The question unanswered remains, how does he scaled through Department of State Security Screening hurdle
In the process of recruitment, one of the cardinal processes considered by the Human Resources department is the oral interview. I have been to many interview sessions in my life. Questions vary according to the objectives of the recruiting organisations. For companies that do aptitude tests, one may naively expect that the oral interviews would also be tailored to reveal the candidate’s ability to regurgitate his University course, but have often been proved to be wrong. At any oral interview, questioners often delve into the private life of the candidate.
Things like temperament, ideology, worldviews and other topical issues are encoded in the questions at the interview. Some interview sessions are even taken beyond the face to face discussion sessions into what is called background checks on candidates to ensure the authenticity of the facts he presented.
A friend once intimated me of how he lost a job with an international organisation because of a small error in his curriculum vitae. He had stated that he graduated in January 1990 from a foremost Nigerian University. But upon verification, he had graduated in December of 1989. How was this discovered? The organisation had upon receipt of his CV dispatched its investigation team to the university to verify the name, education and other vital information about him. He was found wanting on one count, and the company could not stomach a dent in integrity. They let him go. Their logic, if he could lie about such a simple thing, how many other things was he not truthful about?
So also, recruiting a person into a government ministry is as important as, if not more important than, the company’s recruitment. The person to be recruited is going to be holding an office that decides the fate of millions of people in a particular sector.
Isah Ali Pantami, is a Sheikh. A kind of ‘holy' man. He holds the position of minister of communications and digital economy in the present government of Mr Muhammadu Buhari, a man who ascended the presidency of Nigeria on his famed diligence, thoroughness and integrity.
But recent revelations about Pantami are becoming worrisome. Pantami has been accused by several people, with evidences to boot, of his espousal of radical islamism. He appears to be in love with terrorism and violence, according to his accusers. The major issue is not about his orientation, dangerous or not. Nigeria has been battling insurgency since 2009, and lives and property have been destroyed in the process. Yet, Pantami made his way into the Buhari administration.
The most important question: how did he beat all the checks on his way to the ministry? In my own understanding of the matter, the State Security Service, otherwise known as the DSS, is saddled with the responsibility of screening, not questioning, the minister designate. Every known thing about him is tracked . The timeline of activities traced to him is well documented. These are done without his knowledge.
Nigeria has been battling with terrorism to no avail. Insurgents have wasted thousands of civilians and security personnel in the north east of Nigeria , bandits have killed and maimed many in their homes, on the roads, at gatherings and so on. They have done this and gone Scot free without anyone having a clue of who they are, where they come from or how to catch them. The citizens have been left on their own to live at the mercy of terrorists and criminals. Yet, there is colossal dereliction of duties at every turn.
The Director-General, Center for Justice on Religion and Ethnicity in Nigeria, Kallamu Isa Ali Dikwa has intimated the public about how he has written three letters to former president Jonathan and incumbent president Buhari concerning Pantami and his links to terrorism. He lamented that the letters were ignored.
Nigerians are wondering if the DSS went this far concerning this Pantami gentleman. As soon as he was nominated for the position, he automatically ought to have come under the security spotlight. If that happened, then what next? Where is the report of the DSS background investigation? Was it submitted to the Senate screening committee?
And that brings me to the National Assembly’s modus operandi. The senate president had openly said that any request by the president would be granted. This is a heavy indictment on the ability of the red chamber to live above petty politics and mundane considerations. It is probable that the DSS submitted its report to the senate and they ignored it, to please the president.
I have watched Senate screening of ministers, particularly the ones conducted by the current ninth senate. It is a total disaster waiting to happen. No questions are asked, where they are asked, they are watery, unimportant and mundane. Critical thinking and logic are often jettisoned in order to clear the would-be minister. The same thing was done for the service chiefs and others that passed through the senate for confirmation.
It can only show one thing; a porous national security architecture. How come a man such as Pantami that would handle such a large data of citizens have such a radical mindset and even the National Security Adviser did not know? Can we afford such a dangerous lackluster performance in the security sector of our country?
Our demand is that the lackadaisical, non-challant and unprofessional conduct that led to this national embarrassment should not be overlooked. The implications of being tagged a terrorism friendly nation are enormous. Nigerians would be treated as some of the potential terrorists being shadowed across the globe.
It is time we took our security serious. We cannot afford the kind of internal and external security risks we are being subjected to. The government must descend heavily on all involved in this shameful security lapse and sloppiness. There is too much to clean up and the time to start is now.
Usman Okai Austin
Writes from Abuja