheduled for December 10-12, 2003 in Geneva and Phase two would hold in Tunis, Tunisia in 2005….In a bid to identify with the objectives of the WSIS, Nigeria also held a PrepCom meeting on Lagos on Thursday, July 10, 2003 where multi-sector stakeholders were present and an analysis of the Draft documents as prepared from the Global PrepCom II was done with several inputs made. Thereafter, we had a break where participants took light refreshments and met with each other to further network and discuss ideas around regional co-operation especially for the Niger Delta.

Participants spoke about best practices where they shared experiences and gave some insight into what they had been able to use in their various projects and how things had worked for them. It was evident that most of the people present were not aware of the WSIS process neither did they know that Nigeria has an IT policy. A complete analysis of the questionnaires administered to participants will be made available at the end of the entire consultative process. The event ended at about 3:30pm and we headed for the Port Harcourt International Airport… We arrived Lagos at about 7:30pm signaling the end of the Eastern region phase; next on the train is Kano where the Northern region phase will hold on Saturday October 18, 2003 at Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD).

I’m back to the Oil city on the same mission: contributing to the connection of this section of Nigeria to ICT opportunities so that we can look beyond the resources below the ground and consider grooming a new generation of youth who can compete favourably with their peers in other parts of the world. This generation will discover the true meaning of resource control when they realise that resources above the soil (intellectual capital) hold more value in the New Economy! The truth is that most African nations at war over natural resources today will naturally move from war to warmth if we can discover this truth. natural resources are a blessing, and should not be an excuse for laziness towards developing our intellectual prowess — and should never be a basis for the many unprintable acts that exist in such regions of our continent. Work continues in Port Harcourt until Tuesday, and the rest of my week will be spent in Abuja (where work continues with the Presidential Task Force on ICT Restructuring) and Addis Ababa (where African ICT professionals will meet to discuss the African regional node of the Global Alliance for ICT and Development, GAID).

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