On Saturday, Sahara Reporters, an online medium based in New York City published 5 pictures of three different edifices with a sensational headline; “Buhari’s Minister of Communications, Dr. Isa Pantami, Living Large In Abuja, Purchases Three Houses In Wuse For His Three Wives”.
The online medium, owned by Mr Omoyele Sowore, an unrepentant critic of the Buhari-led administration used a misleading phrase “Living Large” in the headline to supposedly reveal the lavish and ostentatious lifestyle of the Minister who it claimed acquired three houses for his three wives in Abuja.
The Sowore-led SR failed to provide any documentary evidence to support its claim or linking the acquisition of the houses in the pictures to the Minister, who is equally a devout and respected Muslim figure in Nigeria.
Many Nigerians, especially admirers of the Minister stormed the social media handles of the medium, demanding that the pictures should be backed with evidence that the houses were acquired by Dr Pantami.
Commentators on its verified Facebook page monitored by Muslim News on Sunday barely a day after the pictures were published said SR isn’t a reliable and credible medium to be taken serious, thereby requesting for evidence linking Dr Pantami to the houses he allegedly acquired as a Minister under President Buhari.
One commentator, Musa Abubakar Reskona was largely disappointed as he lamented thus: “SR, you just succeeded in wasting my data. I thought the writer will provide us with documentation linking the purported houses to Dr Pantami. All these fallacious writeups will not help you in tarnishing the image of Dr Pantami.”
When pundits were of high expectations that the medium would do a follow-up story to present documentary evidence that the Minister legally or illegally “acquired” the houses in its pictorial news, SR dropped its second report within 24 hours, with the headline “Pantami Confirms Owning Houses in Abuja, Denies Buying Any Property Since Becoming Minister”, but alas, it was a reaction of Dr Pantami, who outrightly debunked the allegations.
SR tried to mislead its readers into believing that the Minister admitted ACQUIRING or OWNING two of the three published houses, as used in its first and second controversial headlines, whereas Dr Pantami had one house which he occupied since 2017 before he became a Minister and the second apartment was rented in 2019.
Spokesman to the Minister, Uwa Suleiman said in a press statement that; “Our attention has been drawn to the grave falsehood published by controversial online media, Sahara Reporters against the person of Honourable Minister, Dr Isa Ali Pantami. The online media, has falsely accused him of procuring three houses within the period of his assumption of office.
“For the purpose of setting the records straight, the Honourable Minister has not purchased a single property anywhere In the world, in the period he has been in office as a Minister. One of the apartments in the images published is one which the Honourable Minister has occupied since January 2017, more than two years before becoming a minister, while the other one is a house he rented since 17th December 2019.
“Two of the images are not even known to him,” Suleiman added, as observers continued to drag Sowore and its SR to the cleaners, saying the plot to ridicule and taint the personality of Dr Pantami is dead on arrival and the only ethical conduct expected of the newspaper is to provide evidence linking the Minister as the owner of the houses.
“I honestly think that Sowore and his Sahara Reporters are becoming too petty out of self inflicted fraustration. If you claimed the man bought the houses as a minister, who was the original owner of each of the houses in question, how much did he buy each of the houses, was it done by cash or transfer, what date, etc?
“You did not provide any evidence to butress your spurious allegations, not even one document to link him with the purchases. The writer of this rejoinder is certainly one of those who want the country to fall by his blind amplification of falsehood,” another follower, Abu Otene, said.
SR’s Fictitious Writer
While many are still waiting for evidence of acquisition of the properties by Dr Pantami, SR dropped another story, in form of opinion article, entitled; “Minister Isa Pantami Abuja Houses And The Lies Used To Cover More Lies”, written by one “Mashood Musbau”.
Apart from the fact that the name “Mashood Musbau” is fictitious and does not exist, the opinion article was poorly written as it was laden with very basic grammatical and syntax errors.
A quick search of “Mashood Musbau” by Muslim News shows that the name has been in obscurity until now. The only publication linked to the author was his opinion article against Dr Pantami.
“Does it mean he has not been writing before now? Does it mean he has no social media accounts that could be linked to him?,” these are mind-boggling questions for SR’s opinion writer, who also goes with the title, “Just a concerned youth that wants a good Nigeria”.
A Team of Muslim News Researchers concluded that the writer, ‘Mashood Musbau’ is likely to be a pseudonym for a writer working with the Sahara Reporters, a medium known for fiction journalism. This show of shame further revealed that the online medium was not bold enough to own up to its mischievous claims, thereby masquerading with a name that never existed.
“Again, rather than present logical arguments in his error-ridden article, “Musbau” only heaped abuses at the Honourable Minister and played to the gallery. He also raised questions that his Sahara Reporters is in the best position to answer as the medium that broke the phantom ‘investigative story’, after all, he who asserts must prove.”
