Nigeria’s Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami has emerged the winner of the 2020 Nigerian Muslim Personality of the Year Award, organised by Muslim News, Nigeria’s most authoritative Islamic newspaper.
The Honourable Minister — who hails from the Pantami district in Gombe LGA of Gombe State, was announced the winner of the prestigious award for combining two great features of leading the “digitization of the Nigerian economy” and “providing the right religious education for his teeming followers across the globe”.
His emergence as the Nigerian Muslim Personality of the Year 2020 was formally announced via a press statement on Friday, February 19 by the newspaper’s publisher, who is also the organiser of the #MNAwards, Mr. Rasheed Abubakar.
#MNAwards is an acronym for Muslim News Nigeria Awards, celebrating Muslim achievers who have excelled and made the Muslim community proud in Nigeria and globally.
Pantami, a Ph.D. scholar in Computing & Information Systems from Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, UK, succeeds the Borno State governor, Prof. Umara Babagana Zulum, who won the coveted award in 2019, while His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Abubakar Saad III emerged the winner of the maiden edition in 2018.
In the press statement, Mr. Abubakar said having keenly followed Sheikh Pantami’s activities alongside some top Nigerian Muslims in different fields of endeavour, in the last year, Pantami’s quest for entrenching the digital economy policy for national development as a minister and understanding of pristine Islamic knowledge as a Muslim scholar are among the two critical factors in selecting awardees for the Nigerian Muslim Personality of the Year Award.
Pantami first became the cynosure of all eyes when in 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari appointed him as the Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), one of the agencies under the then Federal Ministry of Communications.
The renowned Islamic scholar changed the face of global technological space, making headlines for his innovative ideas. His impactful, effective and robust engagement, and exemplary leadership skills at NITDA made the president elevate him to the position of an honourable minister, with added responsibilities.
Dr. Pantami was sworn-in as a Minister of the Federal Republic on August 21, 2019, for the first time alongside 42 others and barely a month in office, there was re-designation of the ministry to include digital economy.
According to him, the re-designation was done to position Nigeria for the gains of the digital economy as communications captured just the channels. Hence, the term became inadequate in describing the essence of the new vision that embraces the content, as well as the utilization of both channel and content to achieve the central focus of the ministry to migrate the nation to a digital economy.
Muslim News’ findings revealed that the respected Islamic scholar who goes to work with his faith recorded unprecedented achievements, with top-notch initiatives, including the recently held ground-breaking opening of the National Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre in Abuja. Some of the successes are contained in a 2-in-1 investigation carried out by Muslim News’ Research team, published on September 7 and 14, 2020, which was titled, “Dr. Pantami’s unquantifiable dedication, quest for a digital Nigeria (1 & 2)”
Dr. Pantami combines his ministerial duties with Islamic activism and does not allow either to hamper the other. Despite being an Islamic scholar, he doesn’t allow religious bias and untoward sentiments to take away his knack for professionalism and merit.
Our findings showed that he has lots of educative and soul-inspiring Islamic programmes and lectures he attends to after his daily official work schedule in his avowed mission of guiding people to the right path and educating them on Islamic principles.
Muslim News noted that, during the month of the Ramadan Fast, he holds series of Islamic events, which took a different dimension last year due to the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic and its attendant prevention protocols in the country. Most of his lectures, including the weekly “Shamail-un Nabiyy”, which holds on Sundays (from 7 pm Nigerian time) now hold online and are being transmitted via his social media handles.
A regular member of his audience, Ibrahim Khalil, who spoke with Muslim News at An-Nuur Mosque, Abuja, said, “I am here to attend Sheikh Pantami’s lecture. He lectures on this particular book, ‘Shamail-un Nabiyy’ — meaning, the anecdote of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Today (Sunday, February 7, 2021) was the 93rd in the series of classes. Apart from this, he also does Tafsir of the Qur’an daily during the blessed month of Ramadan. Dr. Pantami is an inspiration to many youths.”
