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As a young Islamic lecturer in the 2000s, Isa Pantami made inflammatory comments in support of the extremist ideologies of terror groups such as Al-Qaeda and Taliban. Now, in his role as Nigeria’s minister of communications and digital economy, he oversees the country’s databases. Many citizens are not comfortable with that but this is the terrible contraption that the Nation-state of Nigeria has come to be.
Until recently, Pantami had come across as an internationally-acclaimed scholar who had passed through some of the world’s best universities including Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge University and Robert Gordon University of Aberdeen, Scotland, where he obtained a doctoral degree in computer information systems.
Nigeria is at the point of decision, to continue sleep-walking, to be rudderless and to continue crawling after the age of 60 or to take the decision to stand on its feet and start living like an adult with full faculties. It is time for hard questions and questioning the leadership that promised to lead but now offers incompetence, contempt and scorn to the people. How the recent scandal involving Isa Ali Pantami, minister of communications and digital economy, will end has all the qualities of concretely determining whether Nigerians are a modern civilised people or still belong to the Stone Age where crudity is venerated as progress.
Alhaji Isa Pantami has admitted canvassing extremist views which have put the lives of others in danger of harm. He passionately canvassed these views and even cried while delivering sermons urging his listeners to take violent action, to kill, to main and to destroy. He stoked the embers of religious and ethnic hatred in a multi-religious and multiethnic society. If his listeners had carried out his messages with the full venom and passion that ran through his speeches, Nigeria could have been in total disarray by now. Admittedly, we are already in disarray. A person can commit a crime himself, counsel and procure an offender to commit a crime or be an accessory after the crime to help the offender to escape or evade justice. Pantami has counselled and has been specifically accused of facilitating the killing of other Nigerians. In all these, specific allegations, evidenced by his voice and speeches, all we get in return is that he has recanted, and he no longer holds these views. He has not even bothered to offer an apology to Nigerians but is still grandstanding.
Incidentally, Alhaji Isa Pantami was screened by a Senate paid at the public expense that was supposed to have access to security reports. The Senate approved this man with extreme hatred for fellow Nigerians and made him a minister. Before the Senate screening, the President and Commander-in-Chief, who has access to all sorts of security reports, gave him a pass mark and tacit approval by nominating him to be a minister. The President must have known his antecedents and was happy with his reputation and singled him out as one of the select few to run Nigeria with his hateful ideology. As Nigerians were looking up to the President to act as the leader of all Nigerians, he quickly lined up in support of an extremist, a facilitator and an avid supporter of terrorism. The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria reduced to a mere sympathiser, apologist and supporter of terrorism! And to add salt to injury, the ‘presidency’ has thrown their ‘full support’ behind him.
What Pantami committed by the totality of his utterances and his intention was a crime because he was encouraging and procuring others to take action that would destroy lives and property and breach the peace. An individual is presumed to anticipate the natural consequences of his actions. Time does not run against the state and Pantami should still be liable to prosecution at any time the facts are investigated and established. Evidently, the Presidency has shut down that option and has compounded the felony through its impunity mindset. Pantami has been accused of specific offences. A general denial and traverse will not do. Merely saying that he has repented of the crime is not a defence known to Nigerian legal jurisprudence. Rather, it is an admission of guilt and punishment follows a confession of guilt.
Is there any honour and integrity still left in the Presidency? Is there any honour still left in Pantami? When someone is caught in broad daylight in compromised circumstances, should the person continue denying and insulting the sense of decency of others? Honour and human dignity demand Isa Pantami leave the public office and offer an unqualified apology to the society he has wronged and stop the further desecration of Nigeria’s social morality. Pantami needs to be told in clear and unmistakable terms that he was wrong yesterday, wrong today and history will not be kind to him and his extremist supporters for desecrating the morals of our society.
The former minister of finance, Kemi Adeosun, was accused of failing to perform the compulsory National Youths Service Corps. That was enough for her to resign, which is an acknowledgement of having wronged the society. She did not insult or threaten anyone thereafter. She simply moved on with her life. The Presidency did not come to her aid as soon as the news broke out. This is a clear case of double standards. So, what is good for the former finance minister is not good for Pantami? This is what happens when a branch of government – the executive and presidency – has been captured by ethnic or religious interests as against the demands of a multiethnic and religious society. Why is the Buhari Presidency so bent on putting further pressures on the major pillars that hold us together?
Buhari will be setting a very dangerous precedent if he allows Pantami to continue in office. The National Assembly would have also confirmed its rubber stamp and docile status if they take no steps to ensure that the extremist and supporter of terrorism leaves office. Nigerians did not go to the polls to elect individuals who will support evil and crime. Leaving Pantami in office at this period of grave national security crisis will confirm the fears of the average Nigerian that the presidency has full information about Nigeria’s security challenges but has decided to do nothing about it. It will go to affirm that the presidency is not bothered about the unity of Nigeria. All the noise about the unity and indivisibility of Nigeria is for uninitiated and gullible.