By Uwa Suleiman
The tendency for misplaced aggression especially when there is a dearth of intellect and decorum can be tragic. One of my favourite quotes of all time, by Hilary Clinton effectively captures the topic of discourse: When they begin to attack you personally, then you know they have no single intellectual or political argument left.
The trending attack on the name, person and office of my very distinguished boss, the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami by the Chairman, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Mrs. Abike Dabiri Erewa, is a very poorly thought out and laughably executed strategy for a smear campaign. The moment I viewed the clip, I instantly knew it was personal, and within a very short spate of time, my convictions were confirmed. How else did we astronomically go from guns, thugs and armed men to qualifications and religious ridicule?
The gender card particularly, struck a chord. It hit home with all the magnitude falsehood can conjure. It is absolute falsehood to state that Dr Pantami hates women! Hatred is too sacrilegious a word to use, in describing someone who has used his position to truly empower more women than most! During his tenure as Director General of NITDA, Dr Pantami initiated and sustained a digital skills training programme, specifically targeted at hundreds of women nationwide. These trainings come with empowerment incentives that ensure these women have a sustained economic lifeline.
When Dr Pantami became DG of NITDA, I was experiencing the most trying time of my public service career, yet. The first time I saw him, I did not congratulate him as everyone was. I chose to be honest and true to my conscience and I respectfully told him that I did not come to congratulate him like everyone else, but to welcome him to a most challenging office. I told him time will tell, if congratulations are in order as it was a term used, when success has been achieved. That was my very first encounter with my boss. He exhibited his intense hatred for women by smiling, asking me to sit down and engaging me in a career defining conversation for the next hour, our very considerable ethnic and religious diversity, regardless!! I do not imagine that a lot of feminist, female CEOs will be that gracious to a female subordinate in the same scenario.
Three months later in January of 2017, having proven my competence in my work, he appointed me his spokesperson, and such was his hatred for women that he reappointed me in September of 2019 shortly after assuming his current office.
“Pantami initiated and sustained a digital skills training programme, specifically targeted at hundreds of women nationwide…that ensured these women have a sustained economic lifeline.”
That attempt at playing the gender card is at best a joke, There is a certain level of decorum expected of anyone who must tow that line. Besides, anyone with a head on their necks will find it amusing, that a man who disrespects and hates women will employ and retain women in some of the most sensitive positions in his cabinet. The Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria Communications Satellite (NIGCOMSAT). Dr Abimbola Alale, one of the parastatals he currently oversees, his secretary and his spokesperson are all females, there are female representatives on every committee he chairs, he has an appreciable number of women on his staff list holding director cadre positions and best of all, he is a son, a father, a husband, a brother, an uncle, a teacher, a mentor, and much more to females. How much hatred and disrespect can one harbour in playing these roles?
Dr Isa Pantami’s educational arsenal is too prestigious, above question, far above and beyond ridicule. There is no human force capable of erasing his well earned, qualifications from Ivy league institutions globally. To engage anyone in a defensive debate on this subject, would be an insult to the intellectual prowess of my boss. He is not your average educated person.
Any objective mind watching that video would immediately deduce the enormous contempt, disdain and disrespect directed at Dr Pantami’s person. This obvious display of insubordination clearly indicates that the issue is personal. First of all, the rules and regulations guiding the civil service do not condone such acts. The established protocol of communication has been grossly breached here, but there are also lawful measures to remedy any breach.
It is imperative to make it absolutely clear, that the Honourable Minister did not order any thugs or armed men to chase anyone out of anywhere. He simply does not need to do that! It is a known fact that he is an advocate of justice and has intervened countless times in more ways than one, to give justice to the oppressed. Therefore, it is impossible for him to contradict himself as is been alleged in this case.
Dr Pantami does not, and will not shake any woman he is not married to. It is his personal principle. If anyone feels disrespected because they cannot shake Pantami’s hand, go to court. It is the absence of principles that leads to indiscipline, disregard for superior authority, falsehood and careless talk.
I am yet to see the video of unarmed civil servants being chased out of the building in question, by thugs and armed men. It is not unexpected that these types of distractions would come up, but Dr Pantami is busy. He is too busy ensuring that a Digital Economy is fully achieved, he is engrossed with how to increase Broadband penetration, he is occupied with how to reduce and sustain the price of data, he is busy mentoring young Nigerians on digital skills acquisition, he is busy fostering partnerships that drive innovation- the ticket to global relevance, Dr Pantami’s mind is a 24hour think tank. There is no room for trivialities.
The Nigerian public is not as gullible as some may like to believe. No amount of Smear campaign press conferences organized by some shady faceless groups, or pathetic pen-for-hire attempts will hold water. The great strides accomplished by Pantami since his emergence in the public service domain, can neither be denied nor erased. And he continues to break new grounds. Shall we begin to compare achievements?
Abike Dabiri crossed the line. Her vituperations had nothing to do with office space. The speed, sequence and nature of her allegations leaves the discerning mind wondering. How did we go from office space to qualifications and handshakes to hatred and disrespect for the female gender in a heartbeat?
I stand by the truth and I stand by my boss unapologetically.
Uwa Suleiman is spokesperson to the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy.