By Ayo Baje
“For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed and nothing concealed that will not be made open”
–Luke 8 verse 17(The Holy Bible)
“Now, Boko Haram backers and sympathisers are in the executive arm of the government; some of them are in the parliamentary/legislative arm of the government, while some are even in the legislative arm. Some are also in the armed forces, the police and other security agencies”- Former President Goodluck Jonathan (January 9, 2012)
With the scarce regards for the sanctity of human life, backed by ample empirical evidence in the killing spree that Nigeria has been turned into, added to clearly nepotistic appointments, it is crystal clear that the new generation of Nigerians was not brought up to believe in the nation-state. Rather, many of them were weaned on the milk of the self-decimating sentiments of ethnicity, religion and political hysteria.
To worsen these bifurcating forces currently threatening to tear the polity fabric into shreds is the repugnant culture of impunity, that has even identified enemies of the state riding roughshod on the laws of the land and getting away with it!
That brings to mind the current controversies brought to the public sphere over the screaming allegations of linkage to extremist groups such as al Qaeda and the Taliban against a serving Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami. According to the former Director of the Department of Secret Service(DSS), Dennis Amachere, the Senate was informed about such links concerning Pantami but it went ahead to offer him the appointment on a platter of gold! That singular action of course, explains just how vulnerable Nigerians are to the ever-escalating insecurity in the land. But there are more scary allegations against the subject matter. For instance, the minister, who was the Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency when confronted with his preaching earlier in the Millennium on social media that: “Oh God, give victory to the Taliban and to al-Qaeda,” he out rightly denied it. When also reminded that he once said that: “This jihad is an obligation for every single believer, especially in Nigeria” he similarly recanted it
But according to the hashtag #Pantamimustgo on Twittersphere his links with Al Shabaab, Al Qaeda and Boko Haram have refused to die, unlike the helpless victims of these life-wasting extremists. The latest accusations are that he had a hand in the deaths of former Kaduna state governor, Yakowa and a Christian student at Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University in Bauchi, when he was chief Imam of the mosque.
In fact, Professor Samuel Achi, a former lecturer at the Kaduna State University, Kaduna, in a recent media report stated that his late son Sunday Achi, a 400 level student of architecture was killed, with his strangled body found outside the mosque for blaspheming Islam. This was reportedly carried out by some Muslim students, following the Fatwa declared by Imam Pantami. That was on 9th December 2004. The second accusation against Pantami was that he chaired a meeting on 13th July 2010, of the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), in Bauchi where muslim leaders expressed resentment against Patrick Isa Yakowa as Kaduna governor. According to the unverified documents being circulated, JNI concluded Yakowa must be stopped and ‘eliminated”. The rest, as they say is history but an ugly one at that.
Though the born-again Pantami has explained that for 15 years he has gone round states such as Katsina, Gombe, Bornu and Kano in Nigeria and Diffa in Niger Republic to preach against religious extremism, his claims are being taken with a pinch of salt! But why?
It is all because words are powerful and as Proverbs Chapter 18 verse 21 states in the Holy Bible the tongue remains a significant agent of life and death. Kindly take note of that. And that explains why the patriots are asking the critical questions. That how for instance, a citizen linked with religious extremism has found himself as the sensitive post of the Communications ministry? Why would the Senate tell such a fellow to “take a bow” without a thorough scrutiny of his antecedents? What are the cost implications to the country, specifically the national till that billions of Naira have been allocated to fighting the challenge of insecurity, only for it to remain a recurring ugly decimal? But there are more pertinent questions, all asking for urgent answers.
Why would the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajiamila step down the motion by the minority leader, Ndudi Elumelu (PDP, Delta) asking that Pantami should throw in the towel based on weighty allegations against him? How do we explain the refusal of Mister President Buhari and members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to deliberate over the public outrage fuelled by Pantami’s link to religious extremists? Was it all in the national interest? The answer is as clear as the immanent wind of change. That change, especially of those raised and addicted to the dangerous dogma of religious extremism hardly takes overnight, as being claimed by Pantami. According to a retired Army Captain in the United States Army, Bishop Johnson, it was uncommon for people with extremist ideologists to change overnight. Said he: “When people have radical ideologies, they don’t change overnight. They will carry such ideologies into whatever offices they occupy. So people with extremist ideologies should not occupy sensitive positions”.
Also, a Lagos-based security expert, Dickson Osajie, advised the minister to tender his resignation on account of his “romance with terrorists” in the past. He said if effective pre-appointment screening was put in place, an investigation would have revealed that Pantami had a soft spot for terrorists and he would have been disqualified from holding such a critical ministerial position.
“The truth is that the comment he made resulted in instigating terrorist groups. I don’t think people like that are qualified to hold public offices. People must be held accountable for their statements and actions.”
In essence, it has become a crying need for this administration to shed itself of the toga of one that harbours or embraces religious extremism as shown by the soft landing given the so called repentant Boko Haram extremists, silence over the killings across several states by identified Fulani herdsmen and currently having an alleged sympathizer of the Taliban and el- Qaeda as a Minister!
It should muster the political courage to give him the boot, prosecute him and of course, find out others with similar inclinations in and out of government, give them similar treatment to serve as a deterrence. That will also save the lives of innocent Nigerians. Especially from the blood-letting hands of those who refuse to understand that religious faith is as personal as one’s life and death. It is never by force or fiat and it beggars reasoning for one who cannot create one human hair to think that he can kill fellow human beings all in the bid to please God, our maker!
Baje writes from Lagos