Pantami denies being a terrorist, says his personal driver is a Christian

Pantami denies being a terrorist, says his personal driver is a Christian

Isa Pantami, Nigeria's communications minister has denied that he has any ties to terrorist groups, saying his personal driver, secretary and techni

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Isa Pantami, Nigeria’s communications minister has denied that he has any ties to terrorist groups, saying his personal driver, secretary and technical assistant are all Christians.

Pantami, a Muslim cleric, said he has never had issues with his Christian aides, friends and associates of many years, adding that the recent reports of his past controversial comments were misconstrued.

“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,” Pantami said.

Pantami has come under public pressure to step down from office after Peoples Gazette published audio and video recordings of his controversial comments alongside excerpts of an academic paper that explored his preachings across northern parts of the country between the early and mid-2000s.

He made controversial remarks that included how he was always happy whenever unbelievers were killed, his praises for terrorist groups like the Taliban and Al Qaeda and his condemnation of the Nigerian military for killing members of the dreaded Boko Haram sect.

“I have always preached peace and tolerance,” the minister said. “In some cases, I was attacked by my fellow Muslims for supporting my Christian brothers and sisters.”

Pantami said Italian authors of the academic paper that chronicled his Salafi teachings as a bulwark of radical views amongst university students in the North had misrepresented him by failing to reach out to him before concluding the papers.

“They did their research but failed to contact me and sit down with me for an interview before publishing their papers,” Mr Pantami said. “It is possible they used a translator that did not understand Hausa or just did not like me.”