Pantami: Buhari’s Terrorism-Canceling In Name Of Region And Religion

By Festus Adedayo

On Christmas day in 2009, Nigeria’s Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, aged 23, having been born December 22, 1986, attempted to detonate plastic explosives that were hidden in his underwear. He had boarded a Northwest Airlines Flight 253 heading from Amsterdam to Detroit, Michigan, with 289 passengers on board. Providence however rescued those souls as the explosives refused to explode, burning instead Abdulmutallab’s laps and genitalia. About three years after, on February 16, 2012, a United States federal court convicted him on eight counts bordering on his criminality. These included an attempt to unleash a weapon of mass destruction.

Abdulmutallab got a term of sentencing for life and another 50 years without parole. Since then, he has been sequestered at the ADX Florence federal prison in Colorado, America. I will return to this grisly narrative presently.

Whenever the west cites the 64 AD example of Nero fiddling while Rome was burning, Nigeria goes into historical kitty to flaunt hers. The fiddling Nero is a classical example of governmental neglect of duty and focus on frivolities. Or trivialities. Nigeria’s own Nero is the story of the first and only Prime Minister in the history of Nigeria, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. As Muhammadu Buhari sits cross-legged and picking his teeth in search of some interloping strands of meat, 57 years ago, Balewa did same. Separated by several kilometers in their places of ancestry, Balewa’s Bauchi several Sahelian deserts away from Buhari’s Daura, both leaders are however tragically united by their gross insouciance to raging matters of state. Nigeria is today literally being consumed by a ball of fire in form of ricochets of guns booming in virtually every state of the country. Buhari is however not aware. As Baal, god of the Sidonians, lapsed into bothersome silence, even as 450 of its prophets invoked its spirit on Mount Carmel, Buhari has slid into his characteristic sleep, dead to the tinder of fire that is burning Nigeria.

Backtrack to 1963 and 1964 Nigeria. The national census and the 1964 Federal Elections had thrown the country into a bedlam. This was garnished by blood flowing from the orgy of killings in the Western Region. Balewa however chose to little the acrimonious and vengeful spillage of blood. In June, 1964, as he toured Benin, just like Buhari’s hirelings placed the blame of the Nigerian conflagration on the media, Balewa too said he could not judge the intensity of lawlessness in the West on account of newspaper reports of the brigandage. Balewa was unworried and unconcerned about the slide. As he departed Nigeria for Accra to attend an OAU meeting in October, 1965 at the Ikeja airport, the Prime Minister cynically told a reporter who asked if he wasn’t bothered by the fire raging through the western region that, “Ikeja is part of the West and I cannot see any fire burning.” Exactly two and half months after that statement, specifically on January 15, 1966, that fire he couldn’t see consumed him in Nigeria’s first military coup which ended his life.

As it is, Isa Ali Pantami, Nigeria’s Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, is the fire burning Nigeria now that Buhari too cannot see. Or is pretending not to see. Though with his government’s overt pampering of violence, bandits and insurgents, no one in their right senses expected Buhari to do away with or prosecute Pantami over a truckload of allegations of his insurgency-baiting words in recent past, the way the presidency diffidently told Nigerians to go jump inside the river last Thursday was however benumbing.

The cusp it hung its arguments was so baffling that you would wonder if we were indeed not in Balewa’s First Republic. In a release defending Pantami, Buhari, through his Senior Special Assistant, Garba Shehu, said that because Pantami “had been leading the charge against illegal data deductions and pricing… revolutionized government’s virtual public engagement to respond to COVID-19 and save(d) taxpayers’ money… established ICT start-up centres to boost youth entrepreneurship and create jobs… changed policy to ensure locally produced ICT content is used by ministries…(and) deregistered some 9.2 million SIMs – ending the ability for criminals and terrorists to flagrantly use mobile networks undetected,” therefore, allegations that he was hands-in-gloves with insurgency and authored views not different from Abubakar Shekau’s are immaterial. How I wish my late teacher, Prof Campell Shittu Momoh, were here to spank Shehu’s irreverent buttocks for that ill logic and assault on the god of symbolic and deductive logic.

Buhari then leapt into indefensible cants. In doing, this, he made claims that were either deliberately misleading or demonstrative of a government that hypocritically has two different value systems. The release canvassed that, since Pantami made the said violence-baiting words “in the early 2000s,” when “the minister was a man in his twenties” and “next year, he will be 50,” Nigerians should know that “time has passed” and he should not be made to answer for those words. That is decidedly an arithmetic of deceit.

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