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Umar Ardo: Pantami and Buhari – Between Faith and Fame

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By Umar Ardo, Ph.D

I don’t, with all respect, agree with the position of the federal government in retaining Sheick Dr. Isa Pantami as a cabinet minister. No person, Muslim or Christian, would express Dr. Pantami’s extremist views in the way and manner he variously did, and at the same time hold a ministerial office, and be left alone except if it’s in a theocratic state and that those views represent government views.

Granted, he didn’t express those views while in government, but the mere fact that he holds those extremist views automatically disqualifies him from holding public offices in a non-theocratic state. There is a danger to any society if people of extreme religious or ideological views hold onto political power for the simple reason that people seek public offices to implement their ideas for society.

Therefore, there’s always a danger for a religious preacher who has strong views on his faith to delve into the murky waters of politics. The explanation that he has changed his view with the passage of time and maturity is at best an after thought. In fact, it is a very awkward and embarrassing situation for him personally, and even for the government he serves.

Is he saying that the views were false and were adolescently expressed inadvertently at probably the age of 34 years, and that he never meant them? Are we to take it that all those views he expressed in his preachings in that age were also inadvertent and that we should discard them? Afterall, are those strong views he expressed not anchored on the scriptures and therefore the eternal words of the Creator?

If that is so, then does he have the right to change or repudiate them and still claim to his faith? Should we therefore, going forward, not be suspicious of the views expressed by all Islamic Sheikhs henceforth because the allure of public office will make them recant their views anchored on Sunna in the face of the new theology of democracy/allure of public office?

As it is, I believe Pantami has lost both ways – not even his adherents would take him seriously henceforth and by retaining him in office, he remains a heavy political liability to the government. Henceforth, it will be difficult if not impossible to extricate the government of charges of extremism, Islamization, fulanization, etc. It will also not help the cause of the current war against terrorism, insurgency and banditry – all because of the allure of a ministerial seat and the desire to protect that seat!

That is why it is important clerics spear their adherents their political views. As Islamic clerics, they’re well advised to restrict themselves to the tafsir of the Holy Qur’an and Hadith and stop delving into politics, whether local, national or international. For this and many other reasons including protecting the sanctity of their religions, l advise that all religious leaders be most circumspect in making public their political views shrouded in religious attires during preachings.

A most decent act would have been for Pantami to resign and restate his commitment to his faith if he really is truthful to those views. If I (Dr. Umar Ardo) were Dr. Isa Pantami, I’d’ve owned up to my words and resign, or owned up and hold to my office and allow the government to decide. I would never have repudiated them for anything on earth.

But for Pantami repudiating those views – claiming that they were made in error on account of adolescence (at 34 years?) – and the government, in retaining him in office, to employ deceptive arrangements in his favor, is not only dangerous but also a big political mistake on the part of the government.

It is incumbent on the president to relieve him of his appointment for his (Pantami’s) own sake, for the sake of the president and his government, for the sake of the country and the religion all of us profess.