The Pantami Box: Terrorism, National Security and Double Standards

And therefore, we are praying to God, that based on our understanding, we pray for a day when the images on the notes in our pockets will be removed. No Muslim Cleric has ever spoken against these images as forbidden. May we be self-sufficient enough not to need this currency. It is against the Religion to put even the images of the Companions of the Prophet on the currency. May Allah help us to see that day when the Gregorian date, the Calendar of the Infidels that is on the notes is removed. And that day is coming when it will certainly be removed.

Pantami, the Box, and the Rotten Rejoinders

The statement above was issued neither by the Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, nor by an inner-circle member of Al Qaeda. It was extracted from a now infamous lecture titled Suwaye Yan Talibandelivered, which Nigeria’s Communications Minister, Isa Ali Pantami, delivered 15 years ago. 48-year-old Isa Ali Pantami was regarded as one of the most important kitchen-cabinet members of the Buhari administration, and his greatest offence was the method through which he ordered Nigerians to register for the National Identification Number, until two weeks ago. 

It started with a report by Independent newspaper which claimed, without substantial evidence, that the Minister was on the watchlist of the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Minister threatened to sue the media house and demanded a widely published apology. The report was retracted, but that was only the beginning. 

New reports emerged, this time with evidence, indicating that the Minister, on multiple occasions in the last decade, held religious views that were extremist in nature. These reports also proved that he publicly expressed support for terrorist organisations like Al Qaeda, and reportedly invited people to kill a Christian student in Bauchi; all at various periods before he became Minister. 

Expectedly, Pantami was boxed in. Calls for his sack or resignation became the centrepoint of discussion in the country. However, like programmed operations, his supporters fought back, describing the call for his sack as a war against Islam; to some, it was a war against the North. 

Neither the Minister nor the office of his principal — the Presidency — comprehensively denied these accusations; while the Minister said he is now a changed person, the Presidency said he won’t be sacked because he uttered the statements while he was in his twenties. Imagine! 

To start with, I won’t be twenty until June this year, but I know without being told that every action I take has consequences; I know that a terrorist organisation is a terrorist organisation, and I know the excuse the Presidency spinned on behalf of Pantami reeks of insensibility. 

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Nigerian Communications Commission; Nigeria Information Technology Development Agency; Nigeria Postal Services — these are just few in a long list of highly sensitive agencies directly under the control of Pantami, but Buhari and his confused aides, led by the self-contradictory Garba Sheu, want Nigerians to sleep with their two eyes closed knowing full well that the databases containing their information can be accessed by a man who, on numerous occasions, openly declared support for terrorist organisations.

I understand the argument of the nuance that underbellies the stand the Minister took in the past, but a careful look at the series of allegations that have boxed him in creates the image of a man whose views were fundamental. And again, the fact that he has failed to provide any evidence which indicates that he publicly renounced these views before the allegations started hovering over his head automatically throws any attempt to do that now under the bus.   

Then there are Agenda Pushers: Anti-Islam; Anti-North 

That religion and one’s ethnic background takes centre stage every time issues of urgent national importance are tabled before Nigerians raise questions about our Nigerianness. The President is a Muslim from the North; no one has called for his resignation on the basis of this. But because Pantami has been boxed away from any shred of integrity, it suddenly sounds sensible to think that he is facing multiple callouts because he is a Muslim from the North. Saddening. Must we always slaughter truth at the altar of ethnicity and religious diversity?

Finally, the fact that Pantami has continued to man his ministerial seat is an anomaly that raises further questions about his personality as an honourable individual. And as for Buhari, Nigerians can’t wait to see him off to Daura in 2023.

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