The battles of Communications Minister, Ali Isa Pantami, appear to be far from over, as calls for his resignation following revelations on his extreme views in the past, persist.
Although Pantami renounced some of the controversial comments while responding to questions during his daily Ramadan lecture at Anoor Mosque in Abuja on Saturday, supporters of the Minister continue to face a hard time defending his continuous stay in office.
Interest group, Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) is the latest to receive huge backlash over the issue after its Director, Ishaq Akintola, in a statement on Monday, described it as a baseless call which should be ignored.
For MURIC, “the campaign of calumny is being pushed by forces against the Federal Government’s NIN policy; Boko Haram terrorists, bandits, criminals in general and political IDPs (Internally Displaced Politicians).”
The statement adds that their motive is to ensure that no project initiated by the current administration succeeds and the implications of Pantami’s resignation at this crucial stage are too gloomy to contemplate.
Thousands of social media users in reaction to MURIC’s opinion, have expressed little or no surprise, stressing that the group has a reputation of sharing questionable positions on national debates.
In dissecting the issues; MURIC argues that ‘Pantami’s resignation’ is a national security issue and that “the NIN scheme, our hope for dealing a technical blow on terrorism, insurgency, kidnapping and all sorts of criminality in the country will suffer suffocating palpitations.”
The flip side which MURIC and sympathisers of the Minister may be failing to see however, is the herculean task involved in getting millions of Nigerians to believe that such sensitive data is “in safe hands,” given Pantami’s expression of solidarity with extremist sects like Al-Qaeda and Taliban in the past (even in the time of an atrocity as the 9/11 attacks).
Given Nigeria’s NIN history, such that it had taken years since the idea was first mooted under the Obasanjo administration, along with the numerous deadline extensions to arrive at this level of success, it does hold some merit, that the ultimate success of the programme should be a consideration.
Prof. Akintola further tries to capture this in parts of the group’s statement which highlighted that if “any problem arise after we have changed hands in the middle of its (NIN) implementation, the new boss will easily shift the blame.” This would indeed be another worrisome legacy for the Minister if he has since assumption of office, only succeeded in enabling a “follow my body language” climate in such a crucial ministry.
Amongst the dozen of lessons to learn from the Pantami saga therefore, one that stands out for government (if we are to take the MURIC claims seriously), is the need to ensure that our approach to governance and reforms must be institution-driven, rather than personality-driven.
It may be difficult to utterly dismiss the claims of Pantami and his sympathisers that forces against the Federal Government’s NIN policy have contributed to unearthing these earth-shaking revelations. What we can dismiss however is the fact that we must as a people, desist from the hasty habit of labelling every allegation as the handwork of mischief makers. Afterall, MURIC says it is “in the interest of our great country.”
This goes without saying that the minister’s claim on how he truly expressed such views in the past but has now outgrown or unlearned them, makes mockery of such fanatical followers.
Beyond arguments or display of ‘ment’ as critics of MURIC have alleged, the Presidency should note that it can in no way sit this one out. A statement on this issue from that quarter is more than necessary and time is running out.
To do otherwise, is a callous betrayal of the principles of a social contract. We are waiting.
Temidayo Taiwo-Sidiq is a Journalist, Political Analyst and Satirist with major interest in Nigerian Politics, Governance and Sports.