OPINION: By Olukunle Martins
In the past few years, one of the challenges the country have had to grapple with is the level of bigotry, which has dominated our socio-political discourse . Such is the sensitivity of this issue that it has permeated all sectors and affected the perceptions of citizens to decisions and or appointment into offices irrespective of whether such are done with good intentions by the appropriate and or approving authorities.
Today, one of the youngest and scholarly personalities on the federal government of Nigeria, Professor Isa Pantanmi, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy is in the eyes of the storm for various reasons.
As a core professional and one of the few square pegs in square holes appointed by the Muhammadu Buhari government, has had to be in controversy, which stems out of his personal beliefs and the coincidental rise of insurgency while trying to ensure the performance of his duty to actualise the policy of National Identity, which has somewhat become an ‘abiku’ child often plaque by convulsion.
Pantanm’s personal religious background and persuasion had collided with the former, which came at a time when Islamic insurgency worsed by Boko Haram, has affected national identity project.
This has unwittingly put Pantanmi in the court of public opinion as he is perceived as a citizen whose previous role in his personal religion couldn’t be separated from his new calling on, which he has earned laurels as a professional.
But by far the most challenging image problem for the 49 years old Cyber security expert in spite of his unquestionable professional and academic credential, is the appointment two months ago as a Professor of Cyber Security by the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO).
Pantanmi, it will be recalled had a chain of degrees,BSC,MSC, MBA from Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University(ATBU) and a doctorate in Computer Information Systems from Robert Gordon University,Aberdeen, UK.
Critics have put down the appointment such to the point of doubting the previous academic attainment of the young and performing minister among the pack of 53 colleagues in the Federal Executive Council.
It is on record that the very impactful changes in the nation’s communication sector of which the communications minister is the chief pivot, has apparently prepare it to become another goose that lays the Golden egg for the nation besides the oil sector.
The ASUU panel also explain in detail, how Patanmi applied for a professorial chair in response to the university advertisement and the steps taken by the university to grant his request following its established due process.
Hence,criticism of his new academic position failed to take cognisance of his previous laurels but weigh more on the personal religious pedigree , an issue which has unwittingly weigh the country down.
But then,the adherence to due process by the Governing Board of the FUTO, which advertised for the vacant professorial chairs among which is Cyber Security department to help deepen its research in this field among five others in the sciences is not only commendable but coming at a time the nation is faced with serious security challenges, which deployment of modern technology could only contain.
For appointing Pantanmi, as a Cyber Professor,the university’s branch of the Academic Staff of University,ASUU set up a committee which in it’s report declared the observance of due process by the governing council.
For once,academics should be insulated from undue partisanship more so when FUTO’ s ASUU constituted panel of six professors led by Professor M.S Nwakaudu and came out to adjudge the appointment as having followed due process.
That the eminent academic panel did confirm that the minister indeed applied for and was screened by the Governing Board of FUTO considering his various academic works,publications and contributions to knowledge in the two known institutions..Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University of Technology and Medina University in Saudi Arabia… speaks volume of the academic communities confidence in the system it is part of.
Besides,that it could ask the FUTO’s management to protect its integrity by taking steps to correct some misconceptions against it, is an evidence of a scholarly body ready to defend it’s integrity and that of the institution it represents and by extension the capacity of the appointee to contribute to knowledge of the institution from which the ASUU leadership also drew its strength.
That the ASUU among other measures also recommended a legal action against those who attempted to stain the reputation of the university is a confirmation of its belief and confidence in the sanctity of the institution and the system in operation.
Aside from the governing council,that the ASUU was also able to establish that Pantanmi’s assessment was based on the submission of the details of his publication alongside others and same which was sent to the Dean of School of Information and Communication Technology of the reputable institution which equally assessed the applications on merit, is also an indication that standards of the institution have not been compromised as claimed by critics.
Also that the Dean of SICT assessed the publications and productive works- some of which have even been adopted by the Nigerian Communication system, in it’s various revolutionary programmes as a regulator of the nation’s communication system; and using FUTO’s guidelines for appointment and promotion and establish a prima facie case for Pantanmi’s appointment is an indication of commitment to an established process.
This approach itself by the dean and school is a function of a working academic community and institution which has not been affected by the nation’s deteriorating system.
Perhaps, if Pantanmi have not been a public figure,the furore generated by his professorial appointment would not have arisen.
Yes, as some claim, he might not have spent considerable years in scholarship ladder but then prevailing atmosphere in academics is about impacted knowledge ,contributing to knowledge and sharing for national development.
The fact that since his appointment as a Professor of Cyber Security by the FUTO governing council,he is currently involved in the teaching of CYB 201 via online and also a lead supervisor of one PHD student/staff security department, is a function of desire to contribute to knowledge and inspiring young undergraduates in the contemporary learning environment especially as a serving minister in a crucial and strategic sector of the nation’s economy.
There is a need to divorce our development strides from partisan politics and primordial sentiments especially when we have exposed and energetic public officers in the saddle of leadership in a dynamic world.
We should not forget in a hurry that the duo of former Director General of Nigerian Stock Exchange, Prof Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke and Late Prof Dora Akunyili of the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency were appointed professors by Nigerian universities.
The appointments of the duo was well received in the corporate, academic world while other stakeholders in the country also did accept the conferment.