Isa Pantami: Nigeria Threatens Global Security and Self-Destructs?

By John Aliu Uwaya
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No country has ever been an island to herself. In fact, nations of the world have always been interdependent. And with a shared umbilical cord and survival, talk of national sovereignty has beenmerely in theory and not in practice - interferences or unsolicited international interventions in a country’s supposedly internal affairs have been inevitable for the common good - collective global safety and survival.

That Imperative assumed an all time importance in this age of globalization when the world is effectively a global village with technology ever heightening integration of erstwhile desperate national economies into a single global economy. On that, no country has choice. Even China and the USA as the world’s biggest national economies cannot survive on their own. Needless to imagine a precarious import based economy as Nigeria surviving without the rest of the world. Therefore, interests in Dr. Isa Pantami’s past religious activities transcend the national to the international borders of Nigeria.

In fact, in this age of globalization when news go viral within seconds, the whole world is keenly following the controversy surrounding the man holding a position as sensitive as our communication link with the rest of the world; that is an international concern. And nationally, the position of Minister of Communications and Digital Economy is even more sensitive. An occupant of that office could monitor the electronic footprints – telecommunication, emails, banking and physical movements of any Nigerian that catches his or her fancy. Also, as national identity management comes under that portfolio, an unscrupulous minister could criminally confer citizenship on foreign mercenaries in pursuit of an ethno-religious cleansing.

Although many of us believe that saints still exist, the present hullabaloo is sadly achieving negative ends - creating doubts and striking terror into the heart of the international community with zero tolerance for terrorism for which Dr. Pantami stands accused. Hence if he is not already on any country’s terrorist watch list, many countries would now track him as a security norm never obviated by he successfully obtaining a visa to visit any country. Yet, that is relatively a minor consequence if the saga ends that way. But regrettably, it would not; and again, no thanks to the western world’s zero tolerance for terrorism.

On tha,t can we blame them? There is no where in the world where deradicalization of terrorists has worked. Otherwise, our insurgency war would not fester and remain intractable. Neither would Saudi Arabia have perished the thought of amnesty for terrorists after a “repentant” terrorist - Abdullah Hassan Taleh al-Asiri narrowly missed suicide bombing her erstwhile Deputy Interior Minister - Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef into smithereens.

That awful trend validates Senator Shehu Sanni’s published findings in The Guardian of 4th May 2013 to the effect that “If you look at the way Islamic insurgents work in Nigeria, it is the same way they work in Pakistan, Yemen and the Maghreb… They are also very ignorant about the ideology and level of extremism in the thoughts of these insurgents. …When people talk about insurgents, they really don’t know much about the ways they talk. These are people with ideology and can die or kill in the process.”

There lies justification for cynicism about any news of a repentant terrorist sympathizer emanating from our shores. And rationally, that could see subsequent online terrorist activities with Nigerian footprint, hastily pounced upon as justification to severe our cyber cord from the World Wide Web to proactively stop us exporting the terrorist virus over which much of the world has done a victory lap. What good would that do to our already tottering economy in a networked world like never before.

Worse, that dreadful calamity might be sooner than later and regrettably via an own goal should the present brickbats across a religious divide over one man at the expense of a population of over 200 million people, escalates to a cyber insurgency. We briefly suffered that during the unfortunate Endsars protests. That time, the successful hacking of strategic governmental organizations is a warning that like in a conventional warfare, no perceived enemy is invisible and no opponent should be underrated - a bitter lesson that even the USA has severally learnt in humiliating cyber attacks.

Yet and sadly, the first salvo already seems to have been fired with alleged punitive or vindictive hacking of the communication links of the whistle blower on Dr. Pantami’s sordid past. That is dangerous because every action attracts a reaction or a retaliation. And as we are part of the now technology driven global village, viruses deployed in any Nigerian cyber civil war portends a collateral harm to the rest of the world. Hence they would proactively or promptly deny internet access to viruses ridden Nigerian websites and so,shut down our socio-economic life.

On that, it is highly doubtful if Nigeria that is already bugged down with intractable territorial insurgencies can cope with a cyber insurgency that would be far more intractable because it is virtual – the enemies faceless and the war frontlines blurred. Therefore, the government of the day should end and not escalate the raging cerebral war on continued tenure of Dr. Pantami as Minister of Communications and Digital Economy.

While no one doubts the academic attainments and experience of Dr. Pantami, we all know it is an insult to God to believe anybody is indispensable. So, why should a country of over 200 millions brimming with talents risk dire consequences because of one man. In fact, what is needed on this occasion is a national consensus and not polarization along ethnic or religious lines. Luckily no one is saying Dr. Pantami cannot be in government. Neither is anyone advocating his replacement by a person of another ethnicity given the pattern of public service appointments since 2015.

Therefore, a minor cabinet reshuffle could end the distracting and debilitating brouhaha. And it would be nothing for a mere appointee to lose his position compared to elected officials including Salisu Buhari, Evans Ewerem, Chuba Okadigbo, Cecilia Eteh, etc. who as patriots resigned their positions honourably without the divisive and dangerous identity politicking of 2015 till date.

At all times, we should be mindful that the rest of world is watching us and that a turbulent environment can attract neither foreign investments nor witness socio-economic growth. However, if according to Prof. Jacob K. Olupona, our interests lie more in the bondage rather than in the bonds and boundaries of religion, we should peacefully go our separate ways like India and Pakistan; Northern Sudan and Southern Sudan. Otherwise, any group or region of Nigeria planning on subjugating part or other parts of the country by force of arms can only be day dreaming. These days there are no snapshot battlefield victories but wars of attrition.

John Aliu Uwaya wrote via [email protected]

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