Pantami: When You Piss Off Two Extremist Groups On Opposite Ends – By Farooq Kperogi

5 Min Read

From the responses to my Saturday column, you can almost accurately tell the motivation that drives the responders. Regular, everyday people with no loyalties to any religious ideology have a different response from thin-skinned, unthinking, “touch-not-my-anointed” Salafist and Pentecostal religious partisans.

The Salafists are angry that I put their ideology under a microscope. They said I poured fuel to the fire of Pantami’s troubles, said I am a “fake friend,” and have been cursing me. The Pentecostal partisans, particularly of the RCCG crowd, are ticked off that I mentioned Yemi Osinbajo’s name in the column even though I made it clear that while he has been accused of RCCG bigotry with solid evidence, to his credit, he hasn’t been associated with extremist and exclusivist religious rhetoric in his past homilies.

It’s my choice whom I chose to reference in my own column. Don’t like it? Tough luck.

This reminds me of a report I did about Katsina in either 1999 or 2000 for the Weekly Trust titled “Katsina: Transparency Without Development” when the late Umar Yar’adua was governor of the state. All the people at the extreme ends of the partisan divide were livid. They called and sent copious mails to complain and harangue.

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I was initially worried, but my editor-in-chief invited me to his office and said something along the lines of, “Look, Farooq, you’ve managed to equally piss off people at the extreme ends of a mutually opposed political divide. That’s evidence you’ve done a damn good job!”

The Christian partisans ignore my condemnation of my friend’s rhetoric and are hung up on what I said about their “anointed”— and the fact that I didn’t ask my friend to “resign” (as if anyone resigns in Nigeria for anything unless they’re British-born Kemi Adeosun).

Salafist partisans ignored my saying that Pantami has a side to him that is not publicly known but that departs from his past fiery rhetoric— and that some facts of his life after those preachments point to a more tolerant ideational evolution. (He himself said so yesterday after my column.) They instead chose to fixate on my condemnation of his rhetoric and my affirmation of the views of people who called him out.

Regular people, of course, see a sincere attempt to X-ray and condemn a friend’s indefensible past utterances, offer another perspective about him, and suggest a way out for him. Most of these extremists who want me to mirror their thoughts (as if they pay me to write for them) don’t have the courage to question their own assumptions, their friends, their priests, and their primordial allegiances. In their childlike hauteur, they even suggest that I shouldn’t have written my column if I won’t validate their emotions. Ha!

Evolutionary biologists say humans didn’t evolve to be a thinking species (and that the burden of thinking is often invested in a minority of people), but the simplemindedness— and sense of entitlement to own my mind and to mold my opinions in other people’s self-interested images— by a vast horde of people is both insufferable and entertaining, if that’s possible.

After all is said and done, the truth is that while my thoughts may be expressed in public, they are not public property. They are mine and mine alone. I express thoughts that I’m convinced about, not to court anybody’s validation or admiration. You don’t like my opinions? Write yours. Better yet, don’t read them. It’s that simple.

*Kperogi is a US-based Nigerian academic

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