I once heard a famous preacher say: “Yesterday is in the tomb, tomorrow is in the womb, today is in your hands.” For anyone this counsel is given, it definitely would have been occasioned by a struggle to put an ugly past behind them.
What happens however, when that past is allegedly so ugly that it continues to haunt you at every turn in the future. Such is the case with Nigeria’s Minister for Communications and Digital Economy, Ali Isa Pantami, a popular Islamic cleric and one of President Buhari’s super cabinet members.
It’s been a flurry of allegations against the Minister with a number of online media and social media users sharing excerpts of his previous sermons in audio and video formats where he reportedly expressed solidarity with terrorist groups, Al-Qaeda, Taliban and Boko Haram.
The allegations include: “advocating for Nigeria to be converted into an Islamic theocracy led by a religious leader like Mullah Omar of Afghanistan, founder of the Taliban Group,” as well as his alleged description of “Osama Bin Laden as a hero and a better Muslim than himself” according to a petition submitted to the US Embassy against Patami.
Other allegations include the minister’s criticism against the clampdown on Boko Haram, stressing that the previous administration should have pampered Boko Haram insurgents in the same manner as the Niger-Delta militants. According to the reported interpretation, he termed it the extermination of the terrorists as extrajudicial killing and selective justice against Muslims.
The argument on the lips of many is an individual with such level of accusations cannot be trusted with the data of citizens, with particular reference to the ongoing integration of National Identification Number (NIN) and Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) integration being carried out under his watch.
For some of those who raised this concern, they allege that lifting the ban on purchase of new SIM cards by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) supervised his ministry, is not unconnected with the recent revelations.
Judging from precedence, the Buhari administration would hardly sack an official indicted for wrong doing except with rigorous protests for same. The cases of former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal; and former Communications Minister, Adebayo Shittu, come to mind. Although, former Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, who resigned after her infamous NYSC certificate scandal stands out as one pleasant exception.
With the activities of bandits and the Boko Haram terrorists on the rise in the country, there appear to be enough ‘fuel’ by social media users to ignite sustained protests against the Minister and calls for his sack or resignation. It remains to be seen what the Minister as well as the Commander-in-chief’s next line of action would be.
Temidayo Taiwo-Sidiq is a Journalist, Political Analyst and Satirist with major interest in Nigerian Politics, Governance and Sports.