The calls for resignation and pressure on the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami, over his alleged links to extremist groups like Al-Qaeda and Boko Haram in addition to his pro-Taliban views has continued unabated.
The campaign which started with unconfirmed media reports that the United States Government had allegedly placed him on a security watchlist over alleged links with the late founder and leader of the dreaded Boko Haram group, Mohammed Yusuf, later snowballed into a series of other allegations which border on his extreme Islamic views and activities in the past.
Pantami, an Islamic cleric, in his initial reaction to the allegation of being on US security watchlist due to his extremist views, denied the allegations, saying that he had always preached against the Boko Haram sect for over 15 years over its condemnable doctrines and practices at the expense of his life.
He alleged that those behind these allegations are those who are not happy with his implementation of the good policies of President Muhammadu Buhari on security especially the government policy on National Identification Number (NIN) and threatened legal action against the publishers.
The Minister in his statement said, ‘’News Wire Nigeria your retraction through your independent investigation has been noted. However, investigative journalism requires the investigation before publishing, not after. Further, major publishers will meet my lawyers in court on this defamation of character.
My lectures against the doctrines and all other evil people have been available for over 15 years, including debates that endangered my life against many criminals in Nigeria. If you can’t understand Hausa, get an objective Hausa speaker to translate for you objectively.
For your information, by the Almighty, no amount of intimation will stop Isa Pantami from implementing the good policies of President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR on security.”
As the calls from Nigerians for the resignation of the 48-year-old Minister continued, over his religious views, Patanmi, for the first time on Saturday, April 17, 2021, according to some media reports, acknowledged his past religious views but said that he has since renounced those radical comments.
He blamed his past radical leanings on age, immaturity and limited knowledge as well as based on his understanding of religious issues at the time, adding that he has changed several positions taken in the past based on new evidence and maturity,
However, despite renouncing his past radical views, more people on social media and even public figures, have joined the agitation for his resignation, saying that his views as a student cannot be blamed on age.
Some Nigerians have expressed their views on the matter with a good number of them insisting that the Minister has to resign.
A Twitter user, Chris Chukwu, said Nigerians are not going to sleep on this issue because he is a threat to National security.
#PantamiMustGo. We are not going to sleep on this issue. He is a threat to National security.
— Chris Chukwu (@ChukwuChristo18) April 22, 2021
Festus Ogun said that if the President refuses to sack Pantami, he should be prepared for #EndSARS part 2.
Should the President persist in its refusal to sack Pantami, he should be prepared for #EndSARS Part 2. We cannot be talking of a safe country when terrorists are the ones occupying political offices. His continued stay in office is a threat to national security. #PantamiMustGo
— FESTUS OGUN (@mrfestusogun) April 22, 2021
Effiong John, while stating why President Buhari would not sack the Communications Minister said that a terrorist apologist will not sack another terrorist apologist.
A TERRORIST APOLOGIST can never sack a TERRORIST APOLOGIST.
You now understand why Buhari constantly grants amnesty to Boko Haram?
The only thing that will "give" is for us to continue to mount pressure until the international community comes to our rescue.#PantamiMustGo
— Effiong John (@effiongjohn10) April 22, 2021
A human rights activist Comrade Deji Adeyanju said that a terrorist sympathizer is a terrorist.
A terrorist sympathizer is a terrorist. #PantamiMustGo
— Comrade Deji Adeyanju (@adeyanjudeji) April 22, 2021
Ayemojubar lamented that Nigeria has been taken over by terrorists.
Nigeria has been hijacked by terrorists, to worsen the case this high-speed train has lost total control.#PantamiMustGo
— Ayemojubar (@ayemojubar) April 22, 2021
Another Twitter user, Abiodun Sanusi said that sympathizing with Isa Pantami is the same as showing sympathy for Osama Bin Laden.
Sympathizing with Isa Pantami is the same as showing sympathy for Osama Bin Laden or Biko Haram. Religious extremists are no different from terrorists!#PantamiResignNow #PantamiMustResign #PantamiMustGo #PantamiMustLeave 👇👇👇 pic.twitter.com/76jSduJiWl
— Abiodun Sanusi (@AbiodunSanusi01) April 18, 2021
However, while responding to Governor Wike’s reaction to the issue, a former presidential aspirant, Omoyele Sowore said that the Rivers State Governor was only grandstanding as he was some time ago, caught on tape threatening to kill an INEC official.
@GovWike is grandstanding as usual, when he was caught on tape threatening to kill @inecnigeria officials who don’t do his bidding and bribing them to rig elections, did he resign! Funny quacks! #PantamiMustGo #BuhariMustGo Receipts: https://t.co/jxazsPN4pi
— Omoyele Sowore (@YeleSowore) April 22, 2021
Some Nigerians have, however, expressed their support and sympathy for the Minister as they believed that he is being victimized for some of the government’s policies that he is driving.
A Twitter user Khaleel Kumo said that #Pantami must go is purely hypocritical and directed at anything good that comes out from Islam.
#PantamiMustGo is pure hypocrisy directed at blackmailing everything good that comes from Islam/Muslims as usual.
I am a patriotic Nigerian who cares about her peace and progress, And i say…….. #IStandWithPantami
— Khaleel Kumo (@Khalilkumo) April 22, 2021
A Twitter user Faarees asked that the #PantamiMustGo must stop trending and Nigerians should go and link their SIM with their NIN.
— F A A R E E S 💫 (@MFaarees_) April 22, 2021
Musbey in his defence for Pantami said that as long as you are a practising Muslim and successful, they will hate you.
As long as you're a practising Muslim and successful, they'll hate you. This happens to Southern practising Muslims as well. A Southwestern politician who's a practising Muslim was labelled with all sorts of names and allegations because he's not one of them. #PantamiWillStay
— ＭＵＳＢＥＹ (@Mus6ey) April 17, 2021
Also, in defence of the Communications Minister, the Presidency through the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity said that Pantami, made those extremist remarks when he was in his 20s and has since then retracted them and changed his views.
The Presidency pointed out that this currently manufactured dispute has nothing to do with the Minister’s prior words but rather concerns over his actions in the present which include leading the charge against illegal data deductions and pricing, deregistering 9.2 million SIMs thereby ending the ability for criminals and terrorists to use mobile networks undetected.
Also reacting to alleged links of Pantami to the death of the late former Governor of Kaduna State, Patrick Yakowa, the Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Kaduna State chapter, Rev. John Hayab, warned against linking the death of Yakowa to Dr Isa Pantami.
He called on Nigerians to ignore such insinuations and release of some documents with doubtful authenticity, which endangers national peace.
The very critical question is why these allegations are coming up now after almost 2 years in office as a Minister. Is he a terrorist sympathizer, an allegation he has denied or is he a victim of some of the government policies whose execution he is spearheading?
These are questions that are still begging for answers.