Muslim News findings further revealed that Sahara Reporters intentionally hid under a supposed Muslim name “Mashood Musbau” to launch a campaign of calumny against the person of Dr Pantami, being a respected Muslim Personality, just to lend credence albeit fruitlessly, to its evil agenda.
But it turned out dead best because a true Muslim that’s worth that name would not act as “Musbau” acted, alleging that “the Minister cannot continue to use the religion for worldly gains and try to use the northern Muslims and trolls he pays via some northern journalist to quiet down the truth.”
Unlike the fictitious Musbau, Kelvin Adegbenga, a Public Affairs Analyst based in Lagos, who has written on different matters in Nigeria, wrote in defence of Dr Pantami, saying that the Minister has never used religion for worldly gains as most of his members of staff are Christians.
SR’s fictitious writer could have toed a glorious path of searching and advocating for the truth through News verification which Sahara Reporters failed to do.
Islam emphasizes on verification of News. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) affirmed in an authentic hadith narration: “Should I tell you what is a blatant lie? It is a rumour circulating among people (without verification)”.
That’s why Allah warns, “O you who believe! If some transgressor brings you news (that requires taking action), verify it carefully (before you believe and act upon it), lest you harm a people in ignorance and then become regretful for what you have done” . – Qur’an 49: 6
Ignoring Attempt To Slander Dr Pantami
Some critics have also raised concerns that, even if the house owned by the Minister was one of those published and purchased in 2017 when he was Director General, NITDA, where did he get the money as a civil servant.
Suleiman explained that her boss was a Professor at Islamic University of Madinah where he earned more than he does now as a Minister.
According to the statement, “It is worthy of note that as a serving Minister, Dr Pantami’s salaries and allowances fall below his earnings as a Professor at the International University, Madinah, Saudi Arabia, where he still holds the record of being the first Nigerian to lecture at that level. He only returned to Nigeria out of the zeal to contribute his quota to national development.
“Dr Pantami is one of the few Nigerians driven solely by an unequalled sense of patriotism and selfless service as demonstrated in his act of sacrifice, to answer the call to serve his country as a sign of his patriotism and selfless service. As a successful businessman in his own right who has been comfortable in life, he has carved a niche for himself in his character, deep sense of responsibility and successful feats.
“Dr Pantami’s integrity and credibility precede him, and his fight against corruption in both official and personal capacities have become a reference point not only nationally, but globally.
“The general public is advised to ignore all attempts to slander the name and image of the Honourable Minister. In the same vein, we plead with the Nigerian media to deploy the strategies of investigative journalism and avoid the urge to peddle falsehood and sensationalism in order to uphold the tenets of the noble pen profession
Who is Dr Pantami?
From the Pantami community of Gombe State, in the northeast geopolitical zone of Nigeria comes Dr Ali Isa Ibrahim Pantami, the renowned Islamic scholar changing the face of global technological space since he was appointed by President Buhari Muhammadu in September 2016 to head the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), one of the then newly created government agencies, under the supervision of the Ministry of Communications, saddled with the responsibility of “developing and regulating Information and Telecommunications Technology (ICT) in Nigeria.”
His uncommon leadership qualities and outstanding performance at NITDA is applauded by all and sundry. Sheikh Pantami led so many positive contributions in the Nigerian and global ICT ecosystem revolution, including youth empowerment and promotion of good governance and just like his boss (President Buhari), Pantami has zero tolerance for corruption; thus he led his agency to a partnership with EFCC to fight against corruption in the ministry.
Allah (SWT) in His infinite mercies finally heard the prayers of those who saw the astounding transformation at NITDA. President Buhari, on his election for a second term, elevated Dr Pantami, entrusting him with higher responsibilities as the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy in Nigeria.
Since his swearing-in in August, 2019, Dr Pantami, a PhD holder from Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, Scotland, has been changing the narrative with his innovative and impactful policies.
Few weeks after assumption of office, Dr Pantami directed all the agencies under the ministry, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to block the about 9.2 million unregistered and improperly registered SIM cards in his quest to tame cybercrime in Nigeria.
Being a devout Muslim scholar with indepth Islamic knowledge is perhaps what further attracted us at Muslim News, Nigeria’s most authoritative Islamic newspaper to developing a keen interest in the leadership style of Sheikh Pantami.
Fondly called Sheikh Pantami by friends and admirers – especially on social media and by Muslim faithful who avidly follow his Islamic activism both online and terrestrially, he has been leading thousands of Muslim congregations in solat (prayers) especially on Fridays for more than 20 years both in Nigeria and UK.
Surprisingly, his engagement as Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has not taken away his da’wah activism. He has developed a system of juggling between the two without one adversely impacting the other.