A Nigerian Islamic rights organisation, MURIC Rights Concern, MURIC, has strongly condemned people criticising the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Ali Pantami, over his professorial appointment at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri.
The group described the criticisms as 'sheer ethnic stigmatisation and religious profiling.'
It said the critics "find it hard to believe that a Northerner, an Hausa man, a Fulani or a Muslim for that matter," can be so brilliant.
"They are therefore determined to bring him down. It is sheer ethnic stigmatisation and religious profiling," it added.
MURIC further noted that its recent findings have revealed that the embattled Minister has done nothing wrong over the matter, to deserve such criticisms.
It disclosed that the professorial conferment on Pantami is justifiable, saying Pantami is qualified for the appointment.
Its director, Professor Ishaq Akintola who stated that the criticisms lack evidence, urged the critics to inject objectivity into their criticisms by carrying out justifiable investigations before finding faults in the appointment.
He added that the terrorism-linked Pantami, should neither be castigated because of his ethnic background nor religious beliefs.
He said in a statement on Monday that, “We are perturbed by the recent uproar over the appointment of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Professor Ali Isa Ibrahim Pantami, as a Professor of CyberSecurity by the Federal University of Technology (FUTO). It is much ado about nothing and an exercise in perpetual idleness and irredeemable laziness.
“Pantami’s detractors are armchair critics and educated illiterates engaging in intellectual escapism. The answers to their quests are right there in their backyards but they did not bother to look. They are merchants of hate peddling misinformation. Pantami has not committed any crime or done any wrong in this matter. Many academics serving in government have had the priviledge of doing exactly what the honourable minister did.
“Unlike Pantami’s critics who rushed to make unsubstantiated allegations, MURIC took the pain to make enquiries far and wide. We spoke to university lecturers in various campuses and our findings show that academicians are allowed to apply for appointments and promotions while serving in public office so long as they have fresh publications.
“Professor Ngozi Osarenren of the Department of Educational Foundation, University of Lagos, got her professorial chair while serving as commissioner for education in Edo State. At the Lagos State University (LASU) the late Professor Abdul Rasheed Kunle Lawal became a professor while serving as commissioner in the Lagos State government. Also, Professor Musibau Babatunde of the University of Ibadan became a professor while serving as Special Adviser to the governor of Oyo State.
“In Bayero University, Kano (BUK), Professors Ibrahim Makari and Musa Usman got their chairs while serving in government. In Usman Dan Fodiye University (UDUS), a lecturer was promoted to the post of associate professor while on leave of absence around 1996. Another lecturer in the Faculty of Agriculture also got promoted while serving the Zamfara State government. A staff member of the Faculty of Law who is still serving in government was promoted to the post of associate professor three years ago. Dr Abdullahi Balarabe got his doctorate degree while serving as Speaker in the Sokoto State House of Assembly.
“Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate was a serving Minister of Health in Nigeria when he was appointed Professor of Public Health Leadership at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. That was in 2013. Where were the wailers at that time?
Was it not in this same Nigeria that Okereke Onyiuke of Stock Exchange was given the same professorial chair by a university from the same South East and nothing was heard in form of a protest? So why the hullabaloo when a Fulani Muslim bags a professorial chair?
“We also contacted FUTO. According to Professor Eze, the former Vice Chancellor of that university, FUTO followed due process in the exercise that led to the appointment of Professor Ali Isa Ibrahim Pantami to the post of Professor of Cybersecurity. ‘We advertised. He applied. We followed our rules and regulations. We did a prima facie in March 2021 and his papers were sent out. They came back positive. The Council in another meeting approved his appointment. It is his detractors that are creating this problem.’"
It continued, “From the above, it is clear that with the exception of two universities, the common practice is that academicians serving in government often respond to advertisements in their places of primary assignment or in other universities. They may also submit their curriculum vitae for promotion during the annual assessment exercise if they are ripe for promotion. It is the duty of the university to allow them to compete with staff on ground in such exercises.
“That is why groups like the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU) need to steer clear of the Pantami debate. ASUU has no business whatsoever conducting investigations into the matter. Its integrity may get eroded if care is not taken because the debate is looking more of ethnic stigmatisation and religious stereotyping. ASUU may get its fingers burnt in this."
“MURIC advises Pantami’s detractors to desist from armchair criticism. They should do proper investigations and inject some modicum of objectivity into their views when criticising. For example, they would have known better if they had contacted university lecturers in one or two Nigerian universities. But they left undone what they should have done. Conducting proper investigations would have empowered them to speak from an uninformed position.
“We find it hard to see what crime the honourable minister has committed. Pantami’s detractors can have a point if they can provide evidence of his earning double salary. But do they have that? We are waiting for such evidence. Until then, we give Pantami a clean bill of health,” it added.