By Dr. Israel Ovirih
We were taught right from our days in elementary school in the 70s (when equity, fairness and integrity, at least, towered above everything else in our country) that what was good for the goose was also good for the gander.
In those days, truth was sacrosanct and government at all levels, as run by civil servants and politricians (political magicians) alike, was run with a strict sense of sensibility, self worth and self respect. If you were caught stealing or seen to be corrupt or seen as a terrorist or coup-plotter, it was believed you were an enemy of the state. The accused and his/her entire family were publicly shamed and the guilty would be made to feel some sense of remorse!
But, alas, in the Nigeria of the 1990s and beyond, we seem to have totally lost it. It really got worse during the Babangida and Abacha eras. Yet, while we were still blaming the military for ineptitude, corruption, nepotism and open stealing of the commonwealth, we suddenly realized that the emerging civilians and self-professed democrats were even more anti-democratic and unpatriotic, with an unquenchable love for self and self-aggrandizement at the expense of the national interest. Hmmmmm…such anti-national interest tendencies were truly legendary and did break world records!
Yet, even now, a battle between national interest and parochial interest can be seen in the unfolding national debate around one of Nigeria’s government functionaries. We have all watched with keen interest the news from far away United States of America (moreso from the US government itself) of the revealing past deeds of our Minister (and sheikh?) Isa Ali Pantami, the Honourable Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, in public life, over the last thirty years. Of course, we have been inundated with so many of his ugly and controversial stories (which he has not repudiated in anyway), so much that we have lost count.
Some of us have been wondering how this personality could have passed all security screenings to become a minister of the Federal Republic, a member of the Federal Executive Council and, sadly, the chief custodian of the critical data of all Nigerians (NCC, NIN, BVN et al), despite all the expected scrutiny of the DSS, the NSA and our collective vigilance. Reading that such personality is pro-terrorist, pro-bandit, a sympathizer of terrorists and, indeed, a religious bigot who, sometime in the not-too-distant-past, must have passed a fatwa from some pulpit which ultimately led to the killing of innocent Nigerians, is enough for all Nigerians to be on the street asking him to resign forthwith.
Isa Pantami’s refusal to resign and the failure of the presidency to make him to resign are worrisome, in the face of all these revelations. It is more worrisome, when presidential spokeman Garba Shehu issued a press statement to the effect that Isa Pantami had apologized and that he committed these heinous offences when he was a ‘child’…. This is totally incredible and unacceptable to millions of Nigerians who have suffered and are now suffering from Pantami’s alleged encouragement and support of terrorists, a position which has caused thousands to be killed, kidnapped and raped. Afterall, terrorists and other criminals are emboldened and become more brazen when they get support from accomplices or their actions are applauded by others. It is just the way a sportsman’s performance gets better with the encouragement of his cheering fans. Pantami has been an accessory to terror and an accomplice in a crime against Nigerians and humanity. Pantami’s hands are soiled.
Nigerians will still recall the newspaper headlines of March 22, 2017, which broke the news that the then Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, had provided as part of her credentials, a NYSC discharge certificate which was later found to have been forged or illegally procured. We were reliably informed that Kemi contacted the powers that be, through her godfathers in the Buhari government, so that she could be allowed to continue as the Minister of Finance despite all the brouhaha. According to the grapevine, the then Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari (now late) and President Muhammadu Buhari, in the spirit of openness and transparency, however, asked Kemi to resign forthwith due to that infraction and neither Garba Shehu nor Femi Adeshina (both presidential spokepersons) came out with a press statement to defend Kemi Adeosun.
So, I ask: has there been a policy change in the presidency between 2017 and 2021 over the consequences of ministerial infractions? Maybe Garba Shehu, Femi Adeshina or our Alhaji Lai Mohammed (the Minister of Information) should be asked to explain that policy shift especially as it affects infractions to the Nigerian people. Did I read Garba Shehu write that we should allow Isa Pantami to continue with his good works to Nigerians, in the areas of providing better communication and IT services? Let it be known that Kemi Adeosun at that time was working assiduously on the medium term National Economic Strategy Plan. I remember meeting with her one on one at that time, to discuss the possibilities of our group funding transnational corporations which were in dire straits, in order to finance some of their projects through sub-national debt initiatives.
Kemi Adeosun’s infraction arising from the NYSC certificate forgery did not injure or kill any Nigerian nor did it cause or promote thousands to be kidnapped, killed or raped as the infractions of our Isa Pantami. Nigerians of all ethnic hue and race, rich and poor, men and women, high and low, colour and creed should ask Garba Shehu and indeed President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR), whose infraction is deadlier for our nation? Kemi’s offence was not tried in any court of law, neither will Isa’s be so tried; but truth must be told that Pantami’s sponsorship and/or encouragement of terrorism and unbridled religious extremism has cost federal and state governments and indeed private businesses, billions of naira in insecurity and the loss of life of innocent Nigerians, especially in the North and, indeed, in Nigeria as a whole.
Fellow Nigerians, please join me to declare it loud and clear, louder than the voices of reason, even louder than the voices of Aisha Yesufu and others, that what is good for the GOOSE is good for the GANDER; what is GOOD for ADEOSUN is equally GOOD for PANTAMI… so that the rule of law and the triumph of right over wrong will prevail in our country.
May God guide our leaders aright and bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Dr. Israel Ovirih, a Financial and Public Affairs Analyst, wrote this piece from East Africa.