Connect with us


Pantami: President Buhari-Led FG Should Not Set A Bad Precedence But Listen To Nigerians




The exposure of Pantami’s past extremist sentiments and bigoted mindset has so damaged his credibility, that it is an embarrassment that he is still left to continue to sit on the FEC.

Pantami was very explicit in the things he had said, and was very specific in the support for Al-Qaeda’s and Osama Bin laden, such views are often rooted in one’s belief system and don’t just change over the years.

In other developed climes, the likes of Pantami will be tried for terrorism.

It will be in the interest of Pantami’s integrity and dignity to quietly tender his resignation, apologize to the nation for the global embarrassment caused us and submit himself to the DSS for vetting and then undergo guidance and counseling on how to be patriotic to the nation.

If we can kick out Adesoun Kemi as a Minister through ‘Public Outcry’, then Isa Ali Pantami must follow same, unless the maxim “the voice of the people is the voice of God” has no place in Nigeria.

If it’s true the Federal Government went ahead to appoint Pantami as a Minister despite the alleged fact that the DSS warned the Federal Government against it, then there is more to the Pantami incident than the Nigerian populace is aware of.

When recordings/texts of Isa Patanmi, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, expressing what is best described as ‘extremist views’ began circulating on social media recently, many well-meaning and concerned Nigerians like us, were greatly troubled and worried that the man put in charge of the vital bio-data information of the entire Nigerian populace could be holding such extreme views in support of the activities of terrorist organizations. And as expected, this has led to the inundated calls across boards for his resignation or sacking by President Muhammadu Buhari.

As Nigerians waited for a reaction from the Federal Government, it surprisingly came via a Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, who speaks for President Buhari, and said the administration “stands behind Minister Pantami.” According to Garba Shehu in his statement, the Minister was being supposedly “subject(ed) to a ‘cancel campaign'”.

“The Minister has, rightly, apologized for what he said in the early 2000s. The views were absolutely unacceptable then and would be equally unacceptable today, where he repeat them… In the 2000s, the Minister was a man in his twenties; next year he will be 50. Time has passed, and people and their opinions – often rightly – change”, the statement said. Pantami himself had attempted to renounce his past views recently, telling a local newspaper that some of the comments were based on his “understanding of religious issues at the time” and that he has changed several positions “based on new evidence and maturity”.

However, that has not stopped calls for his sacking or resignation, with many using the #PantamiMustGo hashtag on Twitter to express concerns over his access to sensitive data as the minister of communications. And as expected, the Minister has also been defended under the #PantamiMustStay hashtag, as the issue has exposed the religious and ethnic lines in this multi-ethnic country.

To remind us of what exactly did Mr. Pantami say, there has actually been a steady stream of new evidence of the views he held in the past and the latest are documents that appeared online. The documents are purportedly from a 2010 meeting he chaired at the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), a top Islamic body, where it was agreed that Christians should be prohibited from building churches in city centers across northern Nigeria, which has a majority Muslim population, although millions of Christians also live there.

Audio and video recordings have also emerged of Mr. Pantami’s fiery prayers and sermons at different stages of his career as an Imam. In one sermon, after he had been a deadly religious conflict and tensions were still high in Shendam, Plateau State, he volunteered to lead Muslims back to their homes, saying that he was willing to die in the process. In a 2006 speech, Mr. Pantami publicly offered his condolences after the death of Al-Qaeda’s leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. In one audio clip, where he talks about the Nigerian army’s war against Boko Haram, he appears to be on the verge of tears as he passionately described the militants as “our Muslim brothers” who did not deserve to be “killed like pigs.” In another audio recording, he declares he is always happy when infidels (referring to Christians and non-Muslims) are massacred. What we should also take from all of this is the fact that he has not denied the authenticity of these texts, audio, and video clips.

Now we would understand why many Nigerians are worried about Pantami’s continuous stay as head of the communications ministry in Nigeria because, in that position, he oversees agencies responsible for databases of Nigerians and expatriates in the country. Some of us have expressed concerns that a minister with such past sympathy for Islamist militant groups has access to such critical data. Mr. Pantami also oversees the web infrastructure for most government ministries and agencies, armed forces, intelligence agencies, and Nigeria’s satellite infrastructure that provides communications and navigation support for the air force. Though, the backlash he is facing seems to be largely on social media. Offline, ordinary Nigerians are less concerned about the minister’s past views, and as expected, he has received support from Muslim groups in the north, many of whom do not share his past extreme views but say his apology is proof he is a changed man.

