Pantami, failure of intelligence leading to national security crises

It was reported late last year that the United Arab Emirates jailed no fewer than six Nigerians for various links with terror groups in the period spanning the onset of Boko Haram into national and international limelight till the period they were arrested. The most overlooked fact was that one of the persons jailed was a government official. That was a slap on the faces of Nigerians, and an even bigger indictment on the Nigerian government.

This draws some parallels to the Pantami’s case currently making the rounds. In a video and audio recordings, media houses who dare be different (Gazette Nigeria and Sahara Reporters) have established the fact that the minister of communication and digital economy, Sheikh Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami has terror sympathies for international jihadists groups AL Qaeda and the Taliban by virtue of recordings from his preaching in North Eastern Nigeria in 2006.

Pantami’s current travails mirror in great length the status of Nigeria as a failed state. For those who would disagree, there’s no sane clime where an Islamist who was fired from his teaching job by a university in Northern Nigeria for incendiary teachings, who also obtained a PhD from a university in Saudi Arabia known as a hotbed for Salafist and Wahhabist recruiters, would go on to hold a sensitive position as the minister of communication who by virtue of that position, holds the database of an ethnically diverse country as Nigeria. The security breach in which the State Security Service (or DSS) didn’t see, or saw but failed to flag as a going concern during his confirmation hearing at the senate in 2019 raises important points.

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First, does the fact that Pantami’s predecessor, Adebayo Shittu was also a radical Islamist who was accused of instigating a religious riot in his home state of Oyo in 2001 not sufficient grounds enough to strike out his nomination as communications minister?

First time can be excused as a mistake. The second time–the fact that another terrorist sympathizer who believes that Osama Bin Laden is a better Muslim than he is, who also longed for the day of 9/11 styled jihad in Nigeria–is definitely not a mistake. The DSS not coming alive at one of the most important times of their existence calls into question their attitude in handling sensitive issues that concern national security.

It could also be construed to mean that the leadership of the DSS knew about Sheikh Pantami’s connections with Islamofacism and decided to let it go to serve their pecuniary, narrow ethnic interests.

Secondly, standing on the basis that this is too coincidental to be a mistake, it calls into question the judgment of President Buhari who nominated these men to serve as communications ministers. While vilifying Pantami and Shittu, criticisms must be reserved for the man who appointed them.

The total lack of self awareness as a country is why we let the UAE to prosecute our own citizens on various crimes of terror financing.

What Nigeria does not have in abundance is shame, and a lack of self respect and self awareness. The buck of the blame stops at the president’s table. It also questions his motive for these successive appointments that have become embarrassing not just to him, but for the country in general. A potential placement of member of government in a country creaking under the yoke of Islamic terror on a US terror watch list puts Nigerians in precarious positions that require extra scrutiny abroad.

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This will be a sword of Damocles hanging over the president’s head if he does not fire Pantami in the first place, and reorganize our security architecture to make our intelligence services work effectively. This embarrassment is as a result of the focus of our security services on the highly parochial path of regime security rather than national security. It is the kind of intelligence failure that leads to multiple national security crises which Nigerians are currently paying for. The stain that this has had on Nigerians have been untold. If left under the guise of “this shall soon pass”, it would certainly reinforce the short termist ideal of the Nigerian government’s approach to crisis resolution, as well as impound further harassment of Nigerians who would find themselves increasingly being yoked as terrorists especially when their country looks set to be added as a foreign sponsor of terror.

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