•Dr Isa Pantami
I don’t know who is behind Isa Pantami’s current travails (which would most likely amount to nothing under a Buhari government), and I wonder why they waited this long. The man was appointed into office as Director-General, Nigerian Information Technology Agency (NITDA) and his profile was seriously hyped back then in 2016, as one of the smartest people in information technology in Nigeria. I had cause to listen to some of his engagements on social media and wondered why he availed himself to such controversial religious discourses. I came off with the impression that he wasn’t as smart as purported and have held him in suspicion ever since. Yes, he possesses a PhD, but that only makes him a beneficiary of Nigeria’s grossly inefficient and unfair scholarship systems, where only the ‘connected’ gets ahead. I aver that people who struggle to get their academic qualifications on their own or through family sources, are often more measured and circumspect. Education is expensive and I am a living witness, having struggled so far. But I digress.
Now, Pantami is having to explain himself to everyone that will listen – and even the uninterested – that he is not a bigot. I told a northern Muslim friend earlier in the day that the newspaper that published his alleged inclusion in some terror watchlist had more dope on him. The sound-and-fury approach did not help Pantami and he later soft-pedaled, expressing remorse for his past opinions especially as it concerns this oft-misguided contention for supremacy between Abrahamic religions. Even at that, it is easy to see through this man, who is a thoroughly indoctrinated religious soldier that needs to be reined in immediately. I say the man is unfit for public office in Nigeria specifically for the following reasons:
1. Public office demands being open-minded. We have enough people who can occupy public offices in Nigeria today if only leaders who appoint or select people to positions themselves tried to be a bit objective. Public positions are a big trust and so anyone appointed into public office in Nigeria should be trustworthy to ALL Nigerians. If they have displayed any level of religious or ethnic extremism – or indeed any type of extremisms – in the past, this takes away from that trust. Extremism in this instance could be defined as any call to harm others who are not like you, or support for those who profess such opinions. Yes, what you did in the past matters.
2. The DSS ought to have screened such a person with such divisive opinions out in the first place, if indeed they do good, straightforward work. We have heard in the past how people can slot in damaging information into one’s files in their office, or remove such based on less than patriotic considerations. Is this what happened in the case of Pantami? The expression of extremist views in one’s past, bordering on support for globally-feared extremists who have taken hundreds of human lives just because they choose to remain mentally in the 17th Century, should be enough cause to flag Pantami from occupying one of the highest positions in the country. This may be difficult to understand for someone like our current president but there is no better time than today to begin to lay the foundations for tolerance, understanding and togetherness. And appointing such a man negates all tenets of tolerance. I recall that even as DG, NITDA, Pantami had starred in a number of those religious lectures which got me wondering if he was really the techie they say he is, or some self-styled religious leader. The DSS dropped the ball.
3. Nigeria needs all the unity she can get. Look at us today; a country literally torn into pieces. We hear people say all too often, that they are not Nigerian but members of their ethnic nationality. To millions of Nigerians, we have no nation. Yet others believe that they are not Nigerians but members of a religion, sent into this world for the purpose of propagating that religion. Extreme religious devotees are really not concerned about making this world a better place; they have since written this one off, and are working hard towards the next – where only their co-adherences will occupy while they watch and laugh at those who ‘missed’ it as they burn in hell fire. This negates the presence of mind that economic and social development requires, which is what we should all be striving for, for our nation Nigeria. Whereas I am not asking for anyone not to practise their religion, but Nigeria – if she must survive – does not need people who cannot understand ‘live and let live’. There are not ifs or buts. There are no halfway houses here. Being born into a family is totally an accident of creation or however it is we got here. For one to be judged fit for death or any type of harm just because of that, makes no sense. For someone to support Osama Bin Laden, AlQaeda, and to speak so passionately for Boko Haram, as early as a few years ago, weeping profusely as he delivered his highly alarming, emotionally rousing speech which may have caused some of his listeners who are not as strong-willed, to take action against perceived enemies, is enough to leave such a person in the fringes of society, and under careful watch by security agencies.
