President Muhammadu Buhari has continued to come under fire of criticism for his statement on Thursday backing Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami, over his extremist religious views that have led to calls for his removal as minister.
Activist and former minister, Oby Ezekwesili, took to Twitter on Friday to state that Buhari’s choice showed that he was not different from Pantami in his views on terrorism.
She wrote: “In that singular act of siding with his Minister of Communications, @NGRPresident @MBuhari actually conveyed a message on his view of terrorism. Nigerians now know that his views align with that of his minister. It is now left to Nigerians to convey whether we agree with them.
“I do not agree with @[email protected] and his Minister of Communications that any citizen can get away with such bloodcurdling rhetoric the latter made through the years. Worse that one who swore an oath to public office said and did the [email protected] has waved off.
“Yesterday’s action by our president was an anti-climax. He has persisted in badly managing our country’s diversity.
“Nigeria cannot at this stage avoid a genuine conversation about its future. The signs are all too obvious for all to see and act on.
“Citizens are the only legitimate centre that can midwife credible dialogue. Citizens have to step up. Nigeria cannot at this stage avoid a genuine conversation about its future. The signs are all too obvious for all to see.
“The people of Nigeria are due for a conversation.”
An Associate Fellow, Africa Programme, at the Chatham House, London, Dr Leena Koni Hoffman, in a series of tweets, also said Pantami›s extremist position deserved deeper interrogation.
She said: “I want to go on the record on what I think this Pantami issue is symptomatic of and as I don’t have a blog, I’m doing this thread. I’m partly responding to how I think it is deeply problematic to argue that Pantami’s statements are taken out of context and because he was an opponent of Boko Haram, there is no more to see here. I’m understating things when I say there is more than a lot to see here. I will focus on just two points, not because they are more important, but at this present time, I think they are most urgent.
“First, it is incomplete to infer a contrast between Pantami and Muhammad Yusuf simply because they debated. Many have pointed out that Pantami also espoused Jihad implementation in Nigeria but through a gradualist approach (gyara) – he disagreed on the means not the end. We know what gyara means. To dismiss questions about these views as positions he held when he was young and naïve or as an example of cancel culture is premium gaslighting. That he has moderated his view on establishing overall Jihad is one that has not been properly interrogated and an honest and accountable government would show an appetite to do so transparently.
“Second, Pantami is representative of a hyper-zealous cadre of clerics who proliferated the puritanical Salafi literalist creed of Islam which has reshaped northern Nigeria in deeply volatile ways. He wasn’t a fringe voice in this restructuring, he was a forefront charismatic cleric and debater who indoctrinated and suffocated the critical thinking and development of a generation of Muslim youths.
“Northern Nigeria is in the grips of a crisis of moral vigilantist chauvinism because of a steady diet of extreme, puritanical doctrines from the likes of Pantami. Where is the personal accountability for his moral chauvinism and extremist views about non-Muslims?
“These views were not just prescriptive but punitive and have molded northern Nigeria into its present culturally closed, volatile and intolerant state.
“As a woman, researcher and northern Nigerian, who has travelled through the region for many, many years, I have witnessed its increasing hostility and judgmental conservatism and nothing good or prosperous can come of this. «The evidence is overwhelming, from Sokoto to Borno, that nothing good or prosperous has come of this trend in northern Nigeria. I am going on the record to say these dots are connected.”
Presidency has sympathy for terrorism – PDP
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said that the presidency’s statement throwing support behind Pantami, despite his previous link to terror groups, was an indication that it was sympathetic to terrorists. In a statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in Abuja, the party said the presidency’s statement of support for the minister “shows desperation to provide official cover to a terrorism apologist” and “further confirms public and international apprehensions that the Buhari administration and the All Progressives Congress (APC) are patronising acts of terrorism in our country.”
The main opposition party said: “Nigerians were traumatised that the presidency could mount a hopeless defence and justification for the actions of the exposed Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, who had already confessed to supporting terrorist groups like al-Qaida and Taliban.
“It is instructive to note that this anti-people stance has heightened public anxiety that the Buhari presidency is a haven for traitors who are providing support to acts of terrorist activities in our nation.”
The PDP expressed its belief that this has further exposed why the Buhari Presidency has failed to decisively confront terrorism as well as why terrorists, bandits, kidnappers and insurgents are emboldened to ravage our nation and massacre our compatriots.
It added: “It is inexcusable that the Buhari presidency is showing grave insensitivity to the fact that thousands of Nigerians have been massacred, maimed and horrified; that hundreds of communities have been devastated and that our nation has been under siege because of the actions and public comments by individuals like Isa Pantami.”
