By Mubarak Umar
Attack on persons with high repute in Nigeria is not a new trend, it has been happening and it will continue to happen as long as we practice democracy. It is our democracy that gives people right to express their opinions, but, in a civil manner; that is the only thing that will enrich our 22-year-old democracy and compete with other countries.
Nevertheless, the recent well orchestrated campaigns to tarnish the image of Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami), FNCS, FBCS, FIIM, has unfolded yet another angry youths mobilised to cripple Minister’s move in ensuring that all Nigerians obtain their National Identity Number (NIN), so that the country will have a unified database of its citizen.
The issue of NIN resurfaced in 2015, but it was not successful. In 2018 there were series of meetings between government and mobile network operators. According to agreement by the two parties, the deadline was supposed to be January 2018, but not implemented, because there were forces against it.
Shortly after his elevation as the Minister of Federal Ministry of Communications, which was later redesignated to Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, Pantami’s first widely circulated project was to block unregistered SIM cards that are being used to perpetrated criminal activities particularly kidnapping; over 2 million unregistered SIM cards were successfully blocked, but Nigerians wanted to discredit it, because they don’t like it. Despite that if implemented, it will go a long way in reducing criminal activities.
Who Is Pantami?
Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami) was a Fulani, born on 20 October 1972 in Pantami Ward, Gombe State. His mother was Hajiya Amina Umar Aliyu and his father was Alhaji Ali Ibrahim Pantami. He started his education by attending traditional School for memorizing the Qur’an, called “Tsangaya School.”
He spent more than four years in the school. He later joined primary school in Pantami. He attended Government Science Secondary School in Gombe. After his secondary education, he spent additional two years seeking for more religious knowledge before moving to university. He studied Computer Science at Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University in Bauchi, where he gained his BTech and MSc. Later he obtained his PhD from Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen in Scotland. He spent his life pursuing both formal and informal education, by switching from one form to another.
He is also trained on Digital transformation in Harvard University, USA, then Management Strategy in both, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Institute of Management in Switzerland. He was also in Cambridge University for Management Programme, among others.
Dr Pantami lectured Information Technology at Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University before joining the Islamic University of Madina as Head of Technical Writing. He was appointed Director General/CEO of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) in 2016 by President Muhammadu Buhari. Upon his appointment, Pantami organized the second annual conference on “Financial Fraud and Cyber Crime” in Nigeria which was held in Abuja with, collaboration with Federal Ministry of Justice and private sectors. He also initiated the Nigerian National Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) programme.
Within the span of his religious teachings, Pantami was never indicted or invited by any security agency or accused of extremism. During his days at the Tafawa Balewa University where he equally served as Imam in the institution’s mosque, he delivered lectures, mobilized youths to stay away from extremism. But most Nigerians coming up with recent narratives do not understand the context in which the lectures were delivered. Those that see hating and online trolling as a full time job go and edit, compile five minutes, six minutes out of 150 lectures despite that each one has maximum of one hour, thirty minutes.
They failed to understand that Religious context is not personal opinion; it is a religious context. It is a verdict of religion. If a pastor enters church to preach, he is not voicing out his opinion, he is reading the Holy Bible. Why? Because people gathered there to listen to what he is saying.
Most of Pantami’s lectures were academic from Islamic perspective, and he was presenting them to calm youths that were being recruited to join extremism. In that course, he was delivering lectures with an approach. That approach was about international movements and agitations, he explained the concept to them, and showed them that the situation is not even the same with their own. If some people in Afghanistan were fighting because they were sent out of their country, you in Nigeria, no one sent you away – whether you a Muslim, a Christian, Atheist or Traditionalist.
At time, many students were expelled from the Tafawa Balewa University. Even in his the secondary he attended, some were dismissed because of extremism. Pantami remained there; no one raised an eyebrow on him. When he graduated, the university asked him to come back and lecture there. Throughout his life in Nigeria, UK and other countries he schooled, nobody has ever question his Islamic views as a student or as an employee.
Dr Pantami has been in many countries including the United States of America, United Kingdom, Scotland, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, United Arab Emirates, France, Hungary and many more. In the UK, he delivered lecture in Newcastle which was of course against extremism. Further, he delivered another lectures in Leicester on good governance from Islamic perspectives and also in Leeds University.
As the Head of Technical Writing in Islamic University of Madina, Saudi Arabia, Pantami was one of the two Imams leading prayers in their faculty. He had never been invited by any person for questioning or querying his religious views.
If we are not being sentimental, how someone who had such various engagements globally was never invited by either the universities, or Scotland government or the United Kingdom government? This is clearly a deliberate attempt to discredit his reputable achievements that spanned over 20 years.
No right thinking person will tag Dr Pantami as extremist, unless he has sinister motive to achieve one thing or the other. Throughout his life, Pantami is more regarded in moderate Muslims class. He has constitutional right to practice his religion according to his understanding. The people promoting this misconception might have their agenda against Islam, not Pantami in particular. Because everybody knows interpretations of the Qur’anic verses need special knowledge, attached with Islamic history and culture.
Pantami was once in the war front of debating with Boko Haram, destroying their views using true context of Islam. He challenged then Boko Haram leader that they translate these verses through reading the words without going through history to know what the revelation was and the reason for the revelations. There was no time Pantami didn’t come out victorious. This is why when the British conducted research on religion in Nigeria; they used to visit him for interviews. They have interviewed him through different institutions for more than 10 times.
Educationally, you cannot judge person who presented over 200-hour lectures by just bringing five seconds, seven seconds, 10 seconds without knowing the introduction, the genesis, the academic presentation and religious position. This is not fair, be it to Pantami or any other person.
Though, from all indications, this campaign of calumny has to do with the National Identification Number (NIN) that was resuscitated to ensure all Nigerians link their mobile numbers to NIN, in a move to curtail the unending security challenges in the country.
Glad that the Minister is not being intimidated, as he focuses in actualizing this long-over-due policy in Nigeria.