The Christian Association of Nigeria has lambasted the Presidency for defending the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, and his past radical pro-Taliban comments.
The apex Christian body in the country also said 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.
CAN General Secretary, Joseph Daramola, stated this in an exclusive interview with The PUNCH on Friday.
Pantami has been under fire of late over past pro-Taliban comments supporting the activities of terrorist groups including Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
In audio clips that resurfaced lately, 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.
Though he has since renounced the comments, blaming immaturity, many Nigerians continue to demand his sacking or resignation.
But in a statement on Thursday, presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu ruled out the possibility of the sacking of the minister when he said, “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.”
Speaking with The PUNCH on Friday, the secretary of the Christian body said it was not surprising that the Presidency swiftly came out to exonerate Pantami despite his past radical views and support for terrorists.
Daramola 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 PUNCH had earlier reported that Sunday Achi, a 24-year-old son and 400-level student of Architecture at the ATBU at the time, was strangled at the campus mosque by Muslim students over allegation that he circulated a Christian tract that contained blasphemous content.
The victim’s father, 67-year-old Samuel had said the ATBU Muslim community at the time when Pantami was Chief Imam issued a fatwa on his son and killed him on December 9, 2004.
Sunday was the leader of the students’ fellowship of the Evangelical Church Winning All Ministry at the university at the time.
Reacting, CAN secretary told The PUNCH 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.”
Though presidential spokesman Shehu said the minister had outlived his past, Daramola, however, believed a leopard can’t change its skin. “Can a leopard change its skin?” he asked.
“If they like, they should leave him but nothing that has a beginning that does not have an end,” the CAN secretary concluded.