By Chris Uwaje
Ten years ago, July 8, 2012, CHIJIOKE SIMEON AGU logged out of the digital transformation world! A world he cherished so much and beheld to the point of death! Though the Lion died, but his accomplishments will live forever in many positive shades and colours of our memories. His vision continues to inspire us, Nigeria, and the digital world. Alas, ten years has gone so fast – speeding on at the speed of unforgettable thoughts. Remembering Chijioke, Simeon Agu is indeed the beginning of digital wisdom!
Unarguably, ten years in the digital development trajectory may rightly sum up to 100 ordinary years of common adventure. Simeon Agu’s vision navigated the Software world with amazing resilience and breathtaking achievements that transcends self. His mission was predominantly focused on beneficial yield and delivery to society – Nigeria, Africa, and the world. His was an extraordinary knowledge narrative. Some say he was the godfather of Nigeria’s Software Entrepreneurship, but we make bold to state that Chijioke Simeon Agu was the enviable enigma that breathe life to flame the fireworks of the global Software Ecosystem – out of Africa. On Friday, 8th July 2022, Nigeria, and Africa’s IT Ecosystem stood still in Lagos, to pay a deserving respect to and in the memory of Chijioke Simeon Agu – the digital lion out of Africa. And he roared.
With the blink of an eye within a time span of 10 years, there goes the Nigerian Software Comet – nay, the global Software Neptune! How do you begin to articulate a remembrance message of an ICT colossus and especially a Software knowledge enigma such as Chijioke Simeon Agu? Chijioke Simeon Agu was the co-founding President of the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON) and Founder/Chairman of Neptune Software Group. It is extremely difficult and beyond imagination to come to terms that he departed our world too soon! Chijioke has indeed become the software puzzle, vision, mission, and strategy of Nigeria’s digital ecosystem – all wrapped in one! This is because Chijioke Agu is not only synonymous to an embodiment of valuable legacies, but indeed, because the knowledge and experience he left behind. Today, those legacies continue to influence our digital life and times. And by extension his inspiration has not only become one of the most valuable commodities of the 21st century but remains a ‘social continuum’. His vision represents the international currency for Africa’s survivability. Above all, it represents the center of gravity of all human endeavors in global developmental processes and wealth creation. What a mind – this Chijioke was! A great mind beyond description. A deeper than life mind, deeply determined and highly confident – a Lion with the agility of an eagle, that settles only for excellence.
No wonder therefore he went in search of Neptune, the eighth and farthest planet from the Sun in the Solar System. While others consider information Technology as another form of excitement, Chijioke Agu sees and engages IT and software in particular as a revolution with potential digital resources for worldwide peace and economic cooperation. Most of his actions have been propelled in that direction. To understand late Chijioke Agu is the beginning of wisdom. Indeed, to fully understand the characteristics of this super creation, it becomes instructive and absolutely important to explore the characteristics of Neptune – the fourth-largest planet by diameter and the third largest by mass. Neptune was the first planet found by mathematical prediction rather than by empirical observation.
Chijioke to state the least was a rare mathematical entrepreneur. Neptune is 17 times the mass of Earth and Chijioke’s Software vision is quantum times more than any other player in the Nigerian and perhaps global IT ecosystem! On average, Neptune orbits the Sun at a distance of 30.1 AU, approximately 30 times the Earth–Sun distance. Like Chijioke’s visit to planet-Nigeria, Neptune has been visited by only one spacecraft, that is Voyager 2 which flew by the planet on August 25, 1989. That is Chijioke Simeon Agu for you – a pure knowledge thinker, treasure, and complex enigma.
A man molded for spectacular first-class feats – the first and co-founding President of the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON), First Nigerian Software Lion to establish the largest Software Workforce and first Nigeria Software comet in our planet to roar and secure a space in the global software ecosystem and first amongst digital equals. Today, the change experienced in the world, humanities and human existence has its source in innovative-knowledge acquisition. In my very close association with Chijioke I noticed that he viewed the entire universe as a spider-web of Data and Information connectivity, clustered to create the changes to accelerate global activities in digital networks. As ISPON President, Chijioke emphasized that the challenges to education, learning and its methodological principles of the new technologies are fundamental to sustainable national development, advancement, global competitiveness, creation of wealth, peace and national security.
The integration of ICT into national economics and learning is a necessary step in ensuring the acquisition of the kind of skills and competencies needed for working and living in the knowledge-centric information society (IS). Furthermore, he saw the future-of-work decades before others and advised government on the fact the importance of innovative acquisition, use and application of new knowledge Infrastructure. Agu emphasized that dynamic digital tools and media must be explored not simply in terms of traditional self-study materials but rather in terms of the right curriculum and technologies to build and drive a sustainable life-long learning process.
