In Law, Ignorance is not an excuse. Confessing to a crime is not immunity against trial. Again, the fact that an offence was committed years back does not mean the offender will escape justice. The person can be put on trial anytime the facts of the crime emerge. That was why the American government put former film producer, Harvey Weinstein on trial for sex offencesdating back to the late 1970s. Weinstein was arrested, charged with rape in New York in May 2018, convicted and sentenced to 23 years in prison. Nigeria’sCommunication and Digital Economy Minister, Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, for his past extremist and flammable preaching, is liable for trial for incitement; inciting Muslims against Christians, inciting Muslims against the federal government and the military.In criminal law, incitement is encouraging another person to commit a crime. It is committed when one person counsels, procures or commands another to commit a crime, whether or not that person commits the crime.
Years back, Pantami vocally promoted the vicious Jihadist narrative of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, evidently laced with incitement of Muslims in Nigeria. He took extreme positions in support of the ruthless exploits of Taliban elements and Al Qaeda and on a campaign to destroy the West and conquer other parts of the world. Pantami endorsed the killing of “unbelievers.” The minister, in some of his videos on YouTube, spoke glowingly of Abu Quatada, al Falasimi and other Al-Qaeda leaders he revered. In one of the videos, while responding to a question about bin Laden’s killing of innocent “unbelievers,” Pantami said although he conceded that Osama Bin Laden was liable to err because he was human: “I still consider him as a better Muslim than myself. We are all happy whenever unbelievers are being killed, but the Sharia does not allow us to kill them without a reason. This jihad is an obligation for every single believer, especially in Nigeria (hādhā jihād farḍ ‘ayn ‘ala kull muslim wa-khuṣūṣan fī Nījīriyā,” he said.
The speech, which is about twenty minutes long, concludes with the prayer: “Oh God, give victory to the Taliban and to al-Qaeda’ (Allahumma ’nṣur Ṭālibān wa-tanẓīm al-Qā‘ida).” This is naked incitement of Muslims against Christians. Speeches like this contributed to several religious riots up North. Bin Laden is the founder of Al-Qaeda and mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States. He was killed on May 2, 2011 by the US Navy SEALs inside a private residential compound in Pakistan. Taliban is a Sunni Islamist movement/military organisation in Afghanistan currently waging jihad within the country.
In another audiotape, Pantami was engaged in a tearful defense of murderous Boko Haram against alleged extra-judicial killings by the Nigerian military and asked for an amnesty for them just like Niger Delta militants: “See what our fellow Muslim brothers’ blood has turned to? Even pig blood has more value than that of a fellow Muslim brother.” This is naked incitement against the Nigerian state and the military.
The minister also made inciting statements during the religious crisis in Shendam, Plateau State in 2004. Pantami in a livid and tearful audio urged Ahlus Sunna, (people who are now called Salafists) to strike back and avoid politicians and religious clerics who preached peace and restraint in Shendam. Subsequently, Pantami volunteered to mobilise the Hisba police and to be appointed as the commander of a militia ready to travel to Yelwa Shendam to join the fight in defence of the Muslims. This is clear incitement. His speech clearly stoked the fighting in Shendam.
There are many more endorsements of extremism that can be found in three audio recordings of Pantami’steachings in the 2000s, which are seditious. This man evidently adopted extremist views in the past. He was involved in incitement across the country. I just laughed when he came out to confirm his previous incitements and extremist positions and regrets these. He stated that some of his past views were made out of immaturity, alleging that attacks on him by Nigerians were politically instigated.
Pantami said: “For 15 years, I have moved round the country while educating people about the dangers of terrorism. I have travelled to Katsina, Gombe, Borno and Kano states, and Difa in the Niger Republic to preach against terrorism. I have engaged those with Boko Haram ideologies in different places. I have been writing pamphlets in Hausa, English and Arabic. I have managed to bring back several young persons who have derailed from the right path.”
The minister also says he has no issue with Christians, adding that his personal driver, secretary and technical assistant are all Christians: “If I did not like Christians or I did not see them as my brothers and sisters, I would not have been working with them for so long. I employed more Christians than Muslims on my staff because I believe in merit and competence over ethnic or tribal sentiments. I have never condoned terrorism and I reject any affiliation to terror groups. I have long preached peaceful coexistence amongst people of every faith and ethnicity.”
This explanation is all baloney. Regret is not a protection against trial for a crime. Besides, history has shown that extremists hardly change. Pantami trained under extremist Islamist scholars in Saudi Arabia, including Muhammad Ibn Uthaymin. He is entangled with extremist Salafist ideologies and can never change.Salafists hold that it is the duty of every true Muslim to use force to reestablish a caliphate as it existed in the early years of Islam. Terrorists don’t repent. People withextremist ideologists hardly truly repent. Pantami is one of them.
Another thing I find repulsive about Pantami is that he is a neurotic fibber. Initially, when flakes of his inciting speeches emerged, he denied it. He thought the videos would never emerge. But when tapes of his satanic preaching in the 2000s were made public, he backtracked and claimed “immaturity.” What does this say about this minister? Very simple: Pantami can’t be trusted with anything.
Pantami has also been silent on his role in the murder of a Christian student (Sunday Achi) at Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi State, in 2014. The killing occurred when Pantami was the Chief Imam of the university’s mosque. According to Samuel (father of late Sunday), his son shared some tracts allegedly containing blasphemous content and the Pantami-led Muslim community pronounced a ‘fatwa’ on him. Sunday was killed during a subsequent riot in the university.
It is shocking that a man like Pantami, with such fanatical mentality is a minister in our dear country. I am worried. It is legitimate for Nigerians to be worried because Pantami, a fanatic, is managing a critical ministry that controls the data of citizens. This man can no longer beentrusted with the biometric data of Nigerians.Pantami is too close to power. Let’s assume he emerged minister with his crimes undetected.
Now that his crimes are open secret, he should be fired and put on trial. The sermons Pantami gave in the early to late 2000s amounted to incitement. There is enough evidence to convict him for incitement. This man should be in jail; not running a ministry of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I was not shocked that Buhari endorsed Pantami to continue as minister. Why did he do this? It’s a story for another day. Just watch out. For now, this is the most reckless government in the history of Nigeria. This is why our once beautiful country is now flowing with blood; blood of innocent Nigerians, with boundless killings, kidnappings, banditry, armed robberies. Our unity destroyed; our diversity mismanaged by the coldblooded Buhari government.