Nigeria’s Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami’s recent volte-face of previously held extremist views in support of global terrorism after his initial denial of harbouring such views, is very unfortunate, embarrassing and disheartening.
It is instructive to note that Dr Pantami, who was former Director General of National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), in his initial defence, did accuse enemies of the Federal Government verification policy of the National Identity Number (NIN) and the Subscriber Identification Modules (SIM) of being behind a campaign of calumny against his person.
However the unearthing of authentic videos and audio tapes of speeches he made to past audiences in which he variously identified with the aims of Al-Qaeda and, whilst criticising the excesses of the Nigerian Army in the North East, drew false equivalences between the Niger Delta militants and Boko Haram terrorists, exposed him as a sympathiser of Boko Haram, attempting to downplay the evil the organisation represents.
His recant notwithstanding, those remarks mark him out as a religious zealot, a terrorist sympathiser and a middling proselytiser whose intellectual horizons are severely constricted by religious fervour and primordial ethnic sentiments.
These, and other infelicities, make his position at the head of a sensitive Ministry both regrettable and untenable. His resignation should only be the first step towards a process of accounting and explanation that the Nigerian citizenry deserve. A multi-ethnic and multi-faith country should not have religious zealots that flirt with political and religious extremism in public office.
It is also a matter of great concern that these antecedents were either missed or glossed over during the screening process by security agencies that precedes Ministerial appointment. The relevant bodies in charge of those processes should explain these lapses and what measures they would put in place to restore public trust in these protective measures.
For the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration that came into office in 2015 on the back of a promise to wage a sincere war against terrorism, a promise it has failed to fulfil in six years amidst suspicion of internal saboteurs and collaborators frustrating the war on terror, the continued stay in office of Dr Pantami would confirm that its war on terror was no more than a political ruse all along.