Chijioke was positively obsessed with Java coding language and meticulously pursued it like a lion chasing a Buffalo. Not only that, but he also saw Software in the Cloud before it was propagated by the ICT gurus of this world! For Chijioke, the word ‘Impossible’ does not exist in his human and entrepreneurial vocabulary. He was a humble and eloquent doer. Suffice to state, the IT Community agrees and spoke with one voice and verdict: that is, Engr. Chijioke Simeon Agu was the Great Lion of IT-Nigeria, whose words alone awakened an entire IT industry; whose presence inspired confidence in a fledgling industry to go forth and claim its due; a fiercely loyal friend, mentor and a competitor respected by all. He was a former Council member of Computer Professionals (Registration) Council of Nigeria (CPN) and a distinguished Fellow of Nigeria Computer Society (NCS). His roar will be missed by us all, as will his sure guidance and sagacity. His, legacies make him a resilient model for emulation by the ICT community and equally translates into the challenging milestone for the Profession and Industry. Death after all is and remains a great inspiration for the living. Our deepest condolences go to his wife, children, and entire family. Sleep well my President. Chijioke, continue to rest in deserved perfect peace. Chris Uwaje: for ISPON National Executive Council.
Significant of mention are hundreds of memorial tributes received over the years that validates his enigmatic calling! For example: Paul Nabiswa an Indian from Neptune Chennai wrote: ‘He founded a company that has given me a footing in my professional life. The determination and courage he exhibited in life can be equaled to few that have ever lived. My life is just one of the many that he affected for eternity. Thank you, Simeon, for coming into my life at a tender age of my professional life’. Other Memorable tributes to Agu the digital lion include but not limited to the following: CPN submission reads: “Late Engineer Simeon Agu was an icon, a trail blazer and an entrepreneur par excellence who devoted his life to the promotion of professionalism and best practices in the IT industry. He also worked tirelessly for the promotion of the Nigerian software industry and contributed significantly into uplifting it which made it to attract necessary attention within and outside the shores of the country. He was a Council member of Computer Professionals (Registration Council of Nigeria) and was committed to the execution of the mandate of the body through his various contributions and services to the Council at a period when only few committed professionals were around to assist the body with mental and financial resources. He will be missed greatly by the registered members of the Information Technology profession and the country in general. Submission by Chief Don Etiebet (CON): ‘This is a very shocking and sad story to hear. That Engr Simeon Agu is dead is very touching to me. As one of the original IT professionals I interacted with since the early 70s I feel lost and bewildered that a bosom friend and brother is gone. Simeon was an IT man personified who was diligent, result oriented and committed in his professional career, both as a public officer and a private businessman. We shall all miss his soft-spoken advice, smiles and contribution to the development of the ICT industry in the country. On behalf of my family, Data Sciences Nigeria Ltd and my humble self, I send our heartfelt condolences to the family, the ICT community, the numerous friends and business associates of our beloved brother, Simeon. May his soul rest in peace while we pray almighty God to grant the family the grace to withstand this great loss’. Dr. Leo Stan Ekeh, Chairman Zinox Group, quantified Chijioke Agu’s achievement as: ‘The perfect Dreamland for Nigeria’s and Africa’s digital magical statement – above and beyond all odds. A consummate business magnate. He came, he saw, innovated, and conquered all challenges presented by the IT World’. NCS/CPN Past President such as Alhaji Ladi Ogunneye, Ojinta Ojialala, Dr. Jm Obi, Prof Adenike Osofinso, Prof. Charles Uwadia and other contributed, saying: ‘Let us all celebrate the lives and times of Engr Agu. He led a good life and left his footprints in the sand of times. In particular. Prof. Adenike Osofinso emphasized: ‘When one of my PhD students was working on “Measuring Class Cohesion Metrics in Object Oriented Systems’, Engr. Simeon Agu made available to us some software artifact in his company. He put into practice ‘Town & Gown’ collaborating together in research activity. May his soul rest in perfect peace. Amen. Good night, Engr. Simeon Agu’. Dr. Jimson Olufuye – Founder of Africa ICT Alliance wrote: There is something about lions; confidence-leadership-vision, Engr Simeon Agu was an embodiment of these virtues. I truly hope we shall meet again. John 10:1-4. George Agu of Active Edge Technologies said: ‘Indeed, the Lion Roared. Dike!!!. I think the Lion still roars as I find it very difficult to believe his demise. In all my life as an employee, I worked with Simeon whom I would like to call ‘Chairman’ even as he is now gone. Looking back at his beliefs and his legacies, I think that maybe, he should have lived in a better country and better generation where innovation and hard work are well and fairly rewarded. Working with him gave me an undying conviction that nothing is impossible’.
