We are printing money to finance the economy, says Governor Obaseki
We are not printing money to finance the economy; Governor Obaseki lied, says Finance Minister
We printed money to “help” our economy, says the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)
Wait a bit… “E choke you?” Are you confused? Did you just murmur, “what is Oluka up to?” let me guess; you tried to reconcile the title you just saw up there with the introductory paragraph, right? Well, don’t judge a book by its… rather, “don’t judge an essay by its introductory paragraph” yet. For truth be told, the writer was stuck in the courtroom and controversy of, “who lied?” before he reneged on the money printing controversy, to instead write on another controversy that is fast hitting crescendo and generating a lot of uproars. It is the case of Isa Pantami; a case of terrorism allegation.
Recently, Nigeria’s Minister of Communication and digital economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, was embroiled in a scandal allegedly linking him with terrorist groups. The media have been awash lately with allegations of the extremist fundamental views he held in the past. These, have thus gone from being under the radar to be under the purview of intense public scrutiny.
In a petition obtained by The Herald dated April 11, 2021, titled, “Terrorist Watchlist – Isa Pantami,” Sheikh Isa Pantami was quoted as saying he was always happy whenever unbelievers (supposedly non-Muslims) are killed by terrorist groups. The petition further alleged that he had openly supported and endorsed global terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. He has also praised a renowned terrorist, Osama Bin Laden, describing him as a hero and a better Muslim than himself, the petition reports. In the wake of these developments, it’s crucial to know if he has renounced or denounced these allegations. Keep this in mind for later.
Upon further investigation, it was gathered that Pantami renounces some of the controversial positions he took then. He was quoted on Daily Trust thus, “some of the comments I made some years ago that are generating controversies now were based on my understanding of the religious issues at the time…” it continued thus, “…and I have changed several positions taken in the past based on new evidence and maturity.” This quote invariably amplifies the accusation that he eulogized and was sympathetic to extremist sects like Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
In another twist, Mr. Pantami disclaimed having any link with the Boko Haram terrorist group; yet, a viral video available on Premiumtimes as at the time of writing this essay, shows him having an interaction with the founder of Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf. There were also allegations of the embattled minister being on the United States (US) terrorism watchlist; a claim which he vehemently denies and has threatened legal actions for defamation. Part of the allegation linking Pantami to the US watchlist for terrorism was premised on the fact that the once Islamic preacher has held what was termed, “dangerous views” against the US with allegiance to Al-Qaeda.
Following the weighty allegations and online frenzy they generated, hundreds of thousands of Nigerians, especially on social media, have called for the minister’s resignation. The Twitter hashtags, #PantamiResign and #PantamiResignNow have since generated over 120 tweets and 420 tweets respectively in the last hour as at the time of writing this essay. A tweet caught my attention; it read, “Until Isa Pantami gets arrested or resigns now, I’ll not link my NIN with my SIM; a disgraceful man like him doesn’t have the disposition to tell me what to do.”
And talking about linking the National Identification Number (NIN) to one’s phone number, many Nigerians have now expressed apprehension as they claim it is unnerving considering the fact the embattled Pantami is in charge of the country’s critical database, and so, will have access to their confidential information and access to Nigeria’s national data. They maintain that the fact he is educated and has premium access to our sensitive data resources makes him more dangerous than Boko Haram and his terrorist allied groups.
As part of the matters arising, Nigeria’s foremost opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has demanded the minister be sacked and investigated. Their position is hinged on growing concerns of possible compromises by the communications minister who have access to sensitive government documents and information and also access to data of high-profile persons in the public and private space.
But what implication(s) does to lift the veil on Pantami’s past have?
Pantami’s alleged sympathy statements to terrorist groups have grave consequences. First, it has the propensity to undermine the present security struggles of the country. It can go as high as sabotaging the war against terrorism and how the international community perceives Nigeria’s sincerity in the fight against terrorism.
In the light of this, harvesting mobile phone numbers of millions of Nigerians and synchronizing them into a single database to help nip crimes in the bud and better tackle terrorism, may have hit the rocks. There might be a decline in compliance with this directive as the narrative that will likely be pushed could be that the minister is working with terrorists. Tellingly, some Nigerians have begun saying they will not surrender their sensitive information to an alleged fundamentalist heading our database.
Meanwhile, a legitimate call for Pantami’s resignation which is a fallout of terrorism allegations against him can be turned into a battle of the North versus the South; a battle of Christians versus Muslims, considering how edgy Nigerians can be with issues bordering on religion and ethnicity. Sadly, intellectual discussions may never rise above such sentiments in Nigeria.
Writer’s Verdict, Recommendations, and Concluding Remarks
Following the topsy-turvy detours this saga has taken, it is a very serious issue when it comes to Nigeria’s perception and ranking on the global terrorism index. Yes, I do not expect the president, Muhammadu Buhari to vacillate in doing what is right, and what is right is that he simply sacks or resigns the minister to make way for a full-fledged investigation into the matter. This is the only way he can save his blushes before the opposition and before the global community because he appointed the minister.
The Pantami terrorism allegation also puts a big question mark on the National Assembly and the Department of State Security, (DSS) in Nigeria. Should they keep telling political appointees (by the President) to “take a bow and go” during screenings without thorough examination, without character tests, then, we might just be prepared to witness more shocking allegations and flurry of revelations.
It’s also a clarion call for religious leaders to be mindful of what they preach. A Sheikh Ali Ibrahim Pantami or Shaykh Isa Ali Pantami would not in his wildest of imaginations believe that his preaching during his cleric days will one day haunt him.
Yes, sympathizers of Pantami and their shenanigans may throw a damage control gimmick that he is a changed person since he has renounced several positions he took in the past based on new evidence and maturity; but then, they should know that to align with terrorist acts is criminal in Nigeria and elsewhere in the world. Also, if you have committed a crime, the fact of having changed your mind does not affect the reality of the crime. If there is a statutory infraction at a material time, the fact that you’ve changed your position later has nothing to do with it. Pantami of course has the right to change his position to whatever; but since he has committed a crime, he has to pay for the criminal infraction at the material time before he can give himself the leisure of having to change his mind.
Besides, there is the legal latitude; the expectation of hearing the other party. Now, in the circumstances, Pantami has already admitted guilt through his renunciation. There is nothing left to the imagination. He has made his position clear, and they are disqualifying positions. Therefore, it becomes untenable for him to be trusted with very sensitive material or any material whatsoever associated with the government. As far as many Nigerians are concerned, what ought to be is that he resigns and it should be a simple strict rule that should apply to anyone who is involved in such a level of infraction. Lifting the veil on Isa Pantami’s past should never be handled with a kid glove. It is hoped that this controversy will also lift the veil on very many secrets if true investigations are conducted.
Oluka Emmanuel Chukwuemeka is a graduate of Electronic and Computer Engineering from the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State. He is a research enthusiast and a passionate writer. He writes in from Enugu and can be reached via “firstname.lastname@example.org”