The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Sheik Isa Ali Pantami, is about the most talked about Nigerian owing to some leaked audio recordings where he was heard supporting the killings of non-Muslims by terrorist organisations such as Al-Qaeda and Taliban.
Last week, President Muhammadu Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, made the stand of the Presidency on the controversial Pantami issue known, especially as it concerns calls for to his resignation or sack.
The Presidency’s disposition has itself generated greater debate, warranting even higher uproars.
We examine this and other talking points within the Aso Rock Villa for your reading pleasure.
Standing for Pantami
On April 22, Shehu, in a statement, expressly defended Minister Pantami over his perceived link and support for terrorism, putting to rest the calls made by most Nigerians for President Buhari to fire him.
Shehu noted that calling for the sack of the Minister was not about his extremist statements, but about his job as a Minister.
“But all discerning Nigerians know this manufactured dispute is nothing to do with the Minister’s prior words, but solely concern his actions in the present.
“The Minister has, rightly, apologised for what he said in the early 2000s…
“The administration stands behind Minister Pantami and all Nigerian citizens to ensure they receive fair treatment, fair prices, and fair protection in ICT services,” the presidential statement read.
With Pantami’s defence, the Buhari-led administration appears to have betrayed its much avowed stand against terrorism, and extremism which happen to be among the major challenges bringing the country on its knees.
It also raises concerns about President Buhari’s total commitment to the highest ideals of integrity in the management of his cabinet members.
Indeed, the presidential backing of the Minister’s religiously offensive vituperations, unacceptable submissions, somewhat cements the claim that the Presidency is selectively protective of some of his cabinet members.
READ ALSO: Nigeria needs more Pantamis in govt —Gumi
This, probably, finds support in the Presidency’s outright sack of former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, whose alleged past transgressions could not be forgiven.
For discredited Pantami, the hollowness of the presidency’s act lies in the fact that, though Pantami had renounced his extremist ideologies, he had raised many others who still hold such ideologies, and might have, through his utterances, contributed to the raging insurgency in the Northeast where he comes from.
Perhaps, this is why many Nigerians are uncomfortable with the warm embrace the Presidency had given him.
Two other talking points
President Muhammadu Buhari, on April 22, sternly condemned the killing of no fewer than 50 persons by bandits in Gusau and Zurmi Local Government Areas of Zamfara State, warning that “such wanton disregard for life will be brought to an end sooner than later.”
In a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, he said: “This insane and persistent violence against innocent people must stop,” adding that “these criminals should stop pushing their luck too far by believing that the government lacks the capacity to crush them.”
“The violence against poor villagers who are struggling with poverty and other severe economic challenges is not going to be tolerated by this administration,” the President cautioned.
Buhari’s unrelenting condemnation of the killings and destruction of property by bandits is fast becoming irritating in the ears of most Nigerians.
Indeed, critics have argued severally that, without matching words with action, the president now sounds like a broken record.
It all appears that the President’s spokesmen already have a template of singsongs on bandit attacks which they easily serve while he relishes the comfort of Aso Rock Villa.
With senseless killings, and general insecurity across the land, becoming more than a daily affair, the need for Buhari to rise above the level of condemnation cannot be overemphasized.
On April 20, the Presidency declared that nobody or a group in Nigeria can intimidate or bully President Muhammadu Buhari to accept the demands of secessionists.
Speaking at a forum of All Progressives Congress Professionals Forum in Abuja, the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said: “The first one is about the unity of this country and the calls for secession…
“One thing with this President – and the National Secretary (of the Caretaker/Extra-Ordinary Convention Planning Committee of the All Progressives Congress) has said a bit of that; you can’t intimidate Buhari. You can’t bully him. A lot of these people who are calling for secessions; they are the problem of this country.”
The Presidency must embrace the fact that as long as the reasons why there are calls for secession remain unaddressed, the secessionists will never give up.
Furthermore, the Presidency must realize the futility of decreeing that Nigeria’s unity cannot be negotiated, and make haste to encourage a national dialogue to weigh in on prevailing resentments or have the country disintegrate even faster.
By laying its frustrations at the doorstep of citizens, the Presidency is basically clutching straws and playing the senseless ostrich game.
While no one can intimidate or bully Mr. President, the time for him to step out from the Villa, and lead from the front in calming frayed nerves is now.
And, this should begin by looking inwards, and initiating policies that would engender the spirit of oneness, and brotherhood among different ethnic divides of the country.
By John Chukwu
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