Between Pantami and Abike’s needless distraction

In the last few days, the social media has been awash with the disagreement between the chairman of the Nigeria Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Abike Dabiri-Erewa, and the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami, over office space. The problem which seems to have had its roots many months back came into the open with the tirade of the chairman of the Diaspora Commission, Hon. Abike Dabiri, in which she threw decorum to the wind and attacked the person of the minister on Twitter.

 There is a saying among the Yoruba that ‘you empower yourself in rhetoric (dialogue or counsel), and not in squabbles, for at the end of the day (fight), you (parties concerned) will be ask to explain and the better at words will carry the day.’ As a government appointee working under the same government the minister serves, the least the chairman of NIDCOM could have done is to follow official channels to express her grievances rather than taking to twitter. She had accused the minister of sending gunmen to chase her staff off the building; an incident that happened in February and which the minister denied through his spokesman.

According to Dabiri, “In one year, we don’t have an office. The office we got, given to us by NCC but we were actually driven away by the Honourable Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Mr. Isa Pantami, within two days, they drove us out with guns and what happened? The place was given to us by NCC.” Note the way the minister was addressed.

In her Twitter rant she had vituperated ‘An Islamic scholar does not lie; Hon Minister (PhD two laughter emojis) you did that to me because I am a woman. Your disrespect for women is legendary. Left the ugly incident behind me since February, but please release all our office equipment. Public office is transient.”

As a human being and a respected public figure, Dr. Pantami was left with no option, but quickly responds. His first reaction was typically off the cuff: ‘THIS IS A BIG FAT LIE from her. The owner of the building @NgComCommision has faulted her lies on their social media platforms. The minister has never given that directives (sic) to any gunman. We need to be very objective in reporting.  I have never sent any gunmen there, & and I have no one.’

A careful analysis of the issue shows that NCC had indeed offered the building in question to NIDCOM and as the Director of Public Affairs of NCC, Dr. Henry Nkemadu, confirmed and that the offer still subsist. However, there seems to be some lack of communication between the three agencies concerned as to why NIDCOM staff were asked off the building. This seems to have something to do with security concerns.

Although Dabiri said she had petitioned the relevant authorities and has left the issue behind, she went to social media to pass judgement on the person of the minister. In her statement above, she had said ‘we were actually driven away by the Honourable Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Mr Isa Pantami.’ Note the way she addressed him ‘Mr.’ instead of the Dr., which is hard-earned and well known title for Dr. Pantami. This seems to be a deliberate attempt to reduce the personality of Pantami to an ordinary ‘Mr.’ In her Twitter rant which went viral, she alluded that the minister, an Islamic scholar is a liar and after referring to him as a Honourable minister, in bracket she wrote Phd and added two laughter emojis. This is no doubt a clear attempt to denigrate the PhD qualification of the minister; that his PhD is laughable or in doubt? Definitely, the emojis is indicative of derision and this raised an army of Arewa twitteratis trending on twitter in solidarity with the minister, sparking what almost became an inter-ethnic brickbat.

She went further to appeal to feminist sentiments that she was so treated because she is a woman. And she capped that with ‘Your disrespect for women is legendary.’ These are accusations bothering on the emotional and that cannot be substantiated unless she can prove to the public she has an intimate knowledge of the man. Even if she does, it is unbecoming to bring the personal into official matters.

Many Nigerians have gone online to defend the minister, citing his pedigree and certified knowledge in both Islamic sciences and his professional field of computer science for which he earned the title Phd from a UK university to boot. The Dr. of Pantami was not bought off the shelf nor an honorary but earned through ‘Prayer Hard work and Determination,’ as a fan of Pantami puts it. It was on the basis of his IT background that he was appointed the DG/CEO of Nigeria Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).

No doubt, his performance at NITDA influenced his being appointed to the higher position of Minister of Communication and Digital Economy. Even the new name of the ministry is synonymous with his industry at NITDA, driving Nigeria to become a digital economy to be reckoned with globally.

Just like the tradition he established at NITDA, as minister, Dr. Pantami has carried on his mission of promoting digital development in Nigeria with zeal and commitment. His lofty intentions and genuine commitment needs nothing, but support and encouragement, not the type of distraction Abike Dabiri wanted to throw at the minister.

Not surprisingly, whatever points Dabiri have in this deciding to take the minister up she had squandered it and thrown it to the gutters by her personal attack on the man. She should have waited for the outcome of her petition.

 As a former journalist, one would have expected her to manage this public relations fiasco better. If she had intended to disgrace the minister and win support for herself, her expectations had backfired. Instead of the calm journalist and politician that people had associated with her personality, she has now reduced herself to a petty mudslinger who ended up splattering herself with the mud. Rather than use official language and decorum she had resorted to petty trader language and demeanour. In the end it is Pantami that has won the sympathy of many for the mud flung at him.

Olarenwaju writes from Utako, Abuja

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