By Farooq A. Kperogi
Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami’s distressing professorial fraud is taking on multiple layers of soul-depressing duplicity. I’ll unpack some of them here.
After the unusualness of “promoting” Pantami, a FUTO non-employee, to an unworthy “professorship” at FUTO was pointed out, his PR team went into overdrive to obfuscate, deflect, and muddy the waters by saying he was “appointed,” not “promoted” to his “professorship.” It’s one of the funniest and most unintelligent subterfuges I’ve encountered in recent times.
But here is the truth. Pantami’s PR firm called PRNNigeria put out a news release—at Pantami’s behest—to news organizations on September 5 saying he had been “promoted” to the rank of professor.
The lead (i.e., the first sentence) of the news story reads: “Nigeria’s Communications and Digital Economy minister Dr. Isa Ali Pantami has been PROMOTED to a Professor of Cyber Security.”
The follow-up paragraph reads: “Pantami is among seven Readers (Associate Professors) elevated by the Governing Council of Federal university [sic] of Technology Owerri (FUTO) at its 186th meeting.”
I know for a fact that Pantami’s PR firm wrote the story because even the Guardian’s story of the “promotion” is a word-for-word reproduction of PR Nigeria’s story.
Plus, a journalist who was working on the fraud of Pantami’s professorial promotion and who asked me for a perspective later told me he wouldn’t pursue the story further because when he reached out to Pantami’s PR man to get Pantami’s side of the story, the PR man told him he would get back to him but instead sent out a press release blast to news media organizations announcing Pantami’s “promotion” to “professorship.”
After the absurdity of “promoting” a non-employee to an unmerited “professorship” became apparent to Pantami and his PR team, they changed their propaganda and started to aggressively push the deception that he was “appointed,” not “promoted.” But that’s a laughably unintelligent dissimulation.
First, the press release clearly stated “Pantami is among seven Readers (Associate Professors)” elevated to the rank of “professor.” But Pantami was never a reader (or an associate professor) anywhere in the world. His last academic rank was “assistant professor” at the Islamic University in Madinah. And he had that rank for only two years. How can you elevate someone from something he never was to something he isn’t qualified for?
Second, even if we accept the fraudulent dissembling that he was “appointed” and not “promoted,” how do you appoint someone to a position that he does not perform? Let’s give an example with the diplomatic service.
There are career ambassadors and there are political ambassadors. Career ambassadors rise through the ranks, that is, are promoted to their positions through the federal civil service. Political ambassadors are appointed to their positions without necessarily being employees in the diplomatic service.
So, let’s assume Pantami is the professorial equivalent of a political ambassador. Even with the wildest stretch of idiotic fantasy, would it ever make any sense to have a Nigerian (political) ambassador to, say, China who isn’t at his duty post in Beijing but is instead a government minister in Abuja because he was “appointed,” not “promoted” to his ambassadorship?
In other words, if Pantami resigns his job as a minister and goes to FUTO that “appointed” him as a “professor,” this controversy won’t even exist. I’d be one of the first people to congratulate him for choosing academe over politics and for being cosmopolitan enough to go teach at a university located in a geo-cultural zone other than his primordial one.
(The press release his PR firm put out said “the Minister as [sic] indicated that he would not receive remuneration because of his current position.” Duh! It’s illegal for a minister to have another employment while serving as a minister, which, in fact, makes his “appointment” or “promotion” (take your pick!) to a “professorship” at FUTO a violation of federal law.)
Now, ask yourself: Why would a university appoint someone as a professor and not tap from his well of knowledge, which caused him to be made a professor? When universities promote non-academics to professorship, they either request that they teach students there or conduct research using the university’s affiliation (for increased visibility and prestige). There has to be something in it for the university in terms of pedagogy and scholarship to appoint non-academics to professorship.
The truth is that Pantami is just inordinately and impatiently hungry for a title that, in his mind, elevates him. Nothing more. The evidence for that can be found in the fact that he has called himself a “professor” on his Facebook and Twitter profiles since at least 2016. I always wondered why. Now I know: it’s vulgar, scorn-worthy titular egotism.
The same feverish desperation to be addressed as a “professor” at all costs has now caused Pantami to suborn the Vice Chancellor of ATBU to write him a pitiful, embarrassingly error-ridden, scandalously inappropriate letter to “convey our heartfelt and warmest congratulations to you on your well-deserved appointment to the exalted rank of Professor of Cybersecurity…”
Poor Professor A.M. Abdulazeez! Only Allah knows the quantum of pressure they exerted on him to defy common decency and write that mortifying letter.
Although I suspect that he didn’t write it on his own volition (he would be unworthy of his professorship and position if he did), I still want to ask the ATBU VC why he didn’t appoint Pantami to a professorship at his university. After all, Pantami used to be a junior lecturer there. Why wait for him to perpetrate professorial fraud at FUTO before recognizing that he is deserving of “the exalted rank of professorship”?
The ATBU VC’s cringeworthy letter exemplifies the moral cowardice—and perhaps avaricious, 419 proclivity— that made FUTO’s VC to be susceptible to the fraud of conferring a duplicitous “professorship” on an egotistical, title-hungry government minister who has not the remotest scholarly or pedagogical utility to his school. I weep for Nigeria!