SHEIKH PANTAMI: A HARD BONE TO CRACK
— Maiwada Dammallam
After watching the attached video, if you still think it’s not justifiable for any Muslim worth his name to hold and share same views as those expressed by Sheikh Isa Pantami in 2000, then you are not properly equipped to contextualize his advocacies much less, attempt to crucify for same. I listened to almost all the excavated videos being circulated to justify the crucifixion of Pantami. All I heard were opinions expressed by average Muslims across the globe back then. Sheikh Pantami only expressed an average anger against the excesses of the United States not only among the global Muslim community but even among Americans. Thanks to former President George Bush jr, who mismanaged relationships between the global Muslim community and the US on the pretext of fighting terrorism but which, in reality is an extension of an agenda to sustain the supremacy of the US — an agenda being challenged by “irritants” like Iran and Afghanistan.
And of course, one cannot be more American than former President Barack Obama who saw the inappropriateness of George Bush’s jackboot and clearly anti-muslims policies and put efforts to halt, reverse and re-invent relationships between the US and the global Muslim community. Until Barrack Obama relocated to the White House, there’s no love lost between the US and the global Muslim community and its very much in order for the victims of the US excesses to see in states like Iran and Afghanistan some sort of a reply to the pain the US was brutally applying to muslims all over the world as did Sheikh Pantami.
We are so forgetful otherwise, Barrack Obama’s “A New Beginning” speech delivered on 4 June 2009 in a Cairo University would have exonerated Sheikh Pantami and save him from any blame for holding and expressing an opinion that was an anthem among global Muslims before Obama set the ball rolling backward. That the speech honors a promise Obama made during his presidential campaign to give a major address to Muslims from a Muslim capital during his first few months as president says all needed to be said to justify the anger and militant positions adopted by Muslim clerics across the globe like Sheikh Pantami. It’s unprocessed daft ness to attempt hanging Pantami for the woes the US invited upon itself.
It could be said without the timely and frank intervention of President Obama, one could only imagine what relationships between the US and the global Muslim community would be today given how low the Bush administration dragged the relationship to. Obama’s Cairo speech was well calculated and called for improved mutual understanding and relations between the Islamic world and the West and said both should do more to confront violent extremism. Obama was convinced, and correctly so, that relationships between the two were not what they should be and he set the ball rolling by offering a hand of friendship to the global Muslim community. He did so because he was frankly convinced clerics like Sheikh Pantami were justifiable to resist or even instigate a reprisal against the US as a response to its excesses. To blame Sheikh Pantami for his opinion against the hitherto oppressive US is to blame Obama for appreciating the excesses of the US and kickstarting the process of reconciliation.
In any case, only dunderheads will see an extremist Pantami by reviewing his sermons about the excesses of the US in Afghanistan and other foreign countries without reviewing his sermons about Boko Haram including debates with Mohammed Yusuf. If subscribed to extremism as being mischievously propagated, Sheikh Pantami would have taken advantage of the recruitment desperation of Boko Haram in its early day and the shallowness of its leaders to hijack the group and give it a more lethal efficiency. Instead, his debates with Mohammed Yusuf were a risky attempt to expose the dangerous agenda unfolding which scale and magnitude nobody could imagine back then but which every Nigerian could write a book about today.
I find the funniest those making comparisons between the embarrassing case of forgery against former Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun and Pantami’s. What has an individual case of forgery got to do with a case of communal quest for survival? I can understand if Pantami must be hanged for being an “Almajiri” cum IT guru and a Minister of Communication and Digital Economy of a country full to brim with jobless IT experts. Sure, an “Almajiri” cum IT-expert is a new experience in Nigeria. For one with such a “baggage” to be a minister must be dizzying! But we should learn to live with the oddities Nigeria throw at us everyday. All the noisemakers working hard 24/7 to pull Sheikh Pantami down are yet to see the oddity of the elevation of Ganiu Adams, the school dropout cum carpenter and former murderous OPC warlord, to the enviable position of the “Aare Ona Kakanfo” of Yorubaland, the self-acclaimed most educated and sophisticated Nigerian community. This thug in golden robes not only sits and dines with the high and mighty of the Yorubaland today, he call the shots and if he sneezes in the morning the entire land must catch cold by the next morning. I’m searching for better words to describe double standards!