How Did Isa Pantami Get There?

The cost of keeping Pantami in power outstrips the benefits of his qualifications, especially because the data of Nigerians and the government are now entrusted in the hands of a bigot who someone put there on the turtle post.

Communications and Digital Economy Minister, Isa Ali Pantami, / Photo credit: Wikipedia
Communications and Digital Economy Minister, Isa Ali Pantami, / Photo credit: Wikipedia

Former US President, Bill Clinton, is credited with the statement that, “if you see a turtle sitting on top of a fence post, it didn’t get there by accident.”

Clinton and many American leaders have been forced to deal with the recurrent Post Turtle, an old joke depicting someone who got to an elevated position by being propped.

Aso Rock faces questions about its post turtle, and there are no sensible answers from Abuja about how the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Sheikh Isa Ali Pantami, got there.

Rather, a stream of incoherent and incorrect messages is flooding the channel, when all we ask is, how did Isa Pantami even get there? Who did Pantami hypnotize to wriggle his way to power?

The Minister has such credentials that would have qualified him for senior detention fellowship at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, a United States military prison in Cuba where 780 Al Qaeda and Taliban loyalists were transferred after the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City.

In the characteristic Nigerian emotional and partisan response, some are obsessed and energised by the Presidency’s support for the Communications Minister, who can only be presented as having the requisite paper qualifications in technology from a British university.

Some have even compared Pantami to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who was a pastor before his ascendancy to Aso Rock.

It is both disingenuous and cheap to compare any current public official to this subject.

No one has such a well of intolerant and contemptible speeches as Pantami has accumulated over the years.

His long history of hateful speech and religious fundamentalism includes some that are out of the mainstream and border on outright criminal, seditious or inciteful

All that anyone needs to do is put the speeches together to navigate the heart of one of the most powerful members of President Mohammadu Buhari’s cabinet.

Nigeria has an agent of intolerance in power, period.

His long history of hateful speech and religious fundamentalism includes some that are out of the mainstream and border on outright criminal, seditious or inciteful.

The records which speak against him are not applicable to everyday Nigerian or Muslim, the demography which anyone reading this essay is familiar with.

Nigerians don’t hate like this. Nigerians don’t fight like this. Nigerians are not this spiteful.

Many of us, including this author, have people of different religions in our familiar groups. Pantami was just hateful and unNigerian!

There are hatemongers on the fringe who plan to bring the house down because they can’t have their way. Pantami is one of them.

With such records, Nigerians are absolutely right to ask how someone with such reprehensible credentials got into the Nigerian public service in the first place.

Aso Rock’s has been trying to tell us totally irrelevant stories, dwelling on Pantami’s job performance, university degrees, his age at the time of transgression and other relational circumstances, none of which is germane to the issue.

It doesn’t matter how good a person is at teaching, when he is a child molester.

We have seen examples even in the ivory tower, where lecturers were summarily dismissed for being morally unfit to remain in a nurturing academic environment.

What does it matter how good a public official is at doing the job when he wants some people killed for what they believe?

If you shouldn’t have been there, you should be ejected instantly, upon exposure.

The Pantami case is about symbolism; and about decency, morality, propriety and good governance – strange words to the hears of this administration most of the time.

Any appearance of incorrectness, wrongdoing and impropriety should be immediately dealt with in a democracy.

This is the point that the Buhari administration, in its hasty defence of the Communications Minister, has missed, and as its downgrades further into a government that we should never have experienced.

Some things should never happen.

You should not find fish walking on land; if it happens it is an anomaly. Monkeys do not live on glaciers and penguins don’t stroll in the tropical rain forest.

Aso Rock’s has been trying to tell us totally irrelevant stories, dwelling on Pantami’s job performance, university degrees, his age at the time of transgression and other relational circumstances, none of which is germane to the issue

In a sane secular society, where things are normal, Isa Pantami should never have been in corridors of power. He should be in Afghanistan or the Sambisa forest.

If this is the kind of man that the Buhari administration tells us it stands behind, what hope is there for Nigeria?

By failing to remove him, the administration tells the nation it supports everything that the Sheikh stands for.

If Pantami stood for terrorism, the Buhari administration stood for terrorism when Pantami was appointed.

If Pantami had affection for Boko Haram, the Buhari administration was not against Boko Haram when Pantami was appointed.

If Pantami idolized Osama bin Laden, the Buhari administration believed in Osama bin Laden when Pantami was appointed.

If Pantami advocated mayhem in Shendam, Plateau State, the Buhari administration stood behind religious disturbance when Pantami was appointed.

If Pantami relished the massacre of people of people of other faith, the Buhari administration worked against the secularity of our federal arrangement when Pantami was appointed.

If Pantami stood against the freedom of religion in all parts of Nigeria, the Buhari never believed all religions had equal rights in all parts of the country when Pantami was appointed.

Every fact points to the fact that nothing about Pantami’s past was unknown to the security agencies at the time of the Minister’s appointment.

By failing to remove him, the administration tells the nation it supports everything that the Sheikh stands for

As a security agent told an online medium, the government always uncovers the facts but may chose to ignore them.

This administration ignored Pantami’s past until we found out.

Although the Minister has tried to renounce his decades-long views in just one hot weekend, there is no evidence that he used the same channels through which he spread hatred, intolerance and bigotry to recant his views in any process of reversal and unravelling that we are made to believe about his current ideological state.

Rather, he is behaving like a typical politician caught in the act.

The writing is on the wall. Pantami should go. Forgiveness has no relevance. He can’t be trusted.

Nigerians do not feel safe in the hands of a man of such antecedents managing their most sensitive information and social infrastructure.

As the minister of Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, he is the custodian of the largest swath of citizen information.

Birth records, financial information, demographic data and biometric database of nearly every Nigerian is already in the hands of this man.

Who knows what he may yet do with such a heist?

For a man who also controls the IT infrastructure of most government departments, including the Nigerian armed forces and the intelligence and communication agencies, the confidence is lost.

The minister must go. Drop him now.

The cost of keeping Pantami in power outstrips the benefits of his qualifications, especially because the data of Nigerians and the government are now entrusted in the hands of a bigot who someone put there on the turtle post.

He cannot be propped up any longer.

Written by Tunde Chris Odediran

Tunde Chris Odediran studied and practiced journalism in Nigeria. He is now a Technical Communications and Information Technology professional in the United States.