By Zayyad I. Muhammad
The debate on the legitimacy of Dr Isah Ali Ibrahim Pantami’s professorship is back. The National Executive Council (NEC) of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) said that the professorial conferment on Pantami’s didn’t follow the laid-down procedures of the Nigerian university system. Accordingly, the union directed all its members and branches throughout the country not to recognize, accord, or treat him as a professor of Cybersecurity under any guise.
On the other hand, the Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University, Owerri (FUTO), Prof. Nnenna Oti, has said that the management of FUTO will sue against ASUU’s rejection of Dr Pantami’s promotion to the rank as a professor of Cyber Security by his university. When asked to comment on the issue, Minister Pantami – said ‘No Comment, No Comment, No Comment’- the matter is in the court.
The 2023 election campaigns, horse-trading, politicking, and strategizing have begun. Thus, the debate on Pantami’s professorship will linger, especially in the political arenas, notwithstanding the litigation. How Pantami’s political handlers manage the issue will determine the direction and weight of the debate, including the political impact on him. In contrast, how FUTO’s lawyers handle the case will determine the future of Pantami’s professorship.
Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami – Honorable Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, an Islamic Sheik, a UK-trained PhD holder, has found himself in a triangular situation – a federal political appointee, an Islamic Sheik and an academic. This revered status means any issue that affects his personality will always be a hot one.
Most of the people who criticized Pantami’s appointment as a Professor were academics. So, ASUU’s NEC stand is not a surprise. But, equally, the majority of those who supported the critics were Pantami’s political adversaries. On the other hand, the supporters of Pantami’s professorship are academics who have soft spots for him, members of religious bodies, his students and his political friends, and those who are sitting on the fence.
In retrospect, the FUTO chapter of ASUU had set up a five-person panel chaired by Prof. M. S. Nwakaudu, with members: G.A. Anyanwu, C. E. Orji, Mrs O.P. Onyewuchi; and T. I. N. Ezejiofor (Member/Secretary), which cleared the appointment and asserted that due process was followed, a verdict that gave Pantami and FUTO some respite. However, ASUU NEC has reversed the verdict, giving Pantami’s political opponents more strength to fire at him more.
Pantami’s political allies, supporters, and students will be prayerful for the courts of law to clear this issue once and for all. This is because to Pantami’s supporters, his professorship is a significant addition to his already ‘unmatched’ credentials in his own rights. Pantami’s supporters believe that he is young, highly educated with a PhD. from the United Kingdom (UK) at Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen. They argue that Pantami is a good material to balance a presidential ticket politically.
Moreover, Pantami is from northeast Nigeria and fits into the agitation for the northeast to present the vice-presidential candidate in 2023. He is a household name in the northwest. They will feel at home with him – he is their cousin. He is an Islamic scholar with immense, even cult-like, followership nationwide. Pantami is Buhari’s strong confidant and ally.
The general belief among Pantami’s promoters is; Pantami from the north-east as vice-presidential candidate with any presidential candidate from the south, especially the southwest, will balance a presidential ticket and serve as a strategy for the APC to retain the presidency in 2023. Nevertheless, opposition against Pantami’s professorship will continue to have a field-day, striking him. At the same time, his political rivals will clap for them as the nation awaits the courts’ verdicts on the Professorship.
Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Abuja, 08036070980, email@example.com