Pantami’s baggage

IF Nigerians ever harboured any doubts about the Muhammadu Buhari administration’s embrace of principles, thought patterns and actions that promote the emasculation of the Nigerian State, such doubts have been dissolved with the recent revelations regarding the terrible past of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami. Since the initial publication of uncorroborated news earlier in the month that the minister had been listed by the  United States government under its terrorist watchlist, a salad of horrendous revelations have emerged that not only cast a slur on the leadership recruitment and appointment processes in the country but also establish the Buhari administration’s placement of fraternal values above the wellbeing and integrity of the Nigerian state.

In quick succession, audio and written materials have since emerged revealing Pantami’s dark past as an apostle of terror and mindless violence. There is now incontrovertible evidence that Pantami was sympathetic to Al-Qaeda terrorists while delivering sermons at several worship centres in the mid to the late 2000s. If reading the 2004 speech where he expressed support for the Taliban and al-Qaeda (“Oh God, give victory to the Taliban and to al-Qaeda”) and claimed that “jihad is an obligation for every single believer, especially in Nigeria,” is disturbing, the  2006 speech where he  mourned the death of the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, saying “May God have mercy on Ahmad Fadeel al-Khalayleh”, is completely beyond pardon.

Naturally, reacting to the backlash that he had received, Pantami initially made valiant attempts to paint himself as a honourable public officer who was only being vilified for trying to tame terror and terrorist tendencies in the country via digital technology. However, confronted by a barrage of evidence, he quickly beat a retreat, claiming that the pro-terror views that he was being accused of were made in the context of youthful exuberance.  According to him, “Some of the comments I made some years ago that are generating controversies now were based on my understanding of religious issues at the time, and I have changed several positions taken in the past based on new evidence and maturity.” There is however no evidence to support the thesis that he has now repented.

Worse still, no one has the actual statistics on the number of innocent citizens who were killed in bestial rage following Pantami’s uncivilised and inciting sermons. For instance, in the wake of the unnerving stories of his extremist escapades, information surfaced regarding how, as the Chief Imam of the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU) Bauchi mosque, his preaching allegedly led to the brutal murder of a 400-level student, Sunday Achi, who was leader of the ECWA Student Ministries (ESM) on the campus. Although Pantami claims that he had “long preached peaceful coexistence amongst people of every faith and ethnicity,”the story of the murder of citizen Achi, a promising Nigerian youth cut down in his prime by religious fanatics instigated by an irresponsible religious leadership, contradicts his claim. Besides, it is confounding that a nation battling some of the most pernicious forms of terrorism would seek to deploy public office as a rehabilitation centre for persons with a history of pro-terror advocacy. In any case, the minister’s Facebook post denouncing a political activist, Deji Adeyanju, (“May Allah reject his blessings”) as the work of hackers has not helped his case. The question has been asked whether a minister of technology who could not even safeguard his own social media account from hackers could protect over 200 million Nigerians.

In the light of the revelation by a former Assistant Director with the Department of State Services, Dennis Amachree, that the agency apprised the Federal Government and the National Assembly with intelligence on Pantami’s radical and pro-Taliban views before his confirmation as a minister in 2019, it is now clear that the so-called screening by the legislature is a ruse, and that the Buhari administration sets no store by good records. If the legislature is so beholden to the executive that it gives free pass to persons of doubtful character regardless of the dangers that such persons pose to the public, then it can be surmised that both arms of government are neck-deep in a conspiracy against the Nigerian people. It is certainly no coincidence that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) did not discuss Pantami’s alleged past link with Al-Qaeda and Taliban at its last meeting. And neither is it fortuitous that a motion by the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Ndudi Elumelu, calling for the immediate resignation or sack of the minister did not fly.

Regardless of the official position, it is a fact that Nigerians no longer have confidence in Pantami’s character and ability. He must be relieved of his duties immediately while the criminal aspects of the case against him should be referred to the police for investigation. The country can no longer tolerate his baggage.

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