By Oludayo Tade
When Seun Onigbinde, co-founder of BudgIT, a group committed to transparency and fiscal accountability was appointed in 2019 as the technical adviser to the Minister of State in the Ministry of Budget and National Planning little did he know that his consideration would be short-lived. His sin, according to the Buhari Media Organisation, BMO, was that Onigbinde had criticised the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, PMB, severally and cannot ‘benefit’ an appointment from the same government. Following campaign mounted online and offline, Onigbinde was muscled to reject the appointment.
The story is not different for the highly cerebral and celebrated columnist, Dr Festus Adedayo, who had applied to become the media adviser to the Senate President Ahmed Lawan. Not long after the news of his appointment broke #sackfestusadedayo campaign started because he was accused of being too critical of the PMB government. Consequently, Dr Adedayo’s appointment was terminated within 48-hours. While the expertise of the duo was not in doubt, their civic contributions were labelled ‘sins’ and they were denied opportunity to elevate governance with their brain power.
Welcome to Nigeria, the land of Pantamism. Pantamism which recently gained popularity is the belief that utterances (and decisions) made in the past is amenable to change and individuals should not be denied privileges and opportunities based on that, especially when they advanced in age, position and understanding. This belief recognises the possibility of a shift from previous convictions, just like political prostitutes do when they decamp into the party they had hounded. In post-colonial Nigeria,
Pantamism is practised by the governors and the governed. It is exhibited by electorates and it is not absent in erotic relationships. It may be deployed for friends of the state to benefit from. It may also be extended to anyone who shares similar beliefs with benefitting individuals. There is no other better time to enjoy the richness of studying Sociology at Ibadan than now. As the scientific study of human society and the contours conditioning social relationships, I am trained to unpack the complex processes involved in human social relationships and how shared beliefs make birds of a feather flock together in our unfolding ‘You Chop, I Chop’ democracy.
Isa Pantami is the incumbent Minister of Communications and Digital Economy. He has been facing attacks over historical affinity with and alliance in thoughts with violent extremist groups. The #PantamiMustGo movement hit twitter to influence the sack or resignation of Pantami from office. They hold the view that since the exhumation of this historical data, it is dangerous retaining the Minister when he currently superintends over the national identity data scheme.
Methinks someone who had presided over the National Technology Development Agency, NITDA, is an insider and has enough information to do any damage if he wants to toe that line. The presidency took the ìgbà àìimò (period of insufficient knowledge/exuberance) approach to stand behind the Minister. Presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu stated that: “In the 2000s, the minister was a man in his twenties; next year he will be 50.
Time has passed, and people and their opinions – often rightly – change”. Presidency’s defence was built on Pantami’s ‘born again’ stance to the issue. He said his past comments were based on “understanding of religious issues at the time” and that this has changed “based on new evidence and maturity”. How are Nigerians different from the posture of Garba Shehu and to what extent have they shifted from their previously held beliefs?
Without recourse to our recent history, we would not understand that the sociology of pantamism is linked to the parable of amukun. Amukun erù é wó, ó ní òkè lén wò, e ò wo ìsàlè (Amukun your load is slant, he said the reason is with my leg not with the load), is a Yoruba maxim which counsels us to trace the root of a problem in order to be able to address it. Amukun symbolises a physically-challenged person who has one of his legs shorter than the other.
Owing to leg inequality, any load he carries on his head slants. Analysing contemporary pantamism embraced by the presidency (even though they did not extend the principle to others) will be incomplete without examining the pantamism displayed by Nigerians. After serially rejecting the then candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, three times (2003, 2007 and 2011) on account of alleged clannish mentality, holding extremist views and plans to Islamise Nigeria, Nigerians would later jettison these notions and voted for his emergence in 2015.
This was after former Lagos Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s group repackaged their former foe and clothed him in messiah regalia. He was framed as the one who has the magic wand to turn the fortunes of Nigeria around. Candidate Muhammadu Buhari was also in Chattam House to state that he was a ‘converted democrat’. The harmonisation of opposites birthed the All Progressive Congress and culminated in the defeat of the sitting President, Goodluck Jonathan, in 2015. Despite seeing that nothing is different from their pre-2015 beliefs in relation to the actions being taken by the President, 15.1million Nigerians returned the President to take his ‘good works’ to next level in 2019.
The rival, Atiku Abubakar of the PDP polled 11.2million. Note that the 2019 presidential election was contested by 73 candidates but Nigerians pantamised PMB for a second term over others. After taking oath, PMB promised us that we shall see the difference. Undoubtedly, the difference is now CLEARER.
What is implied from above is that the amukun are Nigerians who embraced pantamism in 2014 and the consequences of their action is what we are grappling with in Nigeria today. Pantamism is a belief expressed across sectors in Nigeria. Amnesty is granted to terrorists (some are even sent abroad to school), governors grant pardon to incarcerated criminals who they claim have shown remorse.
We ask wives to forgive and forget husbands who cheated and vice versa. The holy books make provision for confession and repentance. A former deadly robber is now born again and doing prison evangelism. Many past rapists, armed robbers, ritualists have become converted and are now Pastors and Imams somewhere in the country. Indeed, such people are invited to give testimony during revivals to win more souls.
Thus, there are many pantamists in public and private sectors, churches and mosques, educational institutions, not to talk of their multitude in political institution. Even in love affair, we ask our partner about their past but most of the time, we are told that everyone had past no matter how terrible; the gate of positive change is never shut as the constant thing in life. Those who had terrible marriages that ended in divorce initially took their decisions based on convictions at the time. That is why you can hear a sentence like: “this is not the man(woman) that I married”. The thinking of a poor man changes once he becomes rich. He may not even want to see poor people at his doorstep. Our thoughts evolve and are conditioned by our position in the social world.
Going forward, I do not think removal or resignation helps in this matter. The President has consistently stuck to his preference no matter the dust raised—does the appointment of the headship of the security system in the country tell any story? There are more pressing problems—poverty, unemployment, unmanned borders, free flow of bandits and kidnappers, inflation and BokoHaram reclaiming territories, among others.
Just like Pantami claimed to have renounced earlier position, Nigerians can also, based on evidence available now, revisit the position taken in 2015 polls or stick to it. They can decide to fool themselves and face the consequences of their intended action in succeeding years…until then, the load on amukun’s head will remain slant until the source of the problem is addressed.
Dr Tade, a sociologist, wrote via email@example.com
Vanguard News Nigeria