Expectations were high on January 19, 2001, the day scheduled for the GSM auction technically referred to as the Digital Mobile License auction. NCC officials, observers, and accredited journalists were already seated in a secured room at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja.
The bidders, five of them, MTN, Econet (now Airtel), Communications Investment Limited (CIL) now Globacom, United Network Consortium, and MSI International were in a palpable frenzy and set to outbid each other.
The lead auctioneer, Dr. Ernest Ndukwe wasted no time in kick-starting the auction process that was billed to showcase the regulatory resolve of the Commission and put Nigeria on the map of countries providing mobile phone services.
Unknown to many at the Transcorp room, Nigerians who were watching and the international community, certain officials in the president Olusegun Obasanjo’s government had laid siege to the process, in a last-ditch effort to scuttle it.
At some point in the bid process, they acted causing a temporary halt to proceedings.
Not many knew what was amiss. Some thought it was a temporary technical hitch or some other operational challenge. The matter was far from the two reasons.
A 472-page new book titled: Nigeria Drivers of Digital Prosperity: written by Aaron Ukodie, Nigeria’s pioneer ICT journalist, billed for launch on July 7, 2022, at Oriental Hotel, Lekki, has narrated the high-wired intrigue that played out at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, the venue of the auction.
The content of the book made available to reporters narrated the personalities that were involved in the many bids to scuttle the process, who eventual tried their schemes on the day of the auction to scuttle it. The book reveals what Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, at the time Vice President and Head of the Economy, late Ahmed Joda, then Chairman of the NCC and Ndukwe did to outsmart those who were bent on putting spanners on the process and put the country and the NCC to ridicule.
The book presented in five sections dealing with various aspects of the Nigerian digital revolution process and also narrated in more refreshing detail the manifold battles fought by the NCC, and some stakeholders to overcome the landmines put in the way of the regulatory process in the early years to achieve the model is to Africa.
Oftentimes, when people record history, the role of the media is relegated, even though they have played and continue to play an equally remarkable role in energising and stirring processes that worked and stakeholders to perform optimally, but the Digital Prosperity book is remarkably different.
“The ICT media in Nigeria deserve a place in a book such as this one dealing with the trajectory of the Nigeria digital evolution, because of the unique and remarkable role the IT media has played and continues to play in the sector, Aaron Ukodie, author of the book noted.
The ICT Media has been even involved in ICT advocacy spanning a period of more than 20 years and has organised numerous conferences, workshops, and exhibitions in magnitude and variety no other sector of the Nigerian media has done, Ukodie said.
The launch edition of the book comes in hard paperback printed in glossy colours and splashed with illustrating pictures.
Ndukwe will chair the event which will also be preceded by a lead talk on 4G, 5G, Broadband Connectivity and the Economy to be presented by the Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Professor Umar Danbatta.