The ongoing Ali Pantami show of horror is the biggest threat to the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Unfortunately, the only person with the power to end the dangerous circus probably lacks the balls to do so.
For once in your Presidency, grow some balls, Mr. President, and fire this liability called Minister. Every single minute of Pantami as a minister is as dangerous as having Abubakar Shekau in charge.
The comparison above is not to declare Pantami a terrorist. But he has undoubtedly lost the perception game; a development that makes the recent shameful declaration of support for him by the Presidency the biggest scandal witnessed in recent times. For an administration that is moving from one scandal to the next, this remains the worst.
This piece is not a verdict on whether Pantami is guilty or not. The government which has both the power and the obligation to investigate the entire thing has failed to do the needful, allowing all conspiracy theorists the needed oxygen to thrive.
The radical views espoused by Pantami cannot be overlooked. The question is, has he renounced those views? Yes, the man and the Presidency says. But is not just renunciation by word of mouth because he is under fire for it but by his actions. If he is claiming that he made such comments in 2000 or 2001; a proper panel of enquiry should look at the last 15 years of Pantami in the public space, every sermon, every action, every teaching.
The question begs answering: why do all these if you already called for his sack? The answer is simple. Public office is a public trust and perception is key. Pantami has lost that, hence, he is not fit for public trust. But he must clear his name.
If Pantami once espoused admiration for Osama bin Laden, he is guilty of the same offence as the United States of America. During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the US gave military support to the Mujahideen, at a time when Osama bin Laden was a prominent figure. Elements from that group subsequently formed Al-Qaeda, Taliban and other terror groups.
The point is, extremism is an evolving concept.
Several Muslims in Western Europe travelled to Syria following the Arab Spring to fight against Bashir Assad. To them, it was joining a war of liberation against an oppressor. However, they ended up being caught up in terror webs such as the Alnusra front and other ISIS-affiliated groups. Naivety is part and parcel of life. Liberating forces could become villains, and a villain can metamorphose into a hero.
Nevertheless, the above explanation cannot exonerate Pantami. We are living in a precarious age of religious suspicion. The over-arching grouse with the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy is based on the accusation that he likes to force his moral values on others, an allegation that is nigh unacceptable. People like that should not occupy such a sensitive position in the public sector; particularly in a multi-religious society like Nigeria.
It is clear that a part of the current #PantamiMustResign push is a classic case of a targeted campaign. This is part of politics. Indeed, that is the essence of vetting a candidate before appointments. The current debacle is a failure of the Presidency, the DSS, NIA and the Senate.
One of the takeaways from the Pantami show of shame is that our prevailing terrible culture of “take a bow and go” should be discarded. The idea of the Senate cramming the screening of over 10 persons for cabinet positions into a day’s session is just bonkers.
As always, the crusade to dig up all the dirt on Pantami is heading towards the usual path; as some person have started forging documents. How does one hold a meeting to commit genocide, campaign bigotry and even assassination of a sitting governor and still keep a minute of that meeting?
Without sounding like a broken record, the deployment of some questionable images and false news destroyed the #EndSARS campaign. The ongoing campaign against Pantami too risks such an end. The more fake documents and dossiers that are chunked out, the more ammunition Pantami will have to fight back. And it is his right to fight back.
Only one man has the power to end this. His name is President Buhari.
The way forward is to at least suspend Pantami, set up an independent inquiry and use the report to determine his fate. Or just be a Machiavelli and throw him under the bus to save face for the administration.
However, it is clear President Buhari will do none of that, probably not until a foreign country decides to block Pantami from travelling for a technology conference or worse still, to have his name placed on a red list by one of Nigeria’s powerful foreign allies.