There is a popular saying – Everything is politics and politics is everything. The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Ali Pantami has found himself in this situation, one that no political office holders in Nigeria escape.
Before becoming a Minister of the Federal Republic, when he was the Director-General of National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Pantami’s name was often associated with the permutations of the 2023 politics. Today, as a minister, Pantami’s name is still being associated with the 2023 permutations, but in three scenarios – as a potential vice-presidential candidate from the northeast, as a governorship candidate of his home state Gombe, and finally as a potential senator of the Federal Republic.
As a human being, Pantami’s desires may align with any of these three. 2023 is far in the mind of the ordinary people, but to the politicians and political pundits, 2023 has already come – especially the politics of the presidency. Furthermore, the truth is, anyone with the ambition for an elective office in 2023, and has not begun any move, he or she is technically out of the game, because, the race is already on.
Wherever Pantami’s heart is placed in this political permutation, there are questions to be answered. Does Pantami have the political strength, the war chest, the support of stakeholders and masses and good rapport with the political class inside and outside of the government? Has he utilized his ministerial position to attract support via government patronage? These are the Pantami questions – being asked by students of politics, needing answers from Pantami’s promoters.
As a Sheik and a relatively young northerner with a UK PhD, Pantami is well-known and respected throughout the north and beyond. But as a politician, Pantami still has some painstaking learning to do in terms of the intricacies of the Nigerian politics.
With his antecedents and current political standing, Pantami’s political strength may be strong at the local level, but weak at the party’s highest level- because he is ‘new’ there. However, people who believe in Pantami are optimistic about his capacity to serve as a young and technocratic vice- presidential candidate, which the APC can use as a political weapon in its 2023 campaign. On the other hand, those who oppose the Pantami candidacy always point that he is often detached from the real players and inaccessible as a federal minister.
Pantami is performing excellently in the areas of the digital economy in terms of introduction of ideas and innovation. However, pundits believe that the Nigerian political class sees everything from the prism of politics. The ‘Buhari clique’ and the owners of the APC must feel at home with anyone who wishes to scale the hurdle of getting the APC vice-presidential ticket, which would be hotly contested for in the north.
If the promoters of Pantami mean business, they must do three things in order to sell Pantami, win over other blocs within the APC and have a strong fulcrum to face adversaries. Firstly, Pantami should strengthen his local contact and popularity with an organized approach, diffuse the minds of people that see him as aloof and thirdly work on his weak patronage.
The profile of Pantami, a 48-year-old can easily scare his fellow contenders. Pantami has all it takes to be a vice-presidential candidate and the northeast is strongly agitating for the slot. However, Pantami’s promoters should work on his unorganized political family, weak patronage and aloofness.
––Zayyad I. Muhammad, Abuja