The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has faulted the Presidency for standing with embattled Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, over his revealed radical pro-terror comments.
CAN General Secretary, Joseph Daramola told the Punch on Friday that, contrary to the view of the Presidency, Mr. Pantami has not changed, saying non-Muslims have been the target of the minister right from his days as Chief Imam of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University mosque in Bauchi State.
Nigerians have been calling for the sack of the minister after it emerged that he once had sympathy for the activities of terrorist groups, including Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
In audio clips that resurfaced recently, the minister who has been an Islamic scholar for about three decades also once declared that he was always happy when infidels – non-Muslims – were massacred.
Pantami had renounced the comments, blaming immaturity, nevertheless majority of Nigerians continue to demand his sack. But the presidency on Thursday, through Garba Shehu, a media aide to President Muhammadu Buhari, said that it is sticking with the minister.
“The minister has, rightly, apologized for what he said in the early 2000s. The views were absolutely unacceptable then, and would be equally unacceptable today, were he to repeat them. But he will not repeat them – for he has publicly and permanently condemned his earlier utterances as wrong.
“In the 2000s, the Minister was a man in his twenties; next year he will be 50. Time has passed, and people and their opinions – often rightly – change,” Shehu had said.
In fact he added on Friday that the problem is not Pantami, but those Nigerians unwilling to forgive him.
In reaction Mr. Daramola said that he is not surprised that the Presidency quickly came out to stand with Pantami despite his past radical views and support for terrorists.
He said, “What do you expect? You think the Presidency will sack him? There is what we call corporate interest. The Presidency is protecting its interest. Didn’t the Presidency appoint Pantami in the first place?
“Pantami must have been given specific instructions. Government studies the characters they put in particular positions. If you are eloquent in speaking and you can lie, you can be made minister of communications. If you are one that knows how to fight workers, you can be made minister of labour. If you are known for your academic prowess and you can manipulate the academic environment to suit government policies, they put you in education.
“So, that is what government does. Should we now expect government to say, no, we jettison him (Pantami)? No, they won’t deny him. They have their reasons for making him a minister in the first place.”
The CAN secretary maintained that the minister, like a leopard cannot change its skin, adding that non-Muslims have been the target of Pantami’s religious fundamental views.
Daramola said, “Who are his (Pantami) target? Who are his actions targeted at? Who receives the actions and inactions of Pantami? Non-Muslims are his target.
“Has he denied ever doing it? He never denied. He said, ‘I did it’ but put a caveat there; ‘I did it when I was young.’
“He was of age at the time that Christian student was killed in Bauchi. He proclaimed fatwa on students when he was at ATBU and a Christian was dragged out of his hostel and killed and the minister said he didn’t know that time? Let nobody call dog monkey to us.”
“Can a leopard change its skin?
“If they like, they should leave him but nothing that has a beginning that does not have an end,” the CAN secretary concluded.