I have always written about my boss, the Director General, National Information Technology Development Agency NITDA, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami within official limits, his undeniable resounding achievements and its attendant glory. This time however, I will allow myself take the liberty of the celebratory mood induced by his ministerial nomination to respectfully bypass protocol and indulge in the enigma, the legend, the colossus, the visionary, the man I have come to know, understand and respect unapologetically in the almost three years I have been privileged to serve first, as a Principal Corporate Affairs Officer and later as Spokesperson and sub-head, external relations.
I have served several administrations in various capacities in my ten year sojourn as a public servant and have been privileged to cross paths with some really impactful people but I have had the most profound, life changing, intellectually challenging experiences serving under Dr Pantami. This is the technocrat per excellence who tutored me in diplomacy and tact, taught me how to navigate the murky waters of civil service with patience, educated me on how to be the best at what I do, demonstrated a level of leadership that ignited a revolution and gave me and a generation of Nigerian youths multiple opportunities to excel beyond borders. We dare to dream and reach and excel today because our paths crossed that of the man, Pantami and he challenged, nurtured, encouraged, supported and protected us till we sprouted like seedlings and flourished.
When you encounter the personality of Dr Pantami, you immediately realize you are in the presence of an extraordinary Nigerian, a sophisticated human being, a charismatic character, an intelligent man, a natural leader. The man, Pantami is not a leader because of the office he holds, NO! Leadership runs naturally in his veins and this is the undisputable truth about my boss, outgoing DG NITDA and youngest minister designate in Nigeria today.
An erudite scholar of ‘Deen and Tech, he brings both spiritual and secular experiences to bear in his work ethics. This is the one person in the entire civil service of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who as the boss, will go to any length to give justice to the oppressed. His reputation for doing what is right before God and before the law, precedes him. No one is too lowly to have his attention. A good listener and a worthy mentor devoid of ethnic or religious bigotry. A true epitome of an educated, liberated but extremely disciplined mind.
I remember vividly one of the earliest conversations I had about him with an “observer” who told me that being a very devout Christian catholic, it will be a challenge working with a man of his spiritual standing as a leader of the Islamic faith. How wrong did that ‘prophecy” turn out. Never for once in all the time I have worked with Sheikh Pantami have I ever been maligned or discriminated against on religious grounds. Never have I been uncomfortable in his presence due to my faith. Neither have I ever been discriminated against because of my ethnicity.
A risk taker with local human capacity
Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, a man I had never known or heard of, until he became my boss, one with whom I share no ethnic or religious affiliation has left an indelible mark in my life. I vividly recall that when he assumed office at NITDA in September 2016, I was away on my annual training and when I finally came face to face with him, I told my boss I had come to respectfully welcome and not congratulate him as he had been assigned the most difficult task in the economy and my congratulations will be determined by his performance at the end of his tenure. I was prepared for hell’s fury but it never came. He smiled and thanked me for my honesty and thus began a journey in pursuit of excellence. My first challenge was to come a few weeks later when against all odds and every contrary opinion my boss tasked me with the rare privilege of hosting the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari GCFR, at Nigeria’s flagship IT Conference e-Nigeria. As the chief host of that event he made up his mind to explore in-house competencies in line with his Local Content development and promotion initiative and nothing any one did or said was going to change his patriotic decision. For two days leading up to the event, my boss stooped to my humble level and tutored me personally. He gave me information, referred me to certain literature and lectured me about the theme, presidential protocol, et al. He did not leave anything to chance because he was on trial too. Putting me on that stage as the President’s hostess was a huge risk he took and we both knew what was at stake. But he trusted me not to let him down, he took a chance believing without a doubt in my potential, my ability, my desire to succeed and most of all he saw in me one who would not jeopardize an opportunity so rare. And I delivered. The following year, there were no dissenting voices and again, I played hostess to the President and better.
