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Saturday, June 12, 2021

Pantami’s Pandemonium

By Innocent Okon Snr

That Nigeria is yet to be admitted into the ignoble league of failed states doesn’t mean it has not possessed all the requisite entry qualifications to earn direct entry without aptitude test!

Unless you belong to the school of thought of the triumvirate of Lai Mohammed, Garba Shehu and Femi Adesina, the Principalities in Aso Rock saddled with the responsibility to (un)control and (mis)manage official communications of the Presidency, there’s no treatise that can persuade you to believe that ” things have not fallen apart and the centre can no more hold”!

Both cordinated and uncordinated anarchy has enveloped the land, and despondency has descended on all geographical axis with equal intensity.

It is puerile to ask how we got into this abyss instead of seeking to know the forces and personalities that facilitated our plunge into this dungeon!

PMB came into office in 2015 brandishing three cardinal programmes of war on insecurity, corruption and revitalization of the economy. Now 6 years on the saddle, the three projects are yet to record any success story!

Nigerians can charitably be credited with inexplicable capacity to tolerate mismanaged economy, live with kleptomania by public officers but insecurity has proven to be one phenomenon that has challenged their legendary survival capacity!

Last week, some miscreants reportedly stormed a private University in Kaduna and abducted yet to be determined number of students. As at Press time, some of the abducted students are reported to have lost their lives!

In South East Nigeria, some Police infrastructure had been reportedly set ablaze. Kidnappers are sacking palaces in the South West axis of the country.The Niger Delta region is under seige by cultists and militants!

The Presidency has reportedly described the alleged killing of the abducted University students in Kaduna as “barbaric”, and that may be the only befitting epitaph both for the demised students and those still in captivity!

Sad.

But how did we get here?

The Nigerian Press has done a herculean job in recent times to probe into the past to provide answer(s) to the present insecurity quagmire.

Recently, a national newspaper was audacious enough to go public with the name of a serving Minister as having links and sympathy for various extremist religious groups and their heinous crimes against humanity since 2001.

The name of the Minister is Dr Isa Ali Pantami and his portfolio is Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy. He is from Gombe state in the North East flank of the country .

There are video clips of his virulent teachings and radical support for religious extremism within and outside Nigeria. Some of the messages on the video are inciting and shares same border with treason!

As expected, the said Minister and his spin doctors in the media made spirited efforts to sweep the issue under the carpet through threats and political gymnastics! When all the charades failed like failure , Minister Pantami unministerially admitted his extremist past and dismissed it as adventures of youthful exuberance at 27 or 30 years of age!

He told a shocked nation that he has turned a new leaf and should be allowed to continue with his ministerial job ! His employer, the Presidency, adopts and shares the same stance with him. But majority of Nigerians who have witnessed the instalmental decimination of their dear country with religious extremism and armed conflict believe this is one case that should not be treated with kid gloves.

At 27 or 30 years of age, Pantami in the eyes of the law was old enough to be accountable for his actions and inactions! If then, our Security Agencies were to be vigilant, had arrested, prosecuted and jailed him for his extremist religious preachings, would he have left Prison as a repentant ex convict to earn a ministerial appointment?

One wonders if the Presidency has reckoned with the number of gullible youngsters and even adults, Pantami’s radical evangelism had lured to take up arms against secular civil authorities since 2001 .

Admitted he has repented , but why did he wait until his extremist past had been exhumed and served in public domain? Since he repented, how many sermons in mosques , Seminars and Islam festivities has he addressed and corrected his earlier held radical Islamic views?

Remember, it was this same Pantami that Abike Dabiri- Arewa, the Chair person of Diaspora Commission , joined issues with and accused him of being disrespectful to women as a habitual pastime ! Now that the Presidency ,against the overwhelming wish of Nigerians, has given Pantami a clean bill of health to continue in office, many consequential issues have been thrown up for attention. If repentance is the only plea we need to let offenders off the hook, then we should visit our correctional centres and do the needful with immediate effect.

How do you expect Christian Directors and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Communications to feel and work with Pantami who had confessed to religious intolerance and bigotry? If Nigeria is still part of the United Nations, does the International Court of Justice at Hague recognise repentance for crimes against humanity no matter when and where they were committed?

Why should politics of prebendalism hold sway over and above morality and holistic national interest? Pantami’s moral burden is one too many for PMB’s clay footed Presidency!

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