On the heels of the trending hastag ‘PantamiMustGo’, the serving Nigerian minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Sheikh Isa Pantami has recanted views he had held so dear to his heart for decades. In videos making the rounds, He had extolled the virtues of Al-Qaeda while supporting their attacks on people they labelled ‘unbelievers and infidels’. Pantami is an accomplished Islamic scholar of international standing and appears to be well versed in western education, having studied computer science beyond undergraduate level.
That he Pantami has nursed these views on terror is not surprising, what is shocking is that he evaded the scrutiny of the Department of State Service (DSS) who are supposed to spot such extremists and advice government before such individuals are confirmed to hold public office.
What is news is that after denying his culpability, the honourable minister has finally seen the light. Overnight he is claiming that his views on global terror was ill-informed and at best immature as he is now better exposed and informed than he was a decade ago. This has announced his decision to renounce his support for terrorists like Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and others today.
Unfortunately for Mister Pantami, his challenge started when the United State agency triggered off a red flag concerning his pronouncements and teachings widely circulated in the media. More so, the searchlight has been on for some time concerning terror sponsors and enablers within and outside Nigeria. One can only imagine the depth and commitment of Pantami to the doctrines of the Taliban. It is instructive to know that a parallel is being drawn between the activities of Hisbah police in northern Nigeria and the modus operandi of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
For a man who openly stood by the sidelines encouraging the main actors of global terror with sermons and homilies, one may liken Patami’s conversion to that of Apostle Paul formerly known as Saul on his way to Damascus, Pantami may not be headed anywhere close to Damascus but his change or transformation is equally dramatic. For a man who only days ago threatened Nigerians and the press with legal action for defamation of character, I think the scales finally fell off his eyes to see things in a more objective manner that the world indeed is a global village.
While we are not in doubt that Isa Pantami held such strong views that people who knew him at Abubakar Tafa Balewa University (ATBU) in Bauchi can swear that he was indeed an overzealous fire brand cleric who did everything possible to regulate the religious temperature of that institution. He openly showed zero tolerance for other religious organisations on campus, it was alleged. He personally ensured that only Muslim candidates aspired to the Student Union president.
Pantami today wants us to believe that he is a changed man, we cannot point a finger on what has really changed beyond his saying so. He obviously loves the power that comes with high office. One is forced to think, is Pantami renouncing his core beliefs to hang on to the job or is he sincere in making a u-turn from his years of supporting the principles of the Taliban and all that it stands for? The bigger question is that how about the thousands of young impressionable minds he has been able to influence through all these years, how do we get to de-radicalize them? Pantami is obviously a folk hero of sort, comments from certain sections of society on social media shows that he has a strong support base within northern Nigeria especially among the youths who see him as a role model.
However, it is advocated that the DSS should do the needful and ensure that only matured men and women with unbiased global worldview are cleared for high office in the future.
Otuchikere, can be reached via ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’