ALSO READ: As Bandits Kill Two More Kaduna Varsity Students, Parents Open Gofundme Account To Raise N800M Ransom

In my own opinion, and I believe this is the opinion shared by many well-meaning Nigerians across boards, is that President Muhammadu Buhari should do the needful by heeding to the overwhelming voices and calls of Nigerians, and either sack Pantami, or have him resigned immediately as Minister of Communications and Digital Economy without any further delay. Since Pantami himself, has not seen the need to take the honourable path of resigning from that office, like we see being done in other developed countries where Government officials are facing one public issue or the other, the President should promptly have him sacked. In fact, in other climes, I am certain Pantami will be tried for terrorism. This is because, considering the overwhelming insecurity situation across the country, on account of the criminal activities of Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen, and Bandits, Nigerians will not be comfortable to have a Minister with such views, whether past or not, heading such a sensitive Ministry in the country.

Besides, many Nigerians are questioning the sincerity of Pantami’s supposedly changed views and maturity, even at his current age. Critics have rightly pointed out that the minister was already in his 30s when most of his controversial statements were made and so, was fully aware of the ramifications. In trying to show that Pantami has not changed as they are trying to make us believe, a Freelance Journalist, David Hundeyin, recently noted in a Channels Television program that: “If you go to the Twitter handle of the Ministry of information and digital economy, look for any of the videos, probably from last month, Youtube videos linked to the handle, where there was a flag-off Program for a Skills and Acquisition program for 600 Nigerian youths/ Look at the Youtube channel used in its Live Stream events. It was not the Ministry’s Youtube channel. Neither is it a channel belonging to a mainstream TV station like Channels Television, NTA, etc. It’s a Youtube Channel that belongs to an Islamic Tv station called Al-Afrikiy, an Islamic religious content Tv station. This is the Tv station which the said Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, contracted to ‘exclusively’ Livestream, not one, but several of its events of the Federal Government of Nigeria. The question is, why is that so?

A related post online recently highlighted some alleged plans of the Minister, which should trouble any well-meaning Nigerian. It read: “Did I not tell you that Communications Minister; Pantami has other plans beyond NIN (National Identification Number) registration? 1 – He wants to use NIN to replace BVN because BVN did not capture Chadians, Bukinabes, Malians, Senegalese and Sudanese. 2 – He is fighting to integrate NIN with INEC to violate our voters’ register. 3 – He is trying to link NIN with the National Population Census enumeration database to capture foreign Fulani’s into Nigeria’s census figures. National Assembly must rise to the shenanigans of this fraudulent Minister of Communication. Southern Senators should sit up and query this man’s devilish moves to change Nigeria’s demography. A stitch in time saves nine.” Regardless of whether these are true allegations or not, it important for the Presidency to save Nigerians all that trouble of waiting to find out, by simply sacking Minister Pantami with immediate effect.

Some Nigerians while expressing their opinions on how genuine is Pantami’s purported repentance, also noted that: “If he was truly penitent, why did he initially seek to bluff his way through by issuing threats of court action against mediums that published the allegations against him? But then, there is also the strong possibility that the Minister, confronted with undeniable evidence of his indefensible past utterances, is now sounding apologetic to keep his job in the face of mounting public pressure. The exposure of Pantami’s past extremist sentiments and bigoted mindset has so damaged his credibility that it is an embarrassment that he still continues to sit on the Federal Executive Council (FEC).”

“Pantami’s blaming critics of the ongoing National Identification Number (NIN) being undertaken by his ministry as being responsible for his current travails is childish and diversionary. He (Pantami) must take the path of honour and resign now. President Muhammadu Buhari ought to give him that option or fire him forthwith in the national interest.”

“For the record, I totally condemn Minister Pantami’s past support for Al Qaeda. His delight at the killing of non-Muslims was personally hurtful. I hear he has sought forgiveness but actions have consequences. Moses was forgiven but was never allowed to get to the promised land. A Culture that refuses to see extremism as a problem is a culture heading for extinction. They know Pantami is an extremist, they just don’t see it as a problem.”

