The missing gap in Pantami-Dabiri feud, by Zainab Suleiman Okino


The battle for supremacy, clash of interest, in-fighting and inter-agency rivalry which have characterised the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari since inception is yet to abate. Right now, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha and the Minister of Power, Saleh Mamman are at daggers drawn over whose responsibility it is to sack heads of agencies.

This came about after the minister ordered the suspension of the CEO of Transition Company of Nigeria without recourse to the SGF’s office, just as the minister did with two other heads of agencies under him before.

While that broth is still brewing, a new frontier of “two-fighting” as the Nigerian Police would say, has opened, this time, between the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami and Chairman of Nigeria in Diaspora Commission, Honouroble Abike Dabiri Erewa.

While the feud between the minister of power and the SGF is about the naked display of power and notoriety, the latter is over office space, a mere office accommodation.

Anyway, according to reports, the Diaspora Commission which had hitherto occupied part of the NCC office complex was sent packing by that agency in preparation for the president’s visit to launch some projects; acute shortage of office accommodation and that discussion was actually held between NCC and Diaspora Commission.

All these seemed to be within the purview of understanding of their roles as agencies of government synergising for good governance to the glory of their shared values in the vision of their government and loyalty to their principal, the president.

No one was actually privy to what transpired in the background until the twitter war broke out. Honourable Abike Dabiri had alleged in her tweet and press conference that the minister hates women and he used armed men to force NIDCOM out of the NCC complex, thus: “An Islamic scholar should not lie…you did that to me because I am a woman. Your disrespect for women is legendary…public office is transient @DrIsaPantami” to which Minister Pantami responded, “this is a fat lie from her. The owner of the building @NgComCommision has faulted her lies (Dabiri Erewa) on social media platforms. The minister has never given that directives to any gunman. We need to be very objective in reporting. I have never sent any gunmen there, and I have no one”

Abike Dabiri is an alter ego for many a woman and role model too; at least I admire her tenacity and courage especially her foray into the shark-infested waters of Nigerian politics, and which many of us are too lily-livered to venture into.

She appears to be mainstreaming gender representation well, and for that many see in an ambassador for the womenfolk.

Dabiri-Erewa had earlier acquitted herself creditably in her chosen profession, journalism, and now in politics which perhaps is a passion for her. In those days of “NTA’s N30 million viewers”, she was a contributing force in Newsline’s scintillating “Sunday tonic”, a byword for their well-packaged and thoroughly investigated human interest stories.

And for a journalist who got to her present station by perhaps a combination of factors—dint of hard work, luck, opportunity, capacity and providence, she is one of a few women that have broken the glass ceiling.

Right from her days as a member of the House of Representatives, where she served as Chairman, House Committee on Diaspora Matters, and later Senior Special Assistant on Diaspora to the president, she has proved her mettle.

She has also been a committed member of the ruling APC from inception. That the Diaspora issue became a full-fledged commission under her did not come as a surprise.

Pantami himself is no less a resounding success story; he is a good representative of youthful vigour, education, insights and knowledge.

As an Islamic scholar, a sheikh and hafiz, and a good ambassador of values that Islam stands for, one of which is respect for women, I’d surprised that he would talk down on any woman, and a mother for that matter.

Besides, as an alumnus of Oxford, Harvard and Cambridge, Dr Pantami came to his new job as minister, highly qualified and knowledgeable and must have transcended such petty issues of ego war and power game. He is accomplished in all ramifications.

Much as I detest Abike Dabiri Erewa’s gender recourse because it is both escapist and cheap, the problem is neither with her nor with Patami, but the system that threw both of them up.

Truth be told; there is no cohesion in government and there is no rallying force or command structure that can take charge of challenges that come about in governance and managing high-calibre people like the duo, as in this case.

So, as everyone is basically on his own, anyone could be a law unto himself too. Quite frankly, the evidence is there that there are many governments in the government of President Buhari, even as leadership failure manifests on all fronts.

Dabiri-Erewa is bigger than the attitude she portrayed; she should have explored other means to get office accommodation for her commission, instead of going personal and even low with minister Pantami, because come to think of it, Diaspora and Communication are poles apart; the former should actually have been under Foreign Affairs.

And for the all-important work of connecting Diaspora Nigeria with their roots, the government should have, as a matter of necessity, provided a befitting office to Mrs Dabiri-Erewa and her Commission, which in any case is also not personal to her.

And as she herself said in the tweet above, public office, and I dare say any office for that matter, is transient. One day, it will be the turn of someone else to head the commission.

Again, quite often, the government makes pronouncements without commitment. Is it not rather embarrassing to see appointees of government struggle, quarrel and openly clash over something as insignificant as office space?

This should be a given and as a matter of responsibility on the path of government, and not left to the whims and caprices of individual appointees.

There should rather be strategic collaboration and partnership under an umbrella authority that coordinates activities before governance is turned into amusement for twitter users. Coordination is key, and lack of it is an invitation to chaos.

The government cannot afford to abdicate its responsibility and expect things to go well. Above all, appointees should not go personal in an attempt to score a cheap political point, otherwise, all of them will be left with a bloody nose and its attendant embarrassment to the government and people they were appointed to serve.


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