Antami is my friend, but he cannot be protected – Faruk A. Kperogi

Antami is my friend, but he cannot be protected – Faruk A. Kperogi

This is a difficult column to write because while dozens of people have bothered me to intervene in the controversy over the statements of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami before he entered the government, my wife, who knows that Pantami is my friend, he begged me to stay away from this.

But I would be a hypocrite and betray the meaning of my name (as well as my late father, who taught me the meaning of my name when I was too young to fully understand it, and who never missed a reminder to respect him) if I avoid this all-consuming contradiction – national, because it puts my friend in a bad light.

The truth is that it is impossible to use the resources of logic, reason, elementary decency and even religious morality to defend some of the sermons that Pantami delivered in the early and late 2000s, especially in light of his current position as acting federal minister. … a huge treasure of confidential information of citizens. I’ll get to that soon.

But, first, how did the controversy over Pantami’s past sermons come to the fore in the national conversation? On April 12, a story appeared on some Nigerian news sites claiming that Pantami was a supporter and aide to Boko Haram, which is now in the scrutiny of the American intelligence community.

The most important newspaper that triggered the story was James Ibori’s Daily Independent, which claimed that Pantami was “associated with Abu Qatada al Falasimi and other al-Qaeda leaders whom he read and spoke about with enthusiasm in many of his videos. on YouTube, “under which he is currently” in the watchlist [sic] Intelligence Service of America. “

The backstory for this story is that it was laid by telecom executives in Nigeria, whose companies are suffering financial bleeding due to the Pantami directive of December 9, 2020, which stopped the sale, activation and registration of new SIM cards until “subscriber registration”. Database check “is completed.

I know this because at least two editor friends confided in me that they received the story of Pantami’s alleged terrorism and surveillance by American intelligence agencies from people associated with the Nigerian telecommunications industry, but who refused to publish it because that it was legally problematic.

I suspect that Pantami himself identified the source of his problems because on April 15 he ordered a conditional renewal of the sale, activation and registration of a new SIM card from April 19 “, provided that mandatory verification of the national identification number (NIN) and the guidelines of the revised National Digital Identity Policy for SIM Registration “.

However, despite the efforts of paid and free media and social media “influencers” to protect him – and the rebuttal of a story that confirms his sympathy for domestic and international terrorists – the truth is that his rhetorical entanglement with the ideologies of extremist Salafis, which I am not knew until recently, justifies the critical scrutiny he is receiving now.

In a series of audiographic reports, Narodny Vestnik discovered Pantami’s sermons, which were truly preaching statements about terrorism and intolerance towards non-Muslims.

For example, in response to a question about Osama bin Laden’s “killing innocent unbelievers”, Pantami said, although he admitted that bin Laden could be wrong because he was a human, “I still consider him a better Muslim than I am,” and pointed out on the outside that “we are all happy every time unbelievers are killed, but Sharia law does not allow us to kill them for no reason.” You cannot protect him.

The newspaper Narodnye Vedomosti also found an audio cassette in which he tearfully defended Boko Haram terrorists from extrajudicial executions and demanded amnesty for them, as well as for the militants in the Niger Delta. “Do you see what the blood of our Muslim brothers has become? Pig blood is also worth more than the blood of a Muslim brother, ”he said.

After the religious crisis in Shendam, Plateau state in 2004, when Christian militias killed dozens of Hausa Muslims, Pantami was furious and in tears. In an audio recording of his sermon, he said that “Ahlus Sunna”, that is, people who are now called Salafis, should resist and avoid religious politicians and clerics who preach peace and moderation.

“This jihad is the duty of every believer, especially in Nigeria (hadha jihad farḍ ‘ain’ ala kull Muslim wa-khunudan fi Nijiriya),” he said.

In her article entitled “Popular Discourses of Salafist Counter-Radicalism in Nigeria” in March 2019: Responding to a Review by Alexander Thurston, Boko Haram, Abdullahi Lamido, Professor Andrea Brigaglia of the University of Cape Town, South Africa, writes:

Subsequently, Pantami voluntarily mobilizes Hisbah’s police in Muslim-majority states and is appointed as the “commander” (hausa: kwamanda) of the militia, ready to travel to Elva Shendam to join the fight in defense of Muslims. The speech, which lasts about twenty minutes, ends with a prayer: “O God, grant victory to the Taliban and al-Qa’ida” (Allahumma ‘nṣur alibān wa-tanẓīm al-Qā’ida). “

In Pantami’s past sermons, you can find much more unjustified rhetorical confirmation of extremism. In my opinion, non-Muslims have the right to worry that someone with this kind of baggage is a federal minister, just as Muslims would be outraged if a Christian priest proves that he previously held extremist views. they became a minister.

Yemi Osinbajo, for example, has been accused of being an intolerant, narrow-minded Christian extremist wallowing in his bull of the God Saved Christian Church (RCCG), which employs only Yoruba people belonging to the RCCG, but while this is condemnable, no until hitherto he was accused of protecting visions as extreme as those of Pantami when he was a shepherd.

However, condemning the past manifestation of extremism by Pantami in his public sermons, I want to emphasize that there is a huge difference between his rhetoric and his personality. People who know him in the pulpit testify to his compassion, kindness, and serenity.

Although a US diplomatic cable dated April 15, 2009 (issued by WikiLeaks in 2011) about the religious crisis in Bauchi during that year stated that “Imam Fantami Isa, who preached in the mosque, had previously been expelled from Abubakar University Tafawa Baleva and Gombe … A mosque for preaching inflammatory rhetoric ”, it is not known whether it has provoked religious upheaval since then.

I also think this has happened since the days of his ardent homiletic ties to stochastic terrorism. I can point to some physical evidence. First, even though he said in the audio tape that he wants to push Nigeria to have no iconography and no political campaign posters in our national currency, now he clearly loves photography.

Second, while previous sermons have expressed contempt for government work and even ridiculed the Islamic clergy for doing so, this is Pantami’s second political appointment. Prior to his appointment as minister, he was the CEO of NITDA.

Third, he received his PhD from Robert Gordon University in the UK in 2014 and is now so in love with the West that he even claims on Twitter and elsewhere that he “studied” at Oxford; Harvard; Cambridge; Massachusetts Institute of Technology / IMD. “Although he only attended the courses a few weeks after he was in government.

But the idea that these facts show that he has changed is just my extrapolation. If he has really developed the way I think he should, he should speak at the world press conference and say it. At the very least, it should provide a context for his previous incendiary sermons.

Nobody can do it for him. Pays media houses to “fact-check” unverifiable statements (for example, if it’s on a checklist) and clever misrepresentation to fool gullible readers – and social media “influencers” to tarnish facts. …

Finally, in December 2020, Sheikh Aminu Daurava, who, like Pantami, welcomed al-Qaeda and the Taliban in the early to mid-2000s, released an audio cassette condemning his past. And he’s not a government agent.

As Desmond Ford reminds us, “A wise man sometimes changes his mind, but a fool never. Changing your mind is the best proof that you have one. “


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