By Mark Adebayo
“Anyone who supports terrorism, anyone who sees terrorism as a legitimate means, anyone who uses terrorism to cause the death of innocent people is a terrorist in my eyes.”
– Milos Zeman
IT didn’t come as a surprise to keen watchers of Nigeria’s politics and governance for the past six years when the Buhari government came out forcefully to defend its Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Ali Pantami, whose affirmation of love for terrorism and terrorists got exposed recently.
Pantami did not deny his condemnable actions of falling in love with the enemies of humanity, he did not deny offering himself to lead terrorist onslaughts against Christians in Kaduna, Plateau, Benue and other states as the Muslim clerics in the North were not fundamentalist or extremist enough to do Allah’s will of total Jihad against the infidels in his absolutist mindset. He did not deny that his Islamic heroes were the Osama bin Ladins, the Talibans, the Al Qaedas, the Boko Harams and the ISIS of this world because, to him, they were the ones who actually do what Allah wants. He owned up to those assertions and more but claimed that his opinions had changed from those he held a few years ago.
Pantami’s violent views and messages were not without victims. More revelations emerged that Sheikh Pantami, as the Chief Imam of the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU), Bauchi mosque, his preaching directly led to the brutal murder of a 400-level student, Sunday Achi, who was the leader of the ECWA Student Ministries (ESM) on the campus in 2004. The victim’s father, Professor Samuel Achi, confirmed that the extremist preachings of Pantami led to the murder of his son on the University’s campus. The report was that the boy was dragged out of his room, taken inside the campus mosque, strangled and thrown away like dog. Another report, which the boy’s dad said was not correct, was that he was taken inside a bush and stoned to death. The dad said the former account was the fact. Whichever way it happened, the truth is that Sunday Achi was a victim of terrorist attacks within the university’s campus and Pantami’s name was linked to the crime as the chief instigator if not the cheerleader of the murder.
Pantami has yet to deny those allegations. He is only asking for understanding. An understanding to the effect that he no longer holds those views. But who can be sure of that? Right before our eyes in Nigeria, so-called repentant terrorists have reneged and resumed their violent campaigns against Nigeria and Nigerians often after being heavily paid and pampered by the government. A recent example is Auwal Daudawa, the notorious bandit/terrorist who led his gang members to abduct 600 secondary school pupils from Kankara, Katsina state, on December 12, 2020.
Daudawa assured the government that he had repented of his criminal activities and was pardoned and rehabilitated into the society. He was heavily remunerated and also gifted with a house, among others. Suddenly this week, Daily Trust reported that Daudawa had returned to his old criminal ways. It has often been argued that, like leopards that cannot change their skin, terrorists hardly change their ways.
The USA also made the same mistake with Abubakir Al-Baghdadi, the late founder and leader of the Islamic State. Although it was a false information that President Barack Obama released him from Guantanamo Bay because he was never detained there in the first instance but, accordingto the Pentagon, al-Baghdadi was detained by U.S forces in 2004 and sent to Camp Bucca prison in Iraq for anti-U.S. militant activities. He was released after 10 months when he was thought no longer to be a threat. A monumental error!
Al-Baghdadi, upon release, immediately joined the al-Qaeda branch in Iraq. He managed to escape American intelligence radar, rose to senior position within al-Qaeda as the terrorist group lost many of its key leaders to American onslaughts. He got disillusioned with al-Qaeda for not going far enough in the area of Islamic extremism and decided to start IS in Iraq which later emerged as the deadliest terrorist group in the world taking over territories in Iraq and Syria the size of France with over eight million people under its horrific rule. It attracted/recruited 40,000 fighters from 120 countries including Europe, USA, Australia and so forth. ISIS was able to generate $81 million monthly from ransoms, taxes, oil sales, human trafficking and slave trades.
A terrorist, once caught, should be eliminated, not rehabilitated or pampered as it’s done in Nigeria.
The General Officer Commanding, 7 Division of the Nigerian Army, Maiduguri, Major-General Abdulmalik Bulama Biu, drew the ire of many Nigerians when he opined that a ‘repentant’ Boko Haram terrorist could become Nigeria’s president. That kind of thinking at political and military leadership levels is extremely dangerous, thoughtless and demonstrates ignorance of the mentality of terrorists. It is a position that is too soft on of terrorism. It is a position that supports and encourages terrorism.
Expecting President Muhammadu Buhari to fire Pantami is expecting too much. His government has a penchant for defending the bad and the ugly. Buhari’s presidency has been defending killer herders’ terrorism since inception and gives excuses for their bloodshed and violence which is currently threatening the corporate existence of Nigeria because many Nigerians, especially in the South, feel that the president would rather defend and protect cattle and their owners at the expense of other Nigerians who are at the receiving end of the killer herders’ violence. It is the number one cause of secessionist agitations in the country today. Killer herders have been declared the fourth deadliest terrorists in the world by the Global Terrorism Index, but in Nigeria they are privileged terrorists under the current government.
Moreover, the president himself once held – maybe still holds – those dangerous views expressed by Pantami or close to them. President Buhari is on record as saying “I will continue to show openly and inside me the total commitment to the Sharia movement that is sweeping all over Nigeria. God willing, we will not stop the agitation for the implementation of the Sharia in the country.” He made this declaration at an Islamic seminar in Kaduna in 2021, a state where Sharia-related riots led to the killing of about 3,000 people, mostly Christians, the previous year. That’s the level of insensitivity he displayed back then. Very little, if anything, has changed since them judging by his style of leadership since becoming civilian president in 2015.
This same president Buhari once declared that an attack on Boko Haram would be considered an attack on the North.
Now, why should anyone expect the president to fire Pantami on the basis of terrorist views he holds or held? His choice of Pantami as minister was deliberate. He knew about the man’s terrorist pedigrees. After all, a former assistant director of the Department of State Services, DSS, Dennis Amachree, declared publicly that a comprehensive security report was submitted to the Presidency on Pantami to the end that he was not fit for public office due to his avowed love for terrorism and terrorists. But that report was ignored by the president because he fitted the president’s desires.
It is on the basis of the above that we are stuck with this scary dilemma of having terrorist sympathizers at the helm of affairs currently in Nigeria. My take is that, if we search well, we will still discover many more Pantamis in Buhari’s cabinet or federal government’s institutions appointed by this president.
Nigerians have to be extremely vigilant throughout the tenure of this president and not consider what Governor Ortom of Benue state said as irrelevant when he alleged that the president was working for Fulani terrorists.
The guy might just be right!