By Muhammad Auwal Ibrahim
I have seen the Daily Independent fake news published on 12th April, 2021, and that of a so-called freelance journalist attacking Nigeria’s minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Shaykh Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami. It is very disappointing that a media organisation could publish such fake news. However, it is not too surprising owing to the growth of Islamophobic media in Nigeria. Such outlets in Nigeria practice yellow journalism. They portrayed their total hatred for Islam, Muslims and north. Anything associated with us, they don’t like it. I don’t know when one’s religion or tribe becomes a reason for him to be defamed.
Our profession is one that teaches objectivity, accuracy, clarity, fairness, balance, impartiality amongst other good ethics. But this type of media decides to look away from all this, guiding the conducts of the media operations in Nigeria. Communications teachers have always emphasized on the need for unbiased publication.
It is very sad that the newspaper and its reporters chose to attack the personality of Shaykh Pantami who has left a more conducive working environment (Kingdom if Saudi Arabia) where he is more safer, secured and comfortable just to come and serve Nigeria. They deliberately failed to appreciate his patriotism and love for peace that made him put his life at risk.
The decision for him to come back and serve Nigeria, his country, is the most difficult decision he has ever made. Even without him stating it. But Dr. Pantami has stated this in a hausa lecture in Abuja, where he teaches Islam. Now, we can see the reason why those Nigerians in diaspora hardly return to serve Nigeria. They prefer to stay there in peace than coming back to face unfair criticisms, defamation and attacks.
For the few that returned like Dr. Pantami, critics have embarked on an e-thuggery and cheap campaign just to defame him. Time after time. This is not the first time. Sahara reporters in particular is the champion medium used in doing so. Now, the so-called Daily Independent and co. are joining the league.
Dr. Pantami since his return to Nigeria has been a great leader who leads by example. The way he discharged his duties diligently have earned him accolades and commendations. Even from governors and elites. His performance in the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari went beyond everyone’s imagination. This made him to be the best performing minister. So, they can’t raise any scandal or any corruption allegations against him. They are now showing us their true colours. They deliberately decided to tarnish his image.
Sahara reporters have done similar. Maybe this was why this platform did the same. Being in the media space, I know how tasking it is to embark on an investigation. Having done some reports, I just feel like crying when I see how some people just fabricate lies against someone they hate. Without facts they can go ahead to defame one.
The attack on Hon. Pantami can either be seen as ignorance or Islamophobia. There are reputable media organisations in Nigeria who are known for their investigative reports but didn’t paint the minister black. Such as Premium times and Humangle, an online newspaper based in Nigeria, covering conflicts. Even from here one will know that they are doing this deliberately out of ignorance or paid for. Who is the said journalist that can report, uncover what Ahmad Salkida, editor Humangle didn’t on terrorism in Nigeria for over a decade. He has covered a lot of conflict reports in Nigeria.
Even if it is ignorance, they are at fault. Lack of professionalism and censorship give room for yellow journalism. The media is to be blamed for employing staff without the required media qualifications. Why should one go ahead and publish a story relying on a video conducted in another language other than the one he understands. Without even looking for an objective translation.
On the other hand, if it is Islamophobia, they are still not free. And it can be. Why always muslims? Journalism deals with objectivity. But in their said report, I can see elements of subjectivity. Yellow journalism is becoming the order of the day. It is important to note that journalists are overstepping their boundaries. And in doing so, it causes more harm to the society. A doctor’s mistake is less harming than that of a journalist.
They did not only criticised him but also defamed him. They wanted to succeed in painting him black but they have failed. This is Islamophobia. To disagree with one is different from abusing him or tarnishing his image in the eyes of the public. That’s why professional journalists fact checked all the claims but no evidence in turn.
I know that there are other people who may not like honourable minister Pantami. But why must they attack his personality? These elements and those sponsoring them should leave him alone. Enough is enough. Our profession is guided by good ethics which include fairness, accuracy and balance amongst others. But in the said report, all mentioned are not strictly adhered to.
Barr. Ibrahim M. Attahir once wrote in his article titled “The Hon. Chief Justice of Nigeria and His Critics’ ‘ in 2020, last year and I quote due to its relevance to my topic of discussion. He wrote it in defence of the Hon. Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim Tanko. “These selective critics should leave the Hon. CJN alone. If they must criticize him, they should be courteous. Our profession has taught us how to say no while smiling.”
“Their uncultured behavior is a sad reality of our existence in a plural society. Some people come from a culture that does not see anything bad in disrespecting elders and constituted authorities. Therefore, their parents could not teach them civilized norms and values. They do not know decorum and courtesy in public discourse.” he also added.
Nigerian Muslims are suffering a lot of persecution, both young and elderly. Muslim female students are not allowed to wear hijabs in some schools despite court of appeal ruling. This amongst other form of discrimination affect Muslim students. For the elders, who are practising Muslims, they are either defamed or attacked.
We have the records of Muslim personalities who were discriminated. For nothing but practising their religion as guaranteed by the 1999 constitution. An example here is Barrister Firdausi Amasa. Her name should be familiar to all because she was denied her call to bar certificate for wearing a scarf. Others are students writing JAMB who were forced to remove their hijabs in Plateau and other states. Recently, in Kwara there was a case of hijabophobia.
From the foregoing, you will see that even in schools, Nigerian Muslim students are not allowed to breathe air freely. Once one is identified as a good practising Muslim, they will be hunting, persecuting and threatening him . Though I don’t want to go deep into this. This will be a topic on its own and I will find time to address this.
Not only students, elderly Muslims too are not spared. Examples are Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Shaykh Dr. Isa Ali Pantami, Hon. Chief Justice of Nigeria, and others too numerous to be mentioned.
Islam being the fastest growing religion in the world, is gaining more enemies day by day. practicing muslims are always on attacks either locally or internationally. A typical example of this, is what happened to Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, the Director General, Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC). They defamed him but Allah has shamed them. Not only Prof., similar thing happened to late shaykh Albani Zaria. He stated it in his lecture available in Hausa. But he dealt with them decisively. He dragged them to court and they were fined.
I am happy to see that the honourable minister is taking legal action against those Islamophobic media. Even if he did not this time, I will advise him to do so. There is no way they will be always attacking a respected personality like him, day by day. We can’t continue to watch them. The law must teach them a lesson.
What I will add here is that the honourable minister should not accept their mere apology online following pressure on the media. They should face his legal team. Possibly, he should see them in court so that they will tell the judge where their facts are extracted from. Their failure to do this, they should be taught a lesson. I pray that heavy fines should be labelled against them. I am sure doing this will stop every one intending to do similar even if he is paid. Because some may be paid to do this.
We are not like them. We are not going to do anything wrong. But the law will speak. Just like the students of late Shaykh Albani have said as contained in a daily trust report in 2011. We are Nigerian citizens who respect our fellow Nigerians. And this doesn’t stop us from taking legal action on any person who wrongs us.
I will also like to appreciate my Muslim brothers and sisters and to some extent even non muslims who have stood by the truth. It is always good to debunk fake news. Those who have stood by Shaykh online are the true ambassadors of fact check. The reactions I saw from my fellow patriots on twitter is enough to show them how Shaykh Pantami is respected, loved in Nigeria and abroad.
Finally, I pray may Almighty Allah continue to guide, protect Shaykh and all of us from the enemies of Islam. May He give us the ability to propagate the religion of Islam.
Muhammad Auwal Ibrahim is a journalist, fellow African Investigative Journalism Conference (AIJC) 2020, Wits University, Johannesburg, South Africa.