By Dr. Abubakar Hidima
In the last few days, Nigeria’s social media has been visited with another intensified campaign against the Honorable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami.
Although these attacks did not start today, and certainly will not end today because of the spectrum of persons his personand recent activities as a Minister has touched. The sudden re-emergence of the renown scholar’s political opinions of the past years to public discourse among certain people is not surprising at all. Although, many would say “WHY NOW”? and why the multifaceted attacks? Your guess is as good as mine.
So unlike the easy-going Dr. Pantami that many of us know, the sensitivity of the spate of allegations and mischievous attacks has necessitated the Minister to seek for legal recourse. To so many people that know the person of Pantami, this comes as a surprise to them, especially that he is someone who most times chooses to settle issues in a laid-back manner, such that no hassle is involved. This can be seen in his spectacular method of engagement with others when they disagree. You may never find a time he engaged a particular scholar or dwell on such even in the face of personal attacks he has suffered in the cause of his preaching activities. But closely looking at this scenario, the Minister’s action on taking legal action against the disparagers is not surprising, especially that the ill-intended publications by several print and online media houses were calculated to soil the reputation of the Minister and a renown Islamic Scholar who has spent close to two decades preaching austerely against the same evil they are struggling to link him with.
Until his appearance in the Nigerian Political Sphere, Dr. Pantami has continually held opinions that not only de-radicalise thousands of youths faced with the challenge of radical ideas, he has also spent most of his valuable times to educate the youths whose illiteracy about the religion has led them into embracing such ideologies. This might not be very clear to many, especially if you do not have a first-hand experience on the emergence of Radical Ideologies in the early 2000s in Nigerian Universities. I personally had my first encounter with Dr. Pantami when I was a 100 Level Petroleum Engineering Student, at Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi when he was a Lecturer in Information Technology. I met him close to the Lecture Theatre we call “LE” in the company of my friend, who was also an undergraduate student of Chemical Engineering. We met the Minister after he parked his car and was walking to the School of Science and Science Technology. We said the Islamic greetings, which he responded and stretched his hand to us for a shake. We shook hands, and he passed a message to us, a message that imparted on me personally to date. His message after asking us about our studies was simply, “Make sure you excel in what brought you here from your different states, donot disappoint your parent, What you do not understand in class, ask the next person, We are all students here.” These few lines stuck to my memory and served as my inspiration throughout my years in ATBU. Unknown to many of us, who were just new in the environment, Dr. Pantami was to be not only a moral guide to many of us and a teacher of Islamic tenets, but one in whose hands many youths would be saved from the hurricane of radical ideologies. His sermons and almost daily teachings have shaped the lives of thousands that are today important members of the society.
After the most recent attempt by some online media to sell a totally awkward and false news about the US listing the Honorable Minister on a watch list, and their sudden U-turn after realizing the obvious legal battle they are driving themselves into, then comes the publication from some otherFake News Merchants, where the same effort is being made albeit in a manipulative manner. One would not be surprised, because by now, it is clear to every right thinking person that the Nigerian media is littered with not only unprofessional reporters and publishers, but carriers of mischief and spite. If you take time to follow almost all the allegations, you will understand that:1. They were almost all cut in between statements from lectures or talks he presented which in the average last for 60 minutes or more. 2. Most of the talks are academic presentations from Islamic Perspectives, where he makes discerning clarifications as to why Muslims cannot attack others because of what is happening to Muslims in other places.
For instance, the Yelwan Shendam Crisis in Plateau state was a very sensitive issue at that time. As a scholar and mentor, who enjoys a wide support and loyalty of thousands of youth, he had a responsibility to speak about it, which he did, an effort that prevented reprisal attacks. It is laughable that when these agents of evil decide to pick places of interests (POI) in order to achieve their ungodly plans of tarnishing the image of the Minister, they failed to pick at those points where he has spoken largely against Terrorism, reprisal attacks even in the face of provocations as well as preach peaceful co-existence. And just come to think of it, if Dr. Pantami has been preaching extremism or has had ties with any terror group, how come you do not find his students fronting insurgency or terrorism in Nigeria? A man who has spent more than 20 years of his 48 years in life teaching men and women, children and aged people, yet did not form a battalion of terrorists waging war against the Nigerian state? Contrary to that, what Dr. Pantami was able to formulate is a team of purposeful youths, today holding significant places home and abroad, and with good record in their places of work..
I remember something that happened sometimes around 2004, when a delegation was sent to meet Dr. Pantami about his method of preaching, despite the various religious crisis that had engulfed the nation. That delegation happens to be of some youths that have radical opinions, which Dr. Pantami do not hold. To understand the extent of the Minister’s philosophy and prognostication, he invited almost all his students within the University Campus (because that was where those visitors met him at), He asked the spokesperson of the delegation to repeat his message, which he did and we all listened. That was when Dr. Pantami exhibited a high sense of responsibility as a mentor and teacher; clarified the misconception by those youths and spoke to us at a longer length why we must study Islam deep enough to identify alien ideologies. How can such a man have ties with such radical groups?
On Dr. Pantami’s position about the war in Afghanistan, I deliberately decided I speak on it at the end of this very short article for obvious reasons. Largely, it is because, only Ignorant chumps do not know that the war in Afghanistan has been a bone of contention among even non-Muslim scholars. Do you expect such a myopic and mischievous publications to go beyond the surface and seek for more information? No. They know that majority of their audience are as gloomy as they are. For instance, Ryan T. Williams, an Assistant Professor of Law, at Western State University College law has discussed in details a political opinion he holds about the war in Afghanistan, in his article, “Dangerous Precedent: America’s Illegal War in Afghanistan”. His and several other positions aired by scholars around the world centre on the legality or otherwise of America’s intervention in the politics of other countries and how the use of force in international Law is largely outlawed, “except in three circumstances; in self-defence, pursuant to a United Nations Security Council resolution, or with the consent from the leader of an invaded state”. I will also recommend the book authored by Carlotta Gall, entitled: “The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001 to 2014”. In addition to several other Books that have detailed the politics of the war in Afghanistan and the positions of world scholars on the war, from Muslims and Non-Muslim writers. I also recommend the book, “In Defense of Islam, in the Light of September 11”, for anyone who wants to see how the Scholars of Sunnah speak against Terrorism and such ideologies.
To end this short article, it is pertinent to note that Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami is not what these underlings and propaganda dogs want the world to believe. He is human, and he makes mistakes. But linking him to any form of Terrorism or ties with terrorists is ludicrous and reckless. Whatever the motives of the perpetrators of this unsold lies are, they will be put to shame