Re:Pantami – In Defense of the Media


Buhari and Pantami. Photo credit: Daily Post

By Tunde Asaju

It is true that Muhammadu Buhari’s regime would want us to believe that Isa Ali Pantami, a Boko Haram sympathiser and Al-Qaeda ally has renounced his fundamentalist tendencies. Well, as they say here – the Internet does not forgive and the Internet does not forget.

It is shameful to listen to the incisive rhetoric of Pantami, only a few years ago. Reading Garbage Shehu’s statement would make one believe that Pantami is 70. Shehu wrote of the 2000s as if we are in another century. Things must be very rosy in the Villa that time is so much not in a hurry that Shehu is consciously unaware that this is only 2021!

Sadly, more and more incendiary statements have emanated from the old Pantami. In one I listened to recently, he was outrightly calling for a Jihad against the people of Plateau. He called on all faithfuls to arm and attack Christian communities with a promise that if they failed, he would stand up and lead the onslaught.

That kind of rhetoric is pretty hard to renounce.

I could write a whole book on why I think Pantami is not repentant. I could challenge Shehu’s reasoning on data by saying nothing has changed with Pantami in charge. As a matter of fact, it took a media expose by #DailyTrust for Pantami to know that the rested SIM cards he ordered withdrawn were indeed being resold on major streets.

That is not the attribute of a Minister who is up and doing and factually aware of what is happening in his sphere of influence. I do agree that the north, my north is educationally disadvantaged. We need such backward classification to sustain the nepotism that has not benefitted Arewaland either in the past or presently.

We, the North control perhaps 80 per cent of political offices, but we have not controlled poverty in the region. We have not dealt with diseases in the region. Our children are still vagrants begging for sour leftovers. They still sleep on the streets, under the shade of trees. Our elites are among the most unconscionable people on earth. Yet, when it is time for sympathy, it beats rationale imagination how they are able to mobilise the same people they denied basic necessities that their best interests are best served by people who outwardly profess the same religion as them.

Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s like telling a Nigerian rank and file soldier that s/he enjoys the same privileges like his General or commander. The uniforms are not even the same and if a recruit sees a General and refuses to salute, he is taken to the guardroom and locked up until he behaves.

But then, I digress. I have read several attacks on the media. We are said to be the reason why an impostor like Pantami made his way to the top of a political career. I beg to disagree both factually and otherwise.

While this lie was being peddled on social media, Jaafar Jaafar, one of northern Nigeria’s celebrated journalists remains in hiding. His crime was that he broke ranks when he ridiculed Abdullahi ‘Gandollar’ Ganduje stuffing people’s money in every hole and orifice of his pocket. Jaafar has been threatened by the powers that be. Since he is not an Emir and could not be deposed, they want him dead or alive. May Allah continue to protect him and his lovely family.

But then, I jumped the gun. We should look at the insurgency in Borno and environs. The first person to conscientiously report Boko Haram was Ahmad Salkida. Salkida became a threat to the corruptive tendencies of the Nigerian military that he had to run away to Dubai. He remained there for a long time without support or succour from anybody until it became unbearable for him.

After maligning Salkida, the brave young man returned to clear his name. The military ate its words and let him go. I know that Salkida is back and now publishes HumAngle. I follow him on Twitter and I don’t know how such an asset to humanity survives the onslaught on his mostly investigative reportage.

As a reporter on sabbatical, I do know that even way back in the day, Newswatch used to have the most ‘unsold’ copies whenever our editors invested in investigative reporting. I would bet that nobody wants to read about the underhand dealings in this regime that claims it came to clean the Aegean stable.

Simon Kolawole wrote the first expose on Bola Ahmed Tinubu. It cost him his job and I’ll be damned if he takes his security with any laxity knowing what happened to Godwin Agbroko, Bayo Ohu and several others. Fisayo Soyombo has done more in investigative journalism than Anas Aremeyaw of Ghana but this country has not rewarded him. The publishers of the Gazette have been targeted more times in the past couple of months. Yet, journalism remains one of the least lucrative jobs in the land.

When a journalist is killed, they die for nothing! Who has remembered Seye Kehinde? Who has honoured Bagauda Kaltho or Alifa Daniel to mention a few among the living and the dead? Thank God Dele Giwa’s children finally grew up to take care of themselves, but what have they received from grateful Nigerians for the prices they have paid for a just and equitable society?

Every day, Nigerian journalists put their own lives in their hands rejecting very lucrative offers to sudden wealth but they get nothing in return. Yes, there are Judases among us too, we are reflection of society.

But back to Pantami, only a few people I know on social media who initially felt like Islam and not extremism was being attacked have returned in the face of disturbing evidence to take back their words against Pantami. Many believed the lie that the extremist views were said so long ago that Pantami has overgrown them.

Methinks that Pantami came into governance for a reason – to understudy how governance works so that when he returns to his lost group, he could even be more deadly than he was. I also refuse to subscribe to the thoughts that as disadvantaged as we are in the north, we have only produced one person with Pantami’s administrative pedigree.

I personally know several fellow northerners who are better and brighter than Pantami in education, class and exposure. Most of them are also very good at whatever they set out to do and are nationalistic. I tell my northern brothers that they should stop hiding under one finger. We are better than we make others believe. We have produced several wonderful humans and there are several others barely in public radar. Whenever we find a bad apple among our lots, we should take them out before they infect the good ones.

My name is Tunde Asaju, I wrote this piece, I stand by it and I won’t recant it even in 2038.

-Tunde Asaju, journalist, writes from Ottawa. Canada.