By Fredrick Nwabufo
Profiling. Targeting. Scapegoating. In Nigeria, you are more likely to effectuate wry remarks and suspicious stares if you are the prototypical Muslim with full-bred beard, a ‘’decimal point’’ on your forehead – a sign of your devotion to Almighty Allah, and apparelled in modest trousers that stand aloof from the ankle than if you are a Bible-wielding evangelist piercing the dawn quietude of a drowsy neighbourhood with screams and shrieks of ‘’repentance’’.
We live in a country that is autochthonously Christianised. Our ways are Christian. It is commonplace to profile Muslims who hold strong beliefs as ‘’extremists’’ but not Christians who arrogantly profess their beliefs anywhere and everywhere, even commanding obeisance to their faith. I have never heard any Christian described as an extremist – even when some church leaders make galling and inflammatory statements.
In the build-up to the 2015 presidential election, Bishop Oyedepo vowed to open the floodgates of hell on the opponents of former President Goodluck Jonathan. Is this not an incendiary statement – by a man of god? This pastor also physically assaulted a penitent who came to his church for deliverance. But it was excused because he is a Christian leader. Christians are not extremists even when their actions vouchsafe this fact – but any Muslim can be summarily tagged an ‘’extremist?’’ When a Christian leader makes extremist comments, we call it ‘’holy anger’’. It is hypocrisy.
In 2017, the DSS attempted to arrest Pastor Johnson Suleman after he publicly said he asked his security guards to kill any Fulani intruder around his church. He also threatened the government after state agents swooped in on a hotel he took residence in Ekiti. In addition, Pastor Enenche and others in the same phylum have made ungodly threats that border on bigotry and extremism. But they were all palliated – because they are Christian leaders. It is hypocrisy.
Our society is subliminally attuned to certain precepts and ways that are predominantly Christian. Any otherness sets off an alarm. It is societal conditioning. Our society has been conditioned to readily see some people in one divide as ‘’extremists’’ and others in another category as ‘’devotees’’. A conditioning in hypocrisy.
The avalanche of attacks – both sponsored and taxied – against Isa Ibrahim Pantami, minister of communication and digital economy, accents some Nigerians’ atavism and aboriginal hypocrisy. I would not want to dwell on the contents of some videos and abstracts rippling on social media because they have been politically ammunitioned for not kosher ends.
Pantami’s only offence could be that he is a Sheikh heading a vital government ministry. Yes, some bigoted interests find his being a Sheikh in a sensitive public office exasperating. They cannot stand the fact that a notable Muslim leader is the superintendent of a key ministry. But Pantami is not just any Sheikh. He is a technocrat who knows his onions. He is not fish out of water at the ministry of communications. He trained as a computer scientist, obtaining a PhD from Robert Gordon University in Scotland. He bagged sterling credentials from Ivy-league schools like Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He also attended Cambridge in the UK. But bigotry clouds the mind of those who see him as a Sheikh who has no business in the communications ministry.
As a matter of fact, the kindler of the current social media blitz against the minister is beyond ‘’what he said or did not say in the past’’. Some interests in the communications industry who perceive him as impervious to inducement, a non-conformist and a strong character are working in the shadows. Pantami has taken some hard-line-decisions against the industry vultures that are desperate to draw blood. The controversy is a smokescreen to exact vengeance. Nigerians should not unwarily cavort on the playground of this horde.
The truth is for every of Pantami’s detractor, the cause for grouse are interests not being served. The minister is not playing ball, hence, veiled daggers drawn.
Those calling for Pantami’s resignation do not mean well for Nigeria. I believe he should be judged by his stewardship at the ministry of communications — not by his faith. If the social media blitzkrieg against the minister is because of his performance at the ministry, that will be a different matter. But it is not. Pantami is perhaps one of the most resourceful and responsive communications ministers Nigeria has ever had.
Again, the minister should be judged according to his work at the ministry. And he has done a good job of that.
I will not join the multitude to commit murder.
Nwabufo is a renowned Nigerian columnist