A legend logs out…… submission by Sir Demola Aladekomo (Past-President NCS): “What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal” -Albert Pine. With these words, we remember today, Engineer Chijoke Simeon Agu; an IT professional/entrepreneur of international repute, a pioneer of the Nigerian software industry, a strong advocate for local software development in Nigeria, a loving father and a caring husband. Indeed, it is impossible to write the history of the Nigerian software industry without mentioning the contributions of Late Engineer Agu; at a time when most IT practitioners where focused on sales and repairs of computer hardware, in 1984, Engineer Agu founded Computer System Associates Nigeria Limited- a Nigerian software development company with a global focus. Today, that company has evolved into Neptune Software Group- a global IT player that provides software solutions to a number of financial institutions on several continents. Such was his vision, courage and passion for the software industry, that when the likes of Dr. Chris Uwaje, Dr. Chris Nwannenna and Mr. Pius Okigbo (Jr.) begun to discuss the idea of establishing a body to cater to the development of the Nigerian software industry, there was a need to find someone to drive the initiative, and the candidate of choice was Engineer Chijoke Simeon Agu. As the first President of the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON), his hard work and visionary leadership set the foundation for many of the achievements that the institute and the industry has made to date. During his lifetime, he also served in various capacities in several organizations including Shell Petroleum Development Company, National Electric Power Authority, and the National Advisory Committee on Statistics, to mention a few. As we mourn the loss of this great Nigerian, we are consoled by the fact that he has left a legacy, not only in the Nigeria Computer Society, Computer Professionals Registration Council of Nigeria, Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria, Neptune Software Group (to mention a few) but also in the minds of teeming number young Nigerians that have taken up software development as a career, thanks to his selfless service to the industry. He will be greatly missed. Chief Dapo Sarumi’s response was emphatic to the point: ‘I align myself with the deep sense of a great loss expressed by Ladi, Oshofisan, and you. Any of us who interacted with him from late 1977 know the industry lost an Icon. Lanre Ajayi – Past-President ATCON said: ‘The stock of iconic Information Technology professionals has just been depleted. We have lost a gem, a bridge builder, an elder statesman, a quiet performer, an industry pioneer. We shall miss his wise counsels and his depth of knowledge. Members of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria share the grief of the Institute of Software Professional of Nigeria, Nigeria Computer Society and the family of Mr Agu. May his gentle soul continue to rest in peace. Engr. Titi Omo-Ettu posted: ‘A true Iroko of our industry indeed and certainly one of the TITANs of our generation’. Thomos Waltair wrote: ‘Deeply grieved over the sudden demise of our Chairman. Please accept our heartfelt condolences. Sincerely, Neptune INDIA Team Neptune Financial Software Private Limited Olympia Technology Park Ground Floor Fortius Block Phase III No.1, Sidco Industrial Estate | Guindy, Chennai – India’. Also, Balakrishnan from Neptune Software India: ‘He is the great man with IT vision and architect of technology for business. Though he disappears, his mission carries his name forever, in IT global roadmap’.
Ernest Aghanenu – CEO Innovative Systems, posted: ‘Simeon Agu was a very quiet titan in the Information Technology profession. Not only was he a very pragmatic person with an unusual sense of humour, but he was also the leading achiever and a star in the most challenging sector of our Nigerian Information Technology industry – the Software sector – to which he contributed immensely. He brought an international face to ‘Software Nigeria’ competing effectively in the international software market with Nigerian developed software and employing a large number of local and foreign experts in an industry where most other local players have serious challenges’.
Finally, before the coming generations log out of the intimidating opportunities presented by the ever-illuminating promises of digital transformation, one of the overwhelming lessons learned from the life of Chijioke Simeon Agu is that: ‘The core-competence of Nigeria’s and Africa’s future resides in the mastery of Software and related technologies. And nowhere in the rule book has it been stated that the audacity to innovate belongs to a particular race! Indeed, the world is a stage where visionary performers are allowed to leave their footprints in the sands of time – and remembered for their tenacity and philosophy of ‘everything is possible to achieve and behold under the sun’. Chijioke Simeon Agu the king Lion roared again – ten years after!