Tuesday, April 20, 2021 10:32 am
By Richard Elesho
Dr. Ali Isa Pantami, Nigeria’s embattled Minister of Communication and Digital Economy has received the backing of the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC in his current travails.
Pantani has been under the radar for incendiary remarks against non-Muslims with some people calling for his resignation from cabinet.
MURIC in a statement on Monday signed by Prof. Ishaq Akinola, its Director urged the Minister to ignore the calls describing it as a campaign of calumny being pushed by people against some official policies of the government.
The statement reads: “A section of the Nigerian press published reports of calls being made by some people for the resignation of Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami over the fake news that the US had placed him on its watchlist. The second allegation was that the minister had made certain radical pronouncements in the past.
“It is a baseless call and it should be ignored. Afterall, the US itself has denied it. Dr. Pantami has been enjoying unhindered multiple entry to the US for a very long time. Even Facebook, the US based social media giant had Pantami’s picture on Facebook’s digital board for several hours as a mark of honor and respect during one of his numerous visits to that country.
“The campaign of calumny is being pushed by forces against the Federal Government’s NIN policy, Boko Haram terrorists, bandits, criminals in general and political IDPs (Internally Displaced Politicians). No one who has the love of Nigeria at heart will support such a malicious and frivolous allegation.
“It is a well-known fact that NIN is designed to expose the true identity of criminals like Yahoo Yahoo boys, bandits and kidnappers who use the internet and telephone to extort money from foreigners and families of kidnapped victims. They live a life of Mr. Jekyll and Hyde : respected gentlemen in the day but dangerous criminals at night and on lonely alleys.
“They have become jittery ever since the NIN policy was introduced by Pantami’s Ministry of Communications and Digital Policy. They are among those who stand to benefit from Pantami’s resignation. As for the political IDPs, their motive is to ensure that no project initiated by the current administration succeeds.
“The implications of Pantami’s resignation at this crucial stage are too gloomy to contemplate. It is a national security issue. The NIN scheme, our hope for dealing a technical blow on terrorism, insurgency, kidnapping and all sorts of criminality in the country will suffer suffocating palpitations. There will be a break in monitoring. It is better for us to allow the man who started it to finish it. If any problem arises after we have changed hands in the middle of its implementation, the new boss will easily shift the blame. It will then be a double tragedy. Let the beginner be the finisher.
“In the interest of our great country, Nigeria, we therefore charge Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami to ignore calls for his resignation. An agitation for resignation which is not based on sincerity and truth must be resisted by patriots. This campaign for the minister’s resignation is in bad taste. It is pregnant with ulterior motives. Pantami must not surrender. He must not succumb to cheap blackmail. A captain does not abandon ship in stormy waters. When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.
“On the issue of statements credited to Pantami in his younger days, we wonder how detractors would give preference to pronouncements made by a teenager and those made in the days of students’ unionism to those made after maturity and clairvoyance. It is sheer mischief to seek to use that against him.
“If they have evidence of speeches delivered 35 years ago when Pantami was a teenager, we have indubitable proof of more recent anti-terrorism speeches, particularly his public debates with the late Boko Haram leader Muhammad Yusuf where the minister made mincemeat of the arguments of Muhammad Yusuf. But our strongest evidence is the threat made by Shekau, the current leader of Boko Haram, to kill Pantami.
“Again, come to think of it. It was not as if the minister committed any official misconduct. Neither is it for abuse of office nor for corrupt enrichment. Some people just want to crucify him for daring to acquire infotech skills ostensibly reserved for a certain circle of elites. They believe that this is a field jealously reserved and guarded for the Western literati and their Nigerian cronies. Not an area for a mallam. It is just too petty the way some Nigerians think and behave. This is another big raison d’etre for the Shaykh to sit tight, continue and complete his good work, all to the chagrin of mean detractors.
“Pantami could have resigned the moment his life was threatened by the Boko Haram leader in February 2021. But he continued to weather the storm because he was determined to finish the NIN scheme which he initiated. He knows that his initiative is crucial to the defeat of insurgency and terrorism. The terrorists also know it and that was the cassu belli for the threat on Pantami’s life. They wanted him to stop the NIN scheme.
“A man who puts his life on the line for the sake of his country deserves the support of every right thinking Nigerian. It is therefore ironical that the same man is being asked to resign. This is definitely a gang up by rebellious subjects and enemies of the people. They do not mean well for Nigeria.
“We call on every Nigerian who still has some modicum of our values and norms: hardwork, truthfulness, transparency and accountability to stand in solidarity with the honourable minister. We must not collectively hand over one of the few symbols of our pride to people who believe in easy money, people who see fraud as a necessity of life, people who believe in making their own wealth by causing hardship, pain and agony for others. It will mean the triumph of evil. We must not allow this to happen. Auudhubillahi. Allah forbid.
“The good people of this country must speak up in defence of truth. The Arabs say, ‘Silence on abomination is abomination’ (As-sukuutu ‘ala al-munkar munkar). According to Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. ‘The refusal to take sides on great moral issues is itself a decision. It is a silent acquiescence to evil. The tragedy of our time is that those who still believe in honesty lack fire and conviction, while those who believe in dishonesty are full of passionate conviction.’
“This is the time for good people to intervene. It was Martin Luther King Jnr who said, ‘In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends’. We must not forget the warning issued by Albert Einstein when he said, ‘The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything”.
“MURIC will not stand akimbo while a dedicated Nigerian is being rubbished by rogue politicians, materialists and morally deficient people. We stand with the truth. We identify with dignity and integrity. We stand with Pantami in this crucial moment.