It is too damning to ignore. If you have not read the recent exposé on Nigeria’s Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Ali Isa Ibrahim Pantami’s indelible history of espousing extremist religious ideologies, I suggest you go ahead and catch up quickly. It is not the type of story that you fully understand by word of mouth.
Almost a century and seven years since Nigeria was shoddily put together by the British for economic and administrative conveniences, the basic differences that distinguish the then southern protectorate from the northern protectorate continue to play a central role in the malfunctioning of the country. The intractable religious differences, compounded by the fact that one-third of Nigeria’s 36 states are already operating the Islamic Sharia Law, have led to several communal conflicts and violent clashes in the past and continue to predominate the frangible interethnic, interreligious, economic and political relationships between the country’s North and South.
According to Pew Research Center, Nigeria has the fifth-largest Muslim population, and the sixth-largest Christian population in the world, which makes Nigeria the country with the largest Muslim and Christian population in Africa. On matters of public policy or advocacy, religion and politics in Nigeria are not far apart from each other, as the citizens are often sensitive to religious discussions with a zeal that is borderline fanatical.
Many times, sociopolitical decisions are made with careful considerations of the religious impact such decisions would have on the country’s tenuous multiethnic and multireligious societal fabric. However, the religious worldview of the Sunni-dominated Muslims of Nigeria, particularly its concomitant offshoot known as the Salafi sect, strikingly belies that of their Christian counterpart. And although there are different denominations of Christians in Nigeria, none of them can be said to espouse such extremist doctrines and philosophies as their Salafi counterpart.
For as long as Nigeria continues to exist, the North and South will always be suspicious of each other. And it is within this context of national degeneracy, that Nigeria’s telecommunications database and central control house was handed to an extremist political actor who may well have compromised whatever sensitive information exists in that system.
As a Muslim Imam and Scholar, Nigeria’s current Minister of Communications is evidenced to have repeatedly canonized and espoused extremist Islamic ideologies that extolled brute terrorists like the late Osama Bin Laden, former al-Qaeda leader who was responsible for the deaths of thousands of people including the infamous 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States.
Yet, all this seems to have been ignored when Nigeria’s President, General Muhammadu Buhari – a religious bigot himself – appointed Pantami to serve in a public position where sensitive data can be easily accessed and used for nefarious purposes. It is beyond comprehension, how an avowed religious bigot, one with undisguised extremist intents, could have scaled through what I suppose would have been a rigorous labyrinth of deep background checks by Nigeria’s State Security Services (SSS). Except of course none was done, or such findings were deliberately ignored by someone – or some persons.
For a Gestapo-styled institution of oppression, enforced disappearance and intimidation like the SSS, it is nearly impossible to have missed such compelling details about Pantami’s real identity as a gradualist extremist. And even if that were the case, it would be unreasonable to assume that the president appointed a man of whom he has little or no knowledge.
In any case, there is more than one culprit from this sordid exposé – surely Pantami, but also those involved in covering up his sordid and extremist ideology, including the President, General Buhari.
As this exposé suggests, this might be an epiphanic moment for Nigerians to understand why there has been such an overwhelming pro-North lopsidedness in the appointments of Nigeria’s president since he came into power, and why Fulani herdsmen or “bandits” have been wreaking havoc almost unchallenged to the point that Sheikh Gumi is now proselytizing amnesty for them. I also would not dismiss the possibility of an ethnoreligious agenda of the eventual Salafization of Nigeria. Now, more than before, Pantami’s initiative to link NIN to Sim Card ought to be viewed with the utmost suspicion and circumspect.
Given the weighty information that is now known to the public about Isa Pantami, nothing would take Nigeria close to justice more than his immediate resignation or outright dismissal by the president, after which an exhaustive investigation into his activities so far which, reasonably, can be adjudged as minatory to public and national security, must be done by the relevant agencies.
No society that is serious about governance and national security would leave Nigeria’s president out of this mess. He appointed Pantami – and who knows how many more Pantamis are in his Northern-Muslim-dominated cabinet. And, if the National Assembly would for once, not be characteristically lifeless and timid, a special independent panel of enquiry that will include the president and all his appointed cabinet members as its subjects of interest will be immediately set up to make sure this matter is properly investigated. The quicker Nigeria can do this, the sooner it will rid itself of extremists masquerading as patriots in public offices.
Adebayo Raphael is a Writer and Human Rights Activist. He can be reached via [email protected]