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25.04.2021 Justice OPINION: Would Pantami Have Remained in Office if He Were a Woman?

Published 25th Apr, 2021

By Uso Efebo

It has become the practice in Nigeria for erring women in politics to be used as the sacrificial lamb to prove good governance, while their male counterparts are given a mere pat on the shoulder. Only in very rare cases do you see a male government official resign over a clear case of wrongdoing.

These days, Dr Isa Ali Pantami, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, has been trending and for the wrong reasons. The first unwholesome news I heard of him and his reign of tyranny in his ministry was when Abike Dabiri called out to the public about how Pantami allegedly sent bandits and armed men to physically chase her and her team out of their NIDCOM office.

The quarrel is believed to have started when the Minister allegedly denied staff of the Diaspora Commission access to the office it shares with the Nigerian Communication Commission. The staff are also alleged to have been chased away by armed men. The incident occurred while Dabiri-Erewa was out of the country on official assignment. 

She believes the Minister took the action because she is a woman who heads a commission. She said:

“You did that to me because I am a woman. Your disrespect for women is legendary. Left the ugly incident behind me since Feb. But please release all our equipment. Public office is transient. @DrIsaPantami.

When a friend of hers, Bola Olaosebikan, expressed concerns over the incident, the Diaspora Commission Chairman told her: “We have since moved on. We don’t need that particular office. Let @DrIsaPantami just be gracious enough to tell us where he locked up our equipment and release them. After the lockdown , we will settle for some options we already have. Thank you.”

Madam Dabiri-Erewa also said: “To refresh you Sir. Despite your denial. The Sec of the Commission seeking for calm after Staff resumed for work and denied access to the 5th floor office of Nidcom.. Based on your instruction . Turned back by armed men. Haba!!!!”

Quite frankly, Pantami is getting ridiculously infamous. He is often in the news for the wrong reasons — because shortly after his Dabiri’s outburst, he was the centre of attention again, this time about his debacle with the ongoing NIN registration exercise, which has been carried out in the most barbaric and archaic ways, throwing caution to the wind, with obvious lack of concern for Covid-19 protocol. The whole exercise is poorly planned, ill -executed and a shameful evidence of Nigeria’s backwardness.

There is also the case of one video of him seated pompously behind his desk, with staff of the ministry seen on their knees begging him for forgiveness. They needed ‘forgiveness’ because he was angry that they demanded for their rights to better working conditions. Some of these individuals were men and women far advanced in age who had no choice but to beg him to preserve their means of livelihood.

I was still struggling to come to terms with the humiliation of Pantami’s staff only for past lectures of the same man to resurface online, lectures in which he was avidly supporting al-Qaeda and publicly applauding the terrorist activities of the sinister group.

In any sane environment, in any proactive government, this man would have been asked to resign immediately and an investigation set in motion. But, of course, this is Nigeria, the centre of excellence in nepotism and corruption.

Yes! (of course), the powers that be just look away, and it begs the question why? For me, the only answer is that he is a man! His atrocious comments and behaviour are being excused simply because he is a man — a male politician in Nigeria — and nothing else.

Think about the violent dildo senator Elisha Abbo or the dancing kind Dino Melaye; in different climes, these men are not supposed to be seen within a fifty-mile radius of any lawmaking body in the country on the account of their reprehensible anti-social behaviours.  

I remember former Speaker of the house, Mrs. Patricia Etteh, who was elected to office in 1999 representing the people of Ayedaade/Isokan/ Irewole in Osun. Etteh became the Speaker in her third term, making her the only woman to hold any of the four most senior roles in the country (President, Vice President, Senate President, and Speaker). During her tenure as Speaker, she was accused of spending $5million on home renovations and buying 12 cars, which led to public outcry at the National Assembly and across the nation. After sustained pressure, she resigned as Speaker.

On the other hand, Dimeji Bankole (who assumed the same role as Etteh) stayed his full term in office despite the numerous allegations of fraud and corruption against him.

In President Buhari’s first term, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun was appointed Minister of Finance. In July 2018, Premium Times published a story about how she did not hold an NYSC certificate. She was accused of forging an exemption certificate procured years after her graduation. The paper reported that this effectively made the minister susceptible to blackmail by the National Assembly who were well-briefed on her status. Two months later, she would announce her resignation.

Aisha Alhassan can lay claim to many firsts: She was the first woman to be appointed Attorney General/Commissioner of Justice. She was also the first woman to be appointed Secretary of the FCT Judicial Council. In 2015, she almost became the first democratically elected female Governor in Nigeria before a court judgment declaring her Governor of Taraba state was reversed. She was then appointed Minister of Woman Affairs by Buhari.

In the build-up to the 2019 elections, Alhassan sought the Taraba governorship. However, the All-Progressives Congress (APC) disqualified her from contesting in the party’s primaries in the screening process. This inspired Alhassan’s resignation from office. In her resignation letter, she told the President that by disqualifying her from contesting the governorship, the party effectively implied that she lacked the fitness to be a Minister. She decried her disqualification, saying the action constituted a grave injustice against her since she paid to purchase the form and had been a loyal member of the party.

Stella Oduah, the former Aviation Minister, was found guilty by two panels that probed the purchase of two bullet-proofs cars by an agency under her supervision, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for N255 million in violation of Nigeria’s public procurement and appropriation laws.

The House of Representatives Committee on Aviation, which held an investigative hearing on the matter, said in its report that the money used in purchasing the vehicles was not covered by the 2013 budget. It also said Oduah breached Nigerian laws by exceeding her approval limit and signing off over N634 million for the agency to buy 54 vehicles.

The President panel set up by the Federal Government on the matter equally found Oduah guilty for breaching the laws of the land.

Apart from the scandal, Oduah was also involved in a certificate forgery scandal. The former minister was alleged to have claimed in the resume she submitted to the Senate for her confirmation hearing that a university later found to be non-existent awarded her an honorary doctorate degree.

She also falsely claimed on the website of the Ministry of Aviation that she bagged a Master’s degree from St. Paul College, Lawrenceville, Virginia, United States. However, checks at the institution revealed that it did not award her the degree as it does not run graduate programs.

It is widely believed that Ms. Oduah was forced to resign because of the various controversies and scandals trailing her.

Pantami has not been asked by the government to resign, neither has he voluntarily chosen to do so. Instead, the spokesperson for MURIC has told him that on no condition should he consider resigning from his office.

And that exactly is the point. The typical Nigerian male finds it difficult to own up to a wrong, let alone make active efforts to correct it. It is a deeply embedded part of our society that the man can do no wrong and it is this notion that drives men in position of power to hold on even when all logic says resign. The average Nigerian man is considered the head and a semi-god. Whatever he says or does in the home or office is final and that is it!

I do not agree or support the actions of fraudulent and deceitful women who have misused the opportunity of public office, but after realizing that they made wrong judgement calls, they took responsibility and paid the price. So why can’t the men do same?

Whatever happens in the days ahead, Pantami will remain Minister of Communications and Digital Economy. Not because his comments weren’t inciteful, not because he doesn’t know the right thing to do in situations like this, but simply because he is a man. A Nigerian man.

Published 25th Apr, 2021

By Uso Efebo

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