The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, is in the eye of the storm. He is battling for survival over associations and relationships that border on extremism. The archives recently unearthed him as a radical who had expressed and professed pro-Taliban views in the past. The revelations about him also indicate that he had links with terrorist organisations such as Al-Qaeda and Taliban.
At first, the minister tried to be smart about it. He tried to divert attention over his evident sympathy for Boko Haram. But he was to cave in under the weight of incontrovertible evidence. He has since owned up to his ugly past but has pleaded that all that belongs to the past. Whether now or then, Pantami has become a suspect in the eyes of the public. The United States has allegedly placed him on its watch list on account of this.
Since the original Pantami came to the fore, a good number of Nigerians have expressed shock over the discovery. They want the minister to resign in the light of his sinful past. The thinking here is that the government appointed him minister in error. Government, they thought, did not know the real Pantami before his appointment. But Amachree, the latest whistle blower in town, has since burst the bubble. He said the State Security Service had full information on Pantami, which it made available to the Presidency and the National Assembly. Curiously, they did not act on the report. That was why Pantami scaled through the screening process. Today, he is sitting in comfort as a minister of the federal republic.
Following what Nigerians now know about Pantami, it was thought that the Presidency would be scandalised by it all. Since terrorism has been one huge blight that government has been waging a relentless war against, the thinking was that government would be ill at ease with someone who supports and promotes terrorism of the extremist variety. Strangely, however, the government did not feel what many felt. It ignored the howl over Pantami. It treated it as a non-issue. When, eventually, the concerned publics dragged the Presidency into the fray, its response did not help the situation. It was a taunt.
A reprimand. It chided those calling for the sack of Pantami. It dismissed them as people with vested interests in the telecommunications sector who want to halt the great work the minister has been doing. The Presidency’s conclusion was that the views Pantami expressed and professed some 20 years ago do not and cannot hold water today. Consequently, the minister was given a clean bill of health by the authorities that appointed him.
The Presidency’s response to this issue is very instructive. It lends credence to Amachree’s claim that government knew about Pantami’s extremist disposition before he was appointed. The Presidency, as a matter of fact, never disputed Amachree’s claims. What it has tried to do, instead, is to resort to sophistry with a view to making its position acceptable to the public. In fact, the Presidency’s haughty disposition to the Pantami scandal speaks volumes about the clime and times we live in. Those who have been splitting hairs over Pantami do not understand this as yet. They think that we live in a proper country. If only they know that Nigeria is a lie waiting to be unravelled, they will be less troubled about this matter.
Going by the facts that are emerging about the colour and complexion of this government, it will not be out of place to say that the growing trend of terrorism that we are witnessing under the Buhari presidency is not mere happenstance. It is beginning to look like a well rehearsed drama whose details are just beginning to unfold. Buhari, we must recall, went through a long, windy road to arrive at the presidency. He spent 12 gruelling years in the wilderness in his quest for the number one position in the land. Many of those who showed sympathy for his cause did so on account of his steadfastness. He was unwavering in his ambition. For many, such tirelessness was a demonstration of his faith and belief in Nigeria.
If we also take note of the fact that the likes of Pantami who are anointed disciples and faithful of the Buhari regime began their extremist indulgences at about the time Buhari was struggling to have a foothold on the presidency, we can assume as well that some of those who were fanatical about Buhari not by nationalistic ideals.
If the war against terror has remained intractable, we can understand why. When next government threatens that it will expose sponsors of Boko Haram, we will grin or even give a good laugh because we know it is all show. It is appearance, not reality. The real deal is that government has something to hide. It has a reason, which makes sense only to members of its inner circle. Pantami is a member of this group. Before now, we were worried that government was paying lip service to issues of corruption. We felt so because of the selective nature of the battle against corruption. Now we have a deadlier issue to deal with. Government is only whitewashing the issue of terrorism.