“We know they are lying, they know they are lying, they know that we know they are lying. We know that they know that we know they are lying. And still they continue to lie” – Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
These witty words of the late famous Russian political philosopher seems to perfectly sum up the current trends in the political landscape of Nigeria. In the past weeks spectators have watched in utter dismay, the gradual revelation of what has so far appeared as a major, career wrecking scandal of a Minister of the federal republic of Nigeria, Mr Isa Pantami. Hovering over the now not-so-honorable minister are well proven records of extremist religious views of the minister, where he appears to offer religious sympathy, and in certain cases support for terrorist organizations such as Boko Haram and Al-Qaeda.
Like Shakespeare’s Othello, the unfortunate events from Pantami’s past came to light first as a rumour. It was reported by a local news outlets that the Nigeria’s information minister has been placed on a US watch list for is apparent links to terrorism. Following this apparent revelation, the Buhari administration struggled through nimble and quick-witted tactics to bury the long-legged corpse.
This piece is not designed to rehash ad-nauseam, Pantami’s episodic misfortunes, which now seems to be unending; an attempt at such will only end in the same, if not more failure as the efforts of this administration to cover them up. These being said, a question lingers in my mind and perhaps in minds of those of my readers: should we conclude that the Nigerian government has knowingly harbored a self-proclaimed ally and sympathizer of the most notorious Islamic terrorist groups in the world, and that this is an indication to the government’s complicit attitude in combating terrorism? Does this translate to a complicity which has led to loss of lives in their thousands, displacement of many and the ever present fear of insecurity in the country?
It is a simple question, but the answer, for an averagely reasonable man is a bitter pill to swallow; for how can one make such concession of what great contempt a government has for its citizens? The terror behind the answer may unwittingly lead us to a point of willful denial of reality, which at best offers a momentary safety. But silence is not safety. Many have said that Nigeria sits conveniently on a ticking time bomb. I like to think that silence is the fuel that powers the ticking.
These events seem to have forced a shift in our fact finding. Before these moments we had created an image in our minds, one which the government and its media propagandist have wheedled into our subconscious. We have been made to foolishly believe that the strong hold of the Boko-Haram sect resides in the forest of Sambisa. We are told that its members are hungry guerrillas hiding and running from highways to rock holes of Borno state. Our attention was moved away from considering the possibility which, unfortunately has now become our reality, that our archenemies are those whom we have directly voted and appointed into ministerial positions in our typical apathetic fashion. Now we face the ordeal encapsulated by the question, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes (Who watches those who watch us)?
The reader should not think that this is just about Pantami and Pantami alone. The simple truth is that Nigeria is slowly but steadily slipping into self-destruction by our distrait relinquishing of power to the hands of religious extremist like the Pantami, and the earlier that we begin sniffing them out while we can the better. Consider that I do not seek to induce a mutual suspicion any more than Pantami himself has already done. At best, I hope this creates a necessary awakening, a right rethink which compels our collective voice against any such religious coup and extremist takeover of Nigeria. The lies that the government has since perpetuated– suggesting that the minister’s views on religious extremism were his past held views and so should not be considered as representing him today –is a tactic we are all too well familiar with. Failure to demand accountability might simply embolden our political to live out Solzhenitsyn’s words, “…and they continue to lie.”