The party noted that if indeed the Buhari presidency had not found itself entangled, the least it ought to have done in the face of allegations against Pantami was to reassure Nigerians by first relieving Pantami of his office and handing him over to the appropriate agency for deradicalisation. The PDP asserted that it was pertinent to point out that Pantami had initially denied his support to terrorist groups and only admitted after he was overwhelmed by evidence, “thus rubbishing the lame claims by the Buhari presidency that the minister had turned a new leaf 20 years ago.”
The party further stated: “The PDP holds that Isa Pantami belongs to the deradicalisation centre and not in any way in the Federal Executive Council where he has been alleged of compromising our national security as evinced in his initial denials.
“This is in addition to allegations in the public space that the exposed minister had been compromising our national data as well as the NIN registration exercise, wherein aliens and invaders from other countries were alleged to have been registered as our citizens. These are issues that our party insists must be investigated by the Department of State Services (DSS).
“As a party, the PDP charges President Muhammadu Buhari to reassure the citizens by immediately withdrawing the statement from his presidency, relieve Isa Pantami of his position as minister and take a bold step to flush out terrorist apologists from the presidency.”
Failure to investigate Pantami makes Buhari administration complicit –ECWA
The Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) berated the Federal Government for the manner the allegations against Pantami is being treated, saying failure to investigate the avalanche of allegations against the minister would make Buhari’s government complicit in the “divisive propaganda of dangerous elements of the society as well as the murderous activities of rampaging terrorists.”
The ECWA president, Reverend Stephen Baba Panya, who stated this while presenting a communique issued at the end of the 68th General Church Council meeting of the church in Jos, Plateau State, on Friday, said the council observed the serious nature of the allegations levelled against Pantami, the veracity of which he has affirmed, pleading immaturity and limited knowledge for his support for terrorism at the time.
Reverend Baba Panya said: “We join other well-meaning Nigerians and corporate citizens like Human Rights Writers’ Association (HURIWA), Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), and other Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to demand for his resignation as a member of the Federal Executive Council.
“We equally add our voice to the demand that the allegations against Dr Pantami be thoroughly investigated by relevant security agencies and if indicted, he should be prosecuted in accordance with the relevant laws of the federation. This will rekindle the faith of the citizenry in the Nigerian project and assure them that there are no sacred cows in Buhari’s cabinet.
“Failure to do that will make the Buhari government complicit in the divisive propaganda of dangerous elements of the society as well as the murderous activities of rampaging terrorists. Furthermore, inaction on this might inadvertently imply that President Buhari prefers the enemies of the nation over its citizens and cares little about the sanctity of the constitution he swore to abide by.”
Reps Minority Caucus back calls for Pantami’s resignation
No fewer than 130 members of the Minority Caucus of the House in Representatives have expressed support for the calls for the resignation of Minister Pantami over his extreme religious views. The caucus, in a statement signed by its spokesman, Honourable Francis Ottah Agbo, warned against any attempt to jeopardise ongoing efforts geared towards the fight against terrorism.
The statement reads in part: “The attention of the Minority Caucus in the House of Representatives has been drawn to a statement by the chairman of House Committee on Media and Public Affairs/Spokesman of the House, Hon. Benjamin Kalu, which clearly exposed a sinister intention to misrepresent the rules of the House, mislead the undiscerning public and frustrate genuine effort in the fight against terrorism in our country.
“We find it shocking that instead of standing with Nigerians at this critical moment, Hon. Kalu chose to engage in personal attack on the Minority Leader, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, for pointing to the dangers of retaining in office, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, after reports of the minister’s support for terrorists came to the fore.
“This is especially after the minister himself admitted to the facts of his sympathy for violent, extremist and terrorist groups, including, the al-Qaeda and Taliban.
“Indeed, Hon. Kalu’s claim that our Minority Leader did not properly present his motion, under an appropriate rule is completely dumb, frivolous and exposes his poor knowledge of the legislative procedures.
“It also points to a deliberate scheme to jeopardize our nation’s fight against terrorism.
“Furthermore, we take a strong exception to Hon. Kalu’s vain posturing of trying to tutor the Minority Leader, a well-respected seasoned legislator, on the House Standing Rules and parliamentary convention!
“It is instructive to state that the motion by the Minority Leader calling for the resignation or sack of the minister by President Muhammadu Buhari was properly presented under the House rules as provided in Order 6: 1, 2 & 3 (Privileges), contrary to claims by Hon. Kalu.”
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