As Nigerians continue to mount pressure on the embattled Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Ali Isa Pantami, to throw in the towel over alleged links to terrorist groups, such as Al Qaeda and Taliban, one of his aides, Mr. Yusuf Abubakar has expressed surprise that the call for the minister’s resignation could become a national outcry, adding that the allegations against him were concocted to edge him out of office.
According to him, the media comments and attacks against the Minister were concocted mostly by people who do not know him in person. He described Pantami as a man of justice, who believes in talent development and discipline.
‘‘Based on my personal experience, during his inaugural speech, Pantami said, ‘‘If you are to progress under my leadership, you must focus on education and hardwork to lift you.’’
‘‘He also said he was for anti-corruption, that stuck to me, that was my first time of seeing him was as Director General of NITDA and I worked towards that. Immediately, he got elevated to minister, he invited me to come and work with him. ‘‘He is a man of honour, untribalistic and a man of vision. His leadership has influenced me a lot,
I have gained a lot of experience from him, even at my house, I treat everybody equally. Pantami does not look down on his drivers, he respects everyone. When people visit him, he escorts them being a male or female. He is a man of honour and discipline.
‘‘I feel very bitter reading all the media comments and attacks against him because most of these things are being concocted. I think, people who do not know him are those making all sort of comments about him and insinuations.
‘‘Their actions are uncalled for. I advise that they should get to know him because he is very simple person, if not for coronavirus, more people would have come to know him. He is a very simple and easy going person.’’ Yusuf warned who decried the excesses of social media called for caution on the part of social media influencers.
‘‘I see these comments as a surprise but the social media has done a lot of hate within Nigeria. When one person makes a mistake, people keep on repeating him. I think there is need to control what is going on in social media because if we continue this way, their fake news may push the country into another dimension.
‘‘People are just reacting based on here-say, our social media influencers need to be more professional because professionalism lacks in what they do. It is a very unguided space, everybody can say anything.’’
On whether the report is going to affect the ministers’ performance, he said: ‘‘I don’t think this is going to affect his performance.’’
On the call for his sack, Yusuf said: ‘‘I think people don’t step down based on allegation but based on facts. I think all these are uncalled for. The motive right from day one has been amplified videos. ‘‘I am aware that immediately minister announced the new policy on NIN, Boko Haram threatened him, and from the on-going event, I think there is a connivance to work against him.
‘’If Boko Haram had announced that it does not want the exercise to go on and when the deadline is about to come to an end, we start seeing other threats.’’
On the claim by the Minister that most of his staff are Christians, Yusuf said: ‘’His driver Mekerfi Jefi, is a Christian and he drove him at NITDA and he took him to Ministry. I have heard him say in three occasions that wherever he goes, he will go with Maikefi. I am aware that his Secretary, Dr. Femi Adeluyi and his spokesperson, Uwa Suleiman are all Christians.’’
Despite his (the minister’s) denial of not having any links with the groups, as reported by the AbujaCityJournal last week, his acceptability that he often made controversial statements supporting the groups while he was young has continued to attract public outcry.
According to AbujaCityJournal findings, different hashtags, such as #PantamiResign, #PantamiResignNow, and counter hashtags — #PantamiMustStay #IstandWithPantami, and others have been trending since last week Friday when the reports gained momentum
Many are pushing for Pantami’s resignation, citing the case of a former Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, who resigned due to her past action as regards her National Youth Service Corps certificate.
Some others carpeted the National Assembly and DSS for not thoroughly screening Pantami before he was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Mubarak Umar said “…a gentle reminder that Dr Isa Pantami is still the minister of Communications and Digital Economy, and there is nothing all of you religious/ethnic bigots will do about it. Whether you like it or not, #PantamiMustStay.”
Abiodun Sanusi said: “Sympathising with Isa Pantami is the same as showing sympathy for Osama Bin Laden or Biko Haram. Religious extremists are no different from terrorists #PantamiResignNow”
Abubakar Hidima said: “Their only hatred for him is that, to them, a northern Muslim & an Islamic scholar must not excel to the position of a minister. It is purely hatred for Islam & Muslims. That is the driver for all this rancour. But #PantamiMustStay is trending & so shall it be Inshaa Allah.”
Chigozirim Emeakayi said: “Pantami’s strategy could put a stop to a lot of crimes, both cyber crimes and terrorism, that’s why they are on the rampage to get him out of office.
“Let’s wait and see their move on Buba Marwa of the NDLEA, who is probably their next target, but they’ll not succeed #PantamiMustStay”
Patricia Asanya said: “The problem is not just Pantami, it’s @nassnigeria, how did he even make it past screening without proper investigation into his past activities and ideologies. Rubber stamp legislature #PantamiMustResign”