We also gathered that many of his lectures are done in his native Hausa language and this is not surprising, as many of his listeners, including Muslim women, are from northern Nigeria
Kazeem Isa said, “The Honourable Minister has been engaging in da’wah right from his days at the University in ATBU. During those days, most of the lectures were held in Hausa and after graduation, majority of the audience wanted continuity. And, of course, Bauchi is predominantly occupied by the Hausa-speaking Muslims.
“When he moved to Abuja, he continued to use the same medium of communication due to the language of most of his original audience, like we have many Yoruba-speaking Islamic scholars in the southwest. However, when he attends special lectures such as the 1Ummah Convention, among others, he delivers them eloquently in English. He is a blessing to the Muslim Ummah in Nigeria. His type, being one of the hardworking ministers in Nigeria, at the same time, da’wah worker, is rare.”
‘Making the Ummah proud’
Mr. Abubakar congratulated the Hon. Minister for making the Muslim Ummah proud, charging him to remain committed to impactful, effective and purposeful leadership.
“In line with our mandate and mission of celebrating Muslim achievers across various sectors of our society, we deem it fit to nominate our amiable Sheikh, Dr. Isa Pantami as the Nigerian Muslim Personality of the Year for the wonderful job he has been doing.
“His ministry is a very crucial one, given the shift of global attention to the digital space, particularly the digital economy where Information, Communications, and Telecommunications Technology are paramount. Dr. Pantami has brought his wealth of experience both in the classroom and in public service to bare in overseeing the ministry.
“He is affable, friendly, and easy-going. He pays attention to details and is always on the lookout for public yearnings as shown by his social media activities. Not many people in that high position will be diligent and humane enough to the level of responding to the tweets of Nigerians as he does. This award is therefore among other things, to charge him to do more for Nigerians through the ministry. I congratulate and rejoice with him.”
‘Dynamism of the awards’
Mr. Abubakar explained the dynamism of the 2020 edition of the awards, with the introduction of hashtag #MNAwards and five additional categories, honouring Muslim professionals in media, health, law, finance and entertainment.
According to him, “When we started the award in 2018, it was mainly in two categories, namely ‘Top 5 Nigerian and Global Muslim Personalities of the Year’. In both categories, the Awards Committee announced global and Nigerian Muslim achievers that emerged 1st to 4th runners-up (that’s 2nd to 5th place winners), before unveiling the winner, who is decorated as the Muslim Personality of the Year.
“While the 2018 and 2019 Nigerian category was won by Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Alhaji Abubakar Sa’ad III and Borno State Governor, Prof. Babagana Zulum respectively, the global Muslim Personality Award has been won twice, undisputedly, by Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan,” he added.
The Founder however stated that the award, which has garnered international attention, took a new dimension with “the introduction of hashtag #MNAwards2020, nomination techniques and five additional categories.
He said, “Instead of having top 5 Muslim Personalities, only one person will emerge winner while others will be named Muslim achievers who have excelled in the professional careers. We were able to work with the national leadership of four professional Muslim bodies with strong membership across Nigeria, namely; Muslim Lawyers Association of Nigeria (MULAN), Islamic Medical Association of Nigeria (IMAN), Muslim Media Practitioners of Nigeria (MMPN) and Muslim Professional Accountants’ Association (MPAAN).
“At the end of the painstaking and thorough process, we were able to announce winners in the four professions, including Nigerian Muslim Celebrity of the Year, which was won by Ahmed Musa. The Nigerian Muslim Legal Person was Barr. Ibrahim Yakubu Umar, Muslim Health Person was Dr. Saliu Oyelami, Muslim Finance Person was Modupe AbdulKareem Kadri and the award for Muslim Media Personality went to Alhaji Femi Abbas.
“Today, we announced Dr. Ibrahim Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami as the 2020 Nigerian Muslim Personality of the Year. All the nominees will be celebrated. The same approach will be applied for the global category by the time we begin the announcement on Monday, February 22. As you can see, all of them are winners,” he added.
Muslim News Nigeria, a publication of Rawshield PR Media, is a mouthpiece for underreported Muslim achievers and events in Nigeria and across the world, which are never given prominence in the mainstream media.
Among its mission is to give special media attention and coverage to important people and events in the life of Muslims that do not gain mainstream media attention and to change the media narrative of blaming Islam and Muslims for offences committed in its lofty name.
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