Builder of careers
Dr Pantami took me from a place of induced obscurity to the national and later global stages literally. After the e-Nigeria hosting feat, he sent me off to the Steve Hudson Academy in the United Kingdom where the master of public speaking and presentation personally honed my skills for two intense weeks. The Hudson Academy is not child’s play, it is a Mecca of sorts where globally renowned broadcasters who ply their trade on CNN, BBC, etc receive training and refresher courses to stay on top of the game. My dream of attending the Master’s Academy had become a reality; I had automatically joined the elite league of public speakers. Within a space of six months, my professional life which had hitherto been confined to the doldrums was given a new lease of life. A leader had stepped in and nothing was ever going to be the same again. As Director General of NITDA, Pantami symbolized true leadership – leadership that brought justice to the oppressed, leadership that recognised and respected competence over hierarchy, leadership that explored, encouraged and supported competence, leadership that challenged the intellect, leadership that became a spring board which catapulted many dreams into reality, leadership that gave a voice to the voiceless, leadership that has inspired a generation. Yes! We are indeed inspired and will never accept anything less. Dr Pantami has exemplified all the possibilities and we know impossible is an option we will never again accept. I for one have experienced an epiphany of a colossal magnitude and will never accept anything less again.
Power is given to those who are humble enough to stoop low and pick it up and I have seen this manifest fully in the humility of Dr Pantami. His humility has given a human face to leadership. This is the boss who knows every staff by name and every detail in your file. Blessed with an uncanny memory, Dr Isa does not need to hear an occurrence twice and this very outstsanding intelligence has played out at every public function where he delivers his speeches extempore complete with accurate dates.
Change came to NITDA, change will come to his next port of assignment
At the end of this week, my boss would have fully transited from being the DG NITDA to a full fledged Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the youngest and easily the most intelligent. He has set the bar at an unprecedented high at NITDA and whoever succeeds him would inherit the good fortune of a solid, well laid foundation and a team of professional, diligent and capable hands. The sector as a whole has experienced such a transformation that its expectations are no longer the usual. That is the magic of the Pantami touch. He demystified power and gave it a human feel
A master strategist and critical thinker, the greatest resource he has developed maximally is the overwhelming human capacity development strategy. He has made history as the leader who entrenched mentorship in NITDA by example. He has raised and established a mass generation of Nigerians especially the youths that can be relied upon to protect and further enhance the undeniable legacy of upholding the law.
I am indeed most fortunate to have had the rare privilege of personal mentorship from the very best in our generation and society. It is like having the best teacher in the world on full time for free! The standard of awareness, responsibility and personal sense of self worth he has instilled in the system will resist any attempt at retrogression . He proved that it can be done by doing it and that is a lesson I will never forget. IT CAN BE DONE!
Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami is my hero for all time. He revived, recreated, rejuvenated and reshaped my career. He opened up for me opportunities that challenged me to be better at what I do and continues to motivate , challenge and support me to strive for and be the best at what I do, he expanded my intellectual horizon and gave life to my career aspirations. He recognized the potential in me and developed it. He erased the uncertainties that had once burdened me and offered me the best platform to flourish.
I am forever grateful to my boss and will always be loyal. As he begins a new chapter in his career as an Honourable Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I am confident that the sector that gets him is the luckiest! He will blaze the trail, he will disrupt the norm, he will bring about tremendous positive change, he will establish a strong ethical code, he will entrench professionalism, he will empower them in all ramifications, he will teach them team work, and he will exemplify integrity and leadership. I can guarantee they are not ready for what is coming. CHANGE is coming.
Dr Pantami will always be my boss. He will always be my mentor. He will always have my highest regards and deepest respect. I wish him God’s guidance and protection, favor and wisdom on every side, success every step of the way, uplifting in every endeavour. May the stars always align in your favour.
Thank you Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami.
“A master strategist and critical thinker, the greatest resource he has developed maximally is the overwhelming human capacity development strategy. He has made history as the leader who entrenched mentorship in NITDA by example.”
“This is the technocrat per excellence who tutored me in diplomacy and tact, taught me how to navigate the murky waters of civil service with patience …”
“[He has] demonstrated a level of leadership that ignited a revolution and gave me and a generation of Nigerian youths multiple opportunities to excel beyond borders.”