africa

Under fire Pantami renounces radical views on terrorists


By Alao Abiodun

 

Embattled Communications and Digital Economy Minister Isa Pantami yesterday renounced radical comments on terrorist groups including Taliban and Al-Qaeda, which critics have been citing in an ongoing campaign to push him out of office.

The Minister said he was young when he made the radical comments, adding he is now mature and knows better.

He spoke while answering questions during his daily Ramadan lecture at Annor Mosque in Abuja.

“For 15 years, I have moved round the country while educating people about the dangers of terrorism. I have travelled to Katsina, Gombe, Borno, Kano states and Difa in Niger Republic to preach against terrorism,” Daily Trust quoted him to have said.

“I have engaged those with Boko Haram ideologies in different places. I have been writing pamphlets in Hausa, English and Arabic. I have managed to bring back several young persons who have derailed from the right path.

“Some of the comments I made some years ago that are generating controversies now were based on my understanding of religious issues at the time, and I have changed several positions taken in the past based on new evidence and maturity.

 

“I was young when I made some of the comments; I was in university, some of the comments were made when I was a teenager. I started preaching when I was 13, many scholars and individuals did not understand some of international events and therefore took some positions based on their understanding. Some have come to change their positions later.”

 

As the  #PantamiResign campaign intensified yesterday, supporters of the minister rallied behind him, using the hashtag #PantamiWillStay.

 

They said there was no reason for him to resign as demanded by the brains behind the #PantamiResign campaign.

 

The Minister, defending himself, said his critics were only misconstruing his past controversial comments on terrorist groups.

 

The minister denied having issues with Christians and reeled off names of his personal aides, including his driver, secretary and technical staff, who, according to him, are all Christians.

 

In one of the allegations against Pantami, he was said to have praised the late Osama Bin Laden, founder of Al-Qaeda, while responding to audience questions about his views on Osama’s ‘killing of innocent unbelievers’ during a lecture about the Taliban.

 

He was quoted as saying that though Bin Laden was liable to mistakes because he was human, “I still consider him as a better Muslim than myself.”

 

However, Pantami told PREMIUM TIMES on Friday that forces against the compulsory National Identity Number (NIN) registration for all Nigerians were the ones instigating the attacks on him.

 

He said: “Based on our findings, preliminary investigation, many people are not happy with what we have been doing-linking National Identification Number with SIM, because a situation will come that all the people using SIM to commit crime will not be able to do that.

 

“If they do that, the government will be able to intercept them easily. This is what they don’t want to happen.”

 

In a separate interview with Peoples Gazette, Pantami said he has no issues with Christians as being speculated in some quarters.

 

He said: “My personal driver is Mai Keffi, a practising Christian. I also have a Christian, Ms Nwosu, as my secretary and Dr Femi, also a Christian, as my technical adviser.

 

“If I did not like Christians or I did not see them as my brothers and sisters, I would not have been working with them for so long.

 

“I employed more Christians than Muslims on my staff because I believe in merit and competence over ethnic or tribal sentiments.”

 

“I have never condoned terrorism and I reject any affiliation to terror groups. I have long preached peaceful coexistence amongst people of every faith and ethnicity.”

 

“Some of the comments I made some years ago that are generating controversies now were based on my understanding of religious issues at the time, and I have changed several positions taken in the past based on new evidence and maturity.

“I was young when I made some of the comments; I was in university, some of the comments were made when I was a teenager. I started preaching when I was 13, many scholars and individuals did not understand some of international events and therefore took some positions based on their understanding. Some have come to change their positions later.”

As the  #PantamiResign campaign intensified yesterday, supporters of the minister rallied behind him, using the hashtag #PantamiWillStay.

They said there was no reason for him to resign as demanded by the brains behind the #PantamiResign campaign.

The Minister, defending himself, said his critics were only misconstruing his past controversial comments on terrorist groups.

The minister denied having issues with Christians and reeled off names of his personal aides, including his driver, secretary and technical staff, who, according to him, are all Christians.

In one of the allegations against Pantami, he was said to have praised the late Osama Bin Laden, founder of Al-Qaeda, while responding to audience questions about his views on Osama’s ‘killing of innocent unbelievers’ during a lecture about the Taliban.

He was quoted as saying that though Bin Laden was liable to mistakes because he was human, “I still consider him as a better Muslim than myself.”

However, Pantami told PREMIUM TIMES on Friday that forces against the compulsory National Identity Number (NIN) registration for all Nigerians were the ones instigating the attacks on him.

He said: “Based on our findings, preliminary investigation, many people are not happy with what we have been doing-linking National Identification Number with SIM, because a situation will come that all the people using SIM to commit crime will not be able to do that.

“If they do that, the government will be able to intercept them easily. This is what they don’t want to happen.”

In a separate interview with Peoples Gazette, Pantami said he has no issues with Christians as being speculated in some quarters.

He said: “My personal driver is Mai Keffi, a practising Christian. I also have a Christian, Ms Nwosu, as my secretary and Dr Femi, also a Christian, as my technical adviser.

“If I did not like Christians or I did not see them as my brothers and sisters, I would not have been working with them for so long. I employed more Christians than Muslims on my staff because I believe in merit and competence over ethnic or tribal sentiments.”



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