By Dr Thompson Udenwa
The recent coordinated media campaign against Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami to label him by all means a sympathiser of jihadists and terrorists is a product of negligible and cowardly segment of Nigerians who would rather walk in the shadow of social media to cast aspersion on person’s that they disagree with.
Dr Pantami is a devout Muslim and Islamic scholar. His Islamic and scholarly pedigree has put him a place as the first Nigerian to hold a faculty position in the University of Madinah. He was a Shurah member and Deputy Secretary-General of the Supreme Council for Shari’ah (SCS) in Nigeria and currently serves as a member of Shari’ah Board of Jaiz Bank.
Dr Pantami is a Jumu’ah Chief Imam who has been leading the Jumu’ah prayer for over 20 years in Nigeria and the United Kingdom. He still preaches in the mosque and does Tafsir during Ramadan. He is what we call fondly call a konk Muslim with his jumper trousers, in line with the Islamic Sunnah.
To be clear, any attack on a public official should be based on his competence or incompetence in the discharge of his duty to Nigerians. Dr Pantami was appointed the Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), an Agency that was in the dull dome and hardly known by 10 per cent of Nigerians. By dint of hard work, inclusive administrative acumen and superb management of the diversity of the staff of NITDA, Dr Pantami was able to position NITDA as one of the most critical Agencies of Government today. When he was nominated as the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, there was a bipartisan agreement to the qualification of Dr Pantami for the role.
Before becoming the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Nigeria was just able to capture 24million people from the National Identity Management database but within a year over 84million are now in the National database. He drew ire of the Boko Haram sect when he insisted on Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) registration. This singular strategic move was the greatest debilitating factor to the sect as the communications by the sect are now easily tracked by security agencies, no wonder the video was released threatening him and his family by the leader of the Boko Haram sect Abubakar Shekau. It therefore stamps reason on his head for any reasonable and reasoning person to cheaply wear the garment of an Islamic bigot.
It is worth noting that the sector that Pantami leads contributed 14.07% thereby leading Nigeria out of recession. Dr Pantami policies work for traditional Christians, Muslims and others in between for the 99.9% of Nigerians who are not blinded by bigotry and hate-mongering.
The very fact that a Twitter user swore without evidence that he was on a watchlist of terrorists because he spoke Hausa on a debate with the founder of Boko Haram, several years ago, tells us that he posted that out of fear and far from reason.
Therefore, Nigerians should disregard this concerted and cowardly smear attempt on a public servant whose religious ethos and discipline has succeeded in contributing to securing Nigeria, improving the economy and inspiring a cross section of young Nigerians across religious divide to become the best they can be.
This is a smokescreen for hate-mongering. We need to fix our biases and hate-tendencies.
*Dr Thompson Udenwa Writes from Abuja