Adeosun showed the light, Pantami must find the way
One of the fairy tales that made my day in my formative years was that of a young man and his younger brother sent by their father to fetch him flowers with a promise that the one whose flowers were more beautiful would be handsomely rewarded. The two brothers went into a bush in the neighbourhood in search of flowers, but as it turned out, it was the younger brother whose flowers were more beautiful. On their way home, the jealous elder brother hacked the younger one to death, buried him and went home with his flowers.
A few months later, a pawpaw tree grew from the grave of the younger brother and continued to flourish until its beautiful leaves attracted a child in the neighbourhood and he decided to make a flute with one of them. To the shock of everyone in the neighbourhood, however, the sound produced by the flute was the voice of the boy his brother had killed and buried earlier, explaining how he became a victim of jealousy.
Of course, as a fairy tale, the story cannot be taken for its face value. It nonetheless teaches the unmistakable lesson that nothing is hidden under the sun, and like a shadow, our yesterday is always on our trail, haunting or aiding us as the case may be.
The foregoing was the context in which Norman Coombs, the author of The Black Experience in America, wrote when he said: “Whether we know it or not, the past is always with us and clings tightly to us like a cloak. We have the choice of recognising it and dealing constructively with it or ignoring it and living in bondage to it.”
But Coomb’s point would appear to be lost on the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media, Malam Garba Shehu, who in a tepid response to the widespread agitation for the removal of Dr. Isa Pantami as the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy for his open and vigorous demonstration of support for the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda, the two terrorist organisations responsible for the bombing of America on September 11, 2001, would rather have Nigerians adopt the biblical saying that old things have passed away.
Responding to the clamour for Pantami’s removal from Buhari’s cabinet on Thursday and dismissing same as a “cancel campaign” targeted at the embattled minister, Shehu had said: “The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami is currently subject to a ‘cancel campaign’ instigated by those who seek his removal. They do not really care what he may or may not have said some 20 years ago: that is merely the instrument they are using to attempt to ‘cancel’ him. But they will profit should he be stopped from making decisions that improve the lives of everyday Nigerians.”
Shehu, who said Pantami had apologised for the views he expressed in the early 2000s for which he is being crucified now, however, admitted that “the views were absolutely unacceptable then and would be equally unacceptable today were he to repeat them. But he will not repeat them—for he has publicly and permanently condemned his earlier utterances as wrong. In the 2000s, the minister was a man in his twenties; next year he will be 50. Time has passed, and people and their opinions—often rightly—change. “
It would seem, however, that most well-meaning Nigerians are not taken in by Shehu’s expression of optimism that Pantami has so much evolved from an Islamic extremist to a benevolent moderate who would gladly accept the chance to lead a church service. Religion being an opium, according to the world acclaimed champion of socialist movement, Karl Marx, they cannot understand the alchemy by which a man who had so openly and eloquently expressed support for the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda would be so much weaned of his terrorist instincts that he now qualifies to lead the battle against, Boko Haram, the local equivalent of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda at whose mercy the nation’s survival lies.
It smacks of unmitigated hypocrisy that some of our countrymen who were at the forefront of the clamour for the resignation of the former Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, after a sordid part of her past was dug up are now the ones at the vanguard of the Pantami-must-stay campaign. Why, for instance, did Shehu not make a case for Adeosun, knowing that she would likely approach the issues concerning her National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) discharge certificate differently now that she is older? And to think that the journalist that exposed Adeosun and caused her resignation as finance minister is now the one leading the campaign for Pantami to retain his cabinet position!
Borrowing from the great American human rights activist, Ella Baker, Adeosun has given the light by honourably resigning her position as finance minister; it is now left for Pantami to find the way. As the custodian of our national data, his past is like June 12; we can only wish it away at the nation’s peril.