By Dr Bolaji O. Akinyemi
Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown is an ancient English adage to capture the challenge of leadership. This is not the best of time for Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari who though have been sleeping on duty since his 2nd term re-election in 2019, he was forced to take a short rest in his resting Presidency away from Nigeria in the UK. How short this rest will be is at the mercy of Garba Shehu who alone will inform us when the rest is over.
Though, Personal Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on new media Bashir Ahmad, reacting this morning described the report as “fake news”. The US Government is yet to make any statements on the report.
“If America is concerned”, Nigerians are inadvertently of worried by the news linking Nigerian Government to Jihad while our President is cooling off in the UK.
American concern if true; of course will take away the integrity of the NIN registration, the idea which was conceived by NITDA when Sheikh Pantami was there as Director General and CEO, the project is now been supervised by the same Sheikh as minister of Communications and Digital Economy. Given the sentiments of Sheikh Pantami for fundamental Islam, the Americans may have to help the world in the fight against terrorism to determine how many terrorists has be registered as Nigerian citizens under the guidance of Sheikh Pantami.
Independent ePaper published on the 11th of April 2021, reported that, “there is disquiet in the land at the weekend following an allegation that the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Alhaji Isa Ali Ibrahim, also known as Sheikh Pantami, has fallen on the watch list of the America’s Intelligence Service.
Ibrahim, also the Deputy Secretary General of the Supreme Sharia Council in Nigeria and a former student of Salafist ideologies, was trained in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East with other top Islamic jihadists.
Before his appointment as a minister, Ibrahim was a known Islamic preacher and held what was termed ‘dangerous views’ against the American government with allegiance to Al-Qaeda.
According to a report, the minister was said to be a very close confidant of the late Mohammed Yusuf, the killed leader of Boko Haram with whom he allegedly shared jihadist doctrines.
According to Western Intelligence, the minister had ties with Abu Quatada al Falasimi and other Al-Qaeda leaders that he revered and spoke glowingly of in several of his videos on YouTube.
In one of his narratives, Ibrahim had eulogised Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi as a great leader, who joined Al-Qaeda group after emigrating to Afghanistan at the end of the September 11, 2001 terror attack on the World Trade Centre in America.
This is what he wrote about Abu Musab: “Under the Osama’s leadership, he became the unit commander of army of AlQaeda with the support of the Commander of the loyal Maula Umar (Taliban leader).
“It was after the September 11 attack that he suffered serious leg injury and was taken to Iraq for treatment where he spent a long time recovering.”
Ibrahim wrote: “When Iraq was attacked by the enemies of God, this great man joined in the fight leading his group against the US military and its allies in Iraq.”
According to Middle Eastern Intelligence, corroborated by its Western counterparts, photographs of Sheikh Isa Ali Pantanmi and his jihadist allies are trending.
Efforts to get the reactions of the minister to the critical allegations were futile as at press time.
However, one of his aides (names withheld) said the allegations were false.
The aide, who was very combative while speaking with Sunday Independent, was angry that the story would be published.
“You didn’t tell me you want to publish the story when you introduced yourself. In the first place, you did not address the Office of the Honourable Minister properly.
“This is a personal attack on somebody’s personal belief and religion.
“This allegation is not coming from the American government, but one useless organisation. I am a journalist myself,” said the aide.
There are questions begging for answers; but before these questions become our interest a little background about the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy is of essence.
About a year into the administration of Muhammadu Buhari, precisely on September 26th 2016, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami), FNCS, FBCS, FIM, MCPM was appointed the Director General and CEO of National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) of Nigeria, a position he held till he was nominated as a minister on 20th of August 2019, and sworn in on the 21st of August 2019.
The young cerebral and highly qualified minister is on the strategic team of APC unofficial think tank. His first major controversy was when he was alleged to have converted the then minister of sports, Lalong from Christianity to Islam, an allegation both him and Lalong denied.
The intolerance of the person of Sheikh Pantami played out in the fracas that broke out between Diaspora Commission headed by Abike Dabiri Erewa and the ministry of communications. The manner in which the commission was thrown out under the directive of the Honourable minister should raise serious concern for the President and Nigerians in general but the poverty level in the country deliberately been engineered by the present administration has raised the rat race for survival thereby distracting the public from what should naturally interest them.
In February 2020 Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau in a nine minute video announced that he had instructed his men to target and kill Sheikh Pantami (The Honourable Minister) for introducing a policy that seek to block SIM cards to frustrate terrorists activities. This declaration of Fatwah should be enough to let off the minister of the suspicion of the American intelligence, however there has been no record of any attempt made on him which may be raising the question of taqwa. With him as communication minister how come not a single call of Boko haram has been successfully monitored and traced. Funding and transfer of money are under the purview of his ministry has he tracked any fund transfer to Boko Haram? Information leading to most of the ambushes laid against the military must have been done through our communication network. How come not a single one has been intercepted. We may never win the war against terrorism as long has he remain as minister of Communications.
Dr Pantami, a Fulani from Gombe State is undoubtedly one of the leading lights of Islam not just in Nigeria but also in the UK, a Jumu’ah Chief Imam who has been leading Jumu’ah prayer in both countries for over 20 years. He serves as a Member of Shari’ah Board of Jaiz Bank. He is also a member of Shurah member and Deputy Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Shari’ah (SCS) in Nigeria. He was educated in Islam by many renowned Scholars among whom is Muhammad ibn al Uthaymeen. He is not unknown to the Boko Haram movement because he had debated with Mohammed Yusuf, the leader of Boko Haram, against Salafisim in 2008, this may give credence to the fatwah.
His ideological persuasion and commitment to Salafisim is enough a reason to excuse himself from public service, so as to be able to further the course of Islam without generating any controversy.
It is his inallienable right to practice his religion but the height to which he has risen in Islam is at conflict with the spirit of Nigeria constitution that Nigeria shall be a secular state.
The views of the Salafi movement is completely against the concept of secularism. Though a public involvement of Sheikh Pantami in Sheikh Gumi’s movement for peace and negotiations with bandits is yet to be established but, both are well known to each other.
The Salafi or Salafiyya is a conservative revivalist and reform branch movement within Sunni Islam, they are known for upholding unadulterated view of Islam and are committed to the advocacy of the practice of same in its pure form which may leave us with a minister who believes in Jihad as a way of societal reform to attain an Islamic state.
Has our minister been linked with violence directly? None, aside the violent ejection of Abike Dabiri’s Commission from the property of his ministry, but the view of Academic and historians on his ideological beliefs should be a lead. The term Salafism denote a school of thought which surfaced in the second half of the 19th century as a reaction to the spread of “Western ideas and education” and sought to address them throughout the Islamic world.
In recent years, the Salafi methodology has come to be associated with the Jihad of extremist groups that advocate the killing of innocent civilians, this may be the issue America has with our government for which the activities of his minister of digital economy has come under her security watch.
European Parliament, in a report commissioned in 2013, claimed that Wahhabi and Salafi groups are involved, mainly via Saudi Charities, in the support and supply of arms to rebel groups around the world.
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