4. Pantami has also expressed the desire in his past speeches, about the enthronement of a Taliban-type Islamic leadership in Nigeria, where people are judged straightaway against their adherence to Islamic tenets. He criticised women who don’t wear the full burka – covering their entire bodies. Thin veils are not enough. Reading his speech I was almost tempted to shave my almost white beard which I like even though I am not a religious fanatic. From the kind of beliefs he has expressed, Pantami does not belong with modernity and I doubt if he could ever be converted into anything more moderate than the beliefs which has earned him fame, fanatical followership, and even a ministerial position in such a sensitive, futuristic portfolio as Information Technology.
5. I have often wondered what is going on in the mind of Pantami as this controversy rages. I know he will try to sit it out, even though just yesterday 19th of April, 2021, he commented on the Facebook post of some extremists who declared Fatwa on Deji Adeyanju, circulating Deji’s picture on several platforms as an Enemy of Islam! Pantami prayed God to disgrace Deji’s efforts, garnering over 300 comments before deleting his own.
However, does anyone think Pantami will change as a result of this saga? No way. He is too far gone. If my psychoanalysis is correct, he will be presently angry at whoever is trying to get him off his position. He has been rightly described as a ‘gradualist’ in his practice of extremism. This means his type could be a ‘sleeper’, who could activate at any point in future, or at best, he will remain an intellectual anchor point and guru to those who are bent on fighting this Muslim/Christian war that makes no sense.
What should we expect from him? Certainly, no one is asking him to renounce Islam. There are at least 1.9 billion Muslims around the world who practice the religion so beautifully and by their practice alone, others are tempted to join the religion. The extremists are a tiny minority. With the past profile of Pantami, and the persona he has maintained even while in office, it looks like Nigeria is feeding and arming financially, someone who could get it into his head someday in the near future, that the time has come to fulfil ‘God’s’ demand for the supremacy of his religion over others. I will not use any word here that suggests Islam is bad. I have studied Islam and it is not bad at all. Islam is a beautiful, dutiful, scientific religion. All my closest friends have somehow been Muslims till date.
There are verses in the Bible which suggest that it is okay for believers – at least of Judaism which governs the Old Testament – to take the lives of non-believers. There are Christians who strongly believe in those aspects of the Old Testament but thankfully, over time, modern governance has dulled the edges of such extremism among Christians. There are, however, Christian extremists who believe in some sort of nihilism and pray for their enemies to die. There are those who preach hate and intolerance towards other religions. There are those who condemn practitioners of other religions to Hell Fire and what not. All of these are not acceptable in this modern age and with the peculiarities of Nigeria’s problems. This is a good point where events have conspired for us to root out hate and extremism of all types.
Pantami needs to step aside, and undergo therapy, if we were an objective, forward-thinking country. Perhaps he could be helped. The idea that God has put us in this world to fight each other because we believe differently, is totally stupid. No one can believe such baloney and then claim to be a computer whizkid. Or perhaps he respects the inventions of the non-believing white man to the extent that such inventions and knowledge are to be mastered and used at a latter date, to win the white man – and those who align with his religion – on God’s behalf. There is a certain sickness in the mind of anyone who believes in such baloney.
Next time our leaders should search well for balanced people – who have been balanced since they were mere toddlers, and who will not wait to be outed on social media before they start scrambling to say the right things. With the mistake that is Pantami, many are now alleging that in his current position of trust, he can also deploy information to foster his pin-headed fantasies of some global religious war. The saving grace is that we see beautiful and peaceful nations abroad, that have confirmed to all of us that we don’t even need religion to be close to God, that we don’t need to pray for our ‘enemies’ to die die die, or worst still, mount killing expeditions against those who believe differently from us.
More specifically, I want to lecture the Sheikh himself. Islamic scholars like AlKhwarizmi (Algorithm), AlJabr (Algebra), Ibn Cenna (Avi Cenna), and other all-time greats, who made great inventions and innovations in the field of mathematics, science and medicine, and who brought back the world from the brink of extinction after extremist Christians of the Inquisition Age (Torquemada and co) banned science and beheaded at will, did all they did not because they wanted to destroy non-believers. If the true mission of man on earth is to fight religious wars on behalf of God, we all will not be here today. The earth would have become barren and drowned in the blood of innocent human beings. Those scholars I mentioned above showed us most eloquently, that every religion should be a force for good, for progress, and for making THIS WORLD, not the next, a better place. For those who don’t know, the alphabets of today are Islamic, from zero to nine. Let’s start from the basics. People like Pantami suffer from a malformed education. He is unfit to be a minister in this milieu.