The question: “How did DSS and clear terrorists’ apologist for ministerial appointment”, is not only nagging, but germane, given Isa Pantami, Nigeria’s Minister of Communications and Digital Economy’s alledged link with Boko Haram.
Penultimate week, social media have been awash with reports of President Muhammadu Buhari’s minister being sympathetic of Boko Haram insurgents way back in the former President Goodluck Jonathan’s government when he described the dreaded Boko Haram insurgents as “Muslim brothers that shouldn’t be slaughtered like pigs.”
When the United States government released his name among the most wanted for supporting terrorists – Al-Qaeda and other “very dangerous Islamic terrorists”, on the global scene, Isa Pantami wasted no time in threatening libel against the media platform that reopend his dirty past.
But like whirlwind which cannot be caged, social media society took over and now the man on the saddle in the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy is revealed a renowned Boko Haram apologist; renowned for his sympathy for Al-Qaeda terrorist; an extremist, a bigot and a hardliner who should have nothing to do in President Muhammadu Buahari’s government particularly, so, that the nation has been grappling with pethora of insecurity in which his constituents are solely responsible.
But how did Isa Pantami passed through the scrutiny of the Department of State Security (DSS) amid the minister having tentacles in the terrorism conundrum? It baffles anyone to discover that the responsibility of DSS, an agency of government under the Ministry of Defence among others are, “responsible for intelligence gathering within the country and for the protection of senior government officials.
Secondly, the DSS has constantly adapted to increased roles necessitated by evolving security threats in Nigeria including counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency, which is within the purview to wholly scrutinise or otherwise profile government appointees in order to determine whether such appointee (s) is or are fit to occupy the anticipated office.
DSS’s clearance of the embattled Minister betrayed its own statutory mandate and compromised expectation of Nigerians in the obvious background of the Minister as a man too dangerous to occupy that strategic office. This shows that the nation has more challenges in delpurging certain elements from the system than military confrontation of Boko Haram insurgents and other incendiary criminalities around the country. Until Nigeria conquer the likes of Isa Pantami in the system, it would be damn difficult to completely obliterate terrorists.
In the last one week, it’s been bashing and hurling against the Minister with the larger society calling for his resignation. Nigerians and the larger community aren’t to blame because the root-cause of insecurity of terrorism could be inferred in the circumstance that the Minister and many yet-unknown elements found himself. It therefore shudders the conscience of mankind that he hasn’t thrown in the towel from that office.
How did the 66 year old Magaji Yusuf Bichi, Director General of the Department of State Services cleared Isa Pantami, as a ministerial nominee in 2019 barely a year, he took over the affairs of the undercover police at the time?
Pantami, having propagated “salafi doctrine”, as the media recalled, a conservative form of the ideology that has a thin line with Boko Haram ideology of outright condemnation of Western education, he needed a deradicalisation before he could hold such a sensitive office in trust on behalf of Nigerians. Hence, one shouldn’t be aghast at the turn of events that his sympathy for Boko Haram was unrivalled.
In the transliteration of one among many of his sermons in hausa to english sometime in the year 2000s, Pantami was quoted to have said seriatim:
“Nigerian Army’s incursion into Boko Haram strongholds, calling the rebels “our Muslim” brothers who did not deserve to be slaughtered like pigs.
“Do you see what our Muslim brothers’ blood has become? Mr Pantami lamented in a sermon delivered a few years ago, when former President Goodluck Jonathan ramped up military operations against the raging terror sect, that “even pig blood has more meaning than that of a fellow Muslim brother.”
The salafi doctrine he preached over the years made him an anti-establishment person, until his sudden change of becoming a Director General of NITDA and now a senior cabinet minister. A development that was condemned in the February 2020 video, by the Boko Haram kingpin, Abubakar. How come the sudden change?
He was further quoted, saying: “We are praying to God to answer all our prayers.
“It’s our right and obligation before all Muslim leaders, politicians, government appointees, academics,” Mr Pantami.
“All of us should not fold their arms and watch helplessly how they shed our Muslim brothers’ blood and cheat them in vain.”
Mr Pantami said Boko Haram elements should have been treated with dignity as against the deadly military campaign, saying extermination of insurgents amounted to extrajudicial killing.
“Even if the Boko Haram fighters commit a crime, but can we justify the way and manner they are being killed?”
In his reaction, his poorly media team described him as a moderate preacher, while he personally put up a hogwash defence as saying that he was being vilified because of his insistence on the registration of National Identification Number (NIN) policy. As much as memories could recall, the policy was running fulfledged right from the time of his predecessors. How come has it become an issue that is being used to scandalise his name as he want the world to believe?
In saner jurisdictions, he ought to have resigned from office to pave way for discreet investigation of his activities because as it were, he has credibility crisis that may affect the agency he leads.
Even among the lower rungs of the ladder in the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, the expectation is for the Minister to resign and he should do that fast.
Samson Atekojo Usman is a journalist and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org
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