In further justifying why Pantami has to go, another post online noted that: ‘The Presidency forced former CJN Justice Walter Onnoghen out of the office and replaced him with Justice Ibrahim Tanko because of what Justice Onnoghen did in the past. Kemi Adeosun resigned as Minister of Finance because of what she did in the past and the Presidency did not beg Nigerians to forget her past but replaced her with Hajia Zainab Ahmed with a speed of light. The same Presidency is now begging/asking Nigerians to forget what Isa Patanmi, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy who supported terrorists that have killed thousands of people, did in the past. The Presidency said he did that in his 20’s but now he is 50. Did Kemi Adeosun forge her NYSC certificate in her 50’s? Do Crimes now have expiry date under Buhari’s government?”

The bottom line is that Pantami was very explicit in the things he had said. He was very specific in the support for Al-Qaeda’s and Osama Bin laden. To now have the instrumentality of the Federal Government of Nigeria coming out to talk about how he has repented, the same way they go about saying they are rehabilitating terrorists, should be of something to worry us a nation. It is the impunity that the Pantami incident represents that should alarm all of us. They no longer hide the fact that some people are above the law, and they are above institutional conventions and standards. It is no longer hidden. It is now in everyone’s face, as reiterated by Dele Farotimi.

According to Fejiro Oliver, For Pantami: “he needs no push to resign from such hallowed position. It will be in the interest of his integrity and dignity to quietly tender his resignation, apologize to the nation for the global embarrassment caused us, and submit himself to the State Security Service (SSS) for vetting and then undergo guidance and counseling on how to be patriotic to the nation. For President Buhari, I mean for heaven’s sake, what is so special about Pantami that he cannot be sacked by the President? Let us concede that Buhari has the prerogative to sack a minister once he has been confirmed by the Senate. What then is special in Pantami that he must head such a sensitive position, considering his past? The statement by the presidency is the most reckless, careless, and inconsiderate. Every paragraph reeks of arrogance that tells us to go to hell. Crime has no expiry date and will never have and prosecution must take place no matter how long it takes unless there is immediate state pardon. In the case of Pantami, the presidency is wrong to tell us that “The Minister has, rightly apologised for what he said in the early 2000s.

“Nigerians have accepted his apology but cannot allow such a man access to their digital and personal life. The President should know that the apology is only a matter of circumstance and not because he meant it. Making excuse for what Pantami did in his early 30s is giving approval for all Nigerians to henceforth fan the embers of hate speech, terrorism, and support for every evil, knowing that they will be forgiven a year to their 50th birthday.” This implies that Shekau (the head of the Boko Haram sect) can come back in ten years’ time to apologize for his crimes because he was young when he committed them and he would be forgiven and allowed to walk free.

What I also find quite disturbing is the fact that, according to reports, Dennis Amachree, former DSS Assistant Director, said the DSS knew about Pantami’s extremist views and indeed told the Federal Government about it. In fact, expressing concerns about him. That means, the Federal Government ignored the DSS concerns about Pantami and still appointed him as Minister. If that is true, then there is indeed a problem somewhere. If it’s true the Federal Government went ahead to appoint Pantami as a Minister despite the fact the DSS warned the Federal Government against it, it speaks volumes because Nigeria has a lot of incompetent leaders in power. Favoritism, tribalism and religious discrimination are why Nigeria isn’t thriving. It is a Pity!

Though, a member of the House of Representatives, Yusuf Gagdi, has said the Department of State Services (DSS) didn’t send any report to the National Assembly on the past extremist views of the embattled Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, during his ministerial screening in 2019. He also blamed Nigerians who knew the past pro-Taliban views of Pantami, but yet didn’t speak up during his ministerial screening then. But the question is, now that these revelations have come to light in the public domain, what is the Federal Lawmakers going to do about it?

The truth is that Pantami’s continuous stay in office has emboldened extremists. President Buhari’s government has shown a willingness to support voices that promote extremist ideologies and these voices are growing louder and more daring on social media. We are sinking into unknown depths; and the government is flaming this fire that will one day consume all of Nigeria. If we can kick out Adesoun Kemi as a minister through public outcry, then Isa Ali Pantami must follow the same, unless the maxim “the voice of the people is the voice of God” has no place in Nigeria.

Zik Gbemre
April 27, 2021


Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Trending News