By Fejiro Oliver
Anyone who supports terrorism, anyone who see terrorism as a legitimate means, anyone who uses terrorism to cause the death of innocent people is a terrorist in my eyes
When next you go to the embassy as a Nigerian and you are denied visa without reason, you are free to go to the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy to pull out the Minister, Sheikh Ali Isa Ibrahim Pantami and beat him mercilessly for making you waste your money, time and having a record of visa denial. You can be sure that his refusal to resign and President Muhammadu Buhari refusal to sack him despite public acknowledgement by him of his sympathy to terrorists is the reason embassies have placed Nigerians on watch list.
Pantami’s appointment into such sensitive position is not a fluke. Let me take you on a ride on who he is and the powers he wields in the Presidential Villa, so much that he is feared by other ministers.
There are three kinds of Muslims namely; the Izala, Shiites and the Deraka. While the Izala is the majority and very arrogant, the Shiites is the minority. The Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, Hadi Sirka who’s Minister of Aviation and Pantami belongs to the Izala, which incidentally I learn the President also belongs to, even though he does not share in the extremist nature of Pantami’s orientation. The three currently form the cabal in the presidency. If you are wondering why Pantami is not panting, unbothered and very sure that he won’t be sacked, this here is the reason.
But Nigeria is not a republic where its citizens do not have a say on what happens in government. He who pays the piper dictates the tune and this is the approach Nigerians home and abroad must follow if Pantami must go either through forceful resignation or sack by Buhari. Pantami did not get his ministerial nod via fiat. He got it with the full consent of the National Assembly even though the two legislative chambers are mere seals of Mr President. It took the 360 House of Representative members and the 109 Senators to wear the ministerial garb on Pantami. It took a minimum of two Federal constituencies to get the Federal lawmaker into the hallowed chambers. It took over eighteens states of the Federation to put Buhari in the State House and all these were done by the people who sacrifice their blood and sweat to pay their bogus allowances, salaries even when they are unproductive to the country. We pay these pipers and will dictate this tune, starting with Pantami.
We cannot change the goalpost at the middle of the game. We cannot cry “crucify her” when we caught a petty thief and now shout “Hosanna”, when we catch a self-confessed armed robber. If we can kick out Adesoun Kemi as a Minister through public outcry, then Pantami must follow same unless the maxim “the voice of the people is the voice of God” has no place in Nigeria. If that is the case, we all can begin to call for the release of all armed robbers, terrorists and militants arrested by the Nigerian government.
Pantami needs no push to resign from such hallowed position. It is in his integrity and dignity to quietly tender his resignation, apologise to the nation for the global embarrassment caused us and submit himself to the State Security Service (SSS) for vetting and then undergo guidance and counseling on how to be patriotic to the nation first before religious belief. Whatever press release that Garba Shehu has released on Buhari’s behalf is only binding on the Ministers and Mr President’s behalf, not the elected governors, lawmakers and over 200 million Nigerians that have demanded and still demanding for the removal of a self confessed terrorist apologist.
For every minute Pantami stays in power, Nigerians across the globe are endangered and this cannot be allowed to happen. It is not about the President any longer but the rule of law and the constitution. The first duty of government is the protection of life and properties of its citizens. This has been breached already by Pantami. No Nigerian feels safe again with the Minister having access to every data and details of our living.
For the records, by virtue of his position as communication minister, he has access to ALL our BVNs, email and social media handles, house addresses, office address, family genealogy, phone numbers and bio-data. Anyone with such information controls the people and can decide to wipe them out in a split of second. I fear for my life and my family. I live in fright daily that Boko Haram and other terrorists can be given by house address to get me killed. I live in fear that my phone can be tracked now by those Pantami ‘once’ owe allegiance to, in order to take me out of existence. This fear of mine pervades every Nigeria home.
With the linking of our NIN to phone numbers, Pantami can be anywhere in the world to monitor my movement and others. He can pass information on me to his comrade at arms to strike simply because he does not like what I post on facebook or tweet. He doesn’t need to pass a fatwa publicly any longer like he passed on activist Deji Adeyanju. All he needs to do henceforth is to send out our details with ‘fatwa’ written in code and with the speed of light, an individual is killed. We are in dangerous times and this calls for civil disobedience.
The Nigerian people must demand for the removal of Pantami as Minister. If Buhari will not sack him, we have a duty to also boycott every NIN registration and anything that has to do with digital registration under him. For heaven’s sake, what is so special about Pantami that he cannot be sacked by the President? Let us concede that Buhari has the prerogative to sack a minister once he has been confirmed by the Senate. What then is special in Pantami that he must head such a sensitive position, considering his past that he can’t be moved to another ministry? Is this a plan to rig 2023 election since they now have all data of eligible voters in the national database?
The statement by the presidency is the most reckless, careless, insulting and inconsiderate one ever made by any sitting President. Every paragraph reeks of stupid arrogance that tells us to go to hell. Crime has no expiry date and will never have and prosecution must take place no matter how long it takes, unless there is immediate state pardon. In the case of Pantami, the presidency is wrong to tell us that “The Minister has, rightly aplologised for what he said in the early 2000s”. Nigerians have accepted his apology but cannot allow such a man access to their digital and personal life. The President should know that the apology is only a matter of circumstance and not because he meant it. Terrorists and their sympathizers don’t repent. They only look for bigger opportunities to strike. Making excuse for what Pantami did in his early 30s is giving approval for all Nigerians to henceforth fan the embers of hate speech, terrorism and support for every evil, knowing that they will be forgiven a year to their 50th birthday.
According to Garba, those in the opposition are behind the recent “campaign against the minister by some ICT companies” and therefore “The government is now investigating the veracity behind these claims of attempted inducement, and – should they be found to hold credence – police and judicial action must be expected”. There you have it Nigerians, be prepared for massive arrest in the coming days. The same government that is yet to direct the SSS to investigate Pantami over his terrorism comments and media allegations of being behind Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa and Gen. Aziza’s death in 2012 is already investigating unfounded insinuations that exists only in their imaginations.
Garba Shehu and the Presidency he writes for must in the word of Anna Lindh that “Terrorism can never be accepted. We must fight it together, with methods that do not compromise our respect for the rule of law and human rights, or are used as excuse for others to do so”. To spare Pantami is to give the shout out to other terrorists’ sympathizers in their 20s and 30s that they can utter all they want and will be forgiven when they are about to clock 50 years, irrespective of what their actions must have caused the people and the nation. Buhari had a golden chance to pass a strong message that terrorism in whatever form will not be tolerated by his government using Pantami as an example, but he burgled it in support of his religion instead of his love for Nigeria.
Pantami must go and the heavens will not fall if Nigerians keep pressing, including asking the United States, EU countries and China to place every member of the presidency under terrorism watch list and visa ban to them and their families for harboring a known terrorist apologists among them. The minister does not reflect the peaceful and non violent nature of the Islam that we know of. He does not even epitomize the loving and welcoming character that the Izalas are known for. We will not call out our beloved Muslim brothers for the abominable sins of Pantami. Pantami just has to go and Buhari knows it. Like biblical Jonah on his way to Nineveh who was thrown into the river to save the others after confessing his sins, Pantami should also be shown the way out of the cabinet. The government of Saudi Arabia where he got his orientation from will be willing to welcome him.
These little things matter…
Fejiro Oliver is Editor In Chief of Secrets Reporters News, Investigative Journalist and Rights Activist can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org. Engage him on twitter on @fejirooliver86