Some security experts have dismissed the apology by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, over some controversial comments
Some security experts have dismissed the apology by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, over some controversial comments he made in the past in support of global terrorist groups, Al-Qaeda and Taliban.
The security analysts said Pantami’s comments were too weighty to be discarded, demanding either the minister’s wilful resignation or sacking by President Muhammadu Buhari.
A retired Army Captain in the United States Army, Bishop Johnson, said it was not common for people with extremist ideologists to change overnight. He said it was more troubling when people with extremist ideologies were in charge of sensitive national data.
Pantami has been under fire lately over comments he allegedly made several years ago in support of Al-Qaeda – an extremist group founded by the late Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States. Bin Laden was killed on May 2, 2011 by the US Navy SEALs inside a private residential compound in Pakistan.
Pantami also made comments in support of Taliban, a Sunni Islamist movement and military organisation in Afghanistan currently waging jihad within the country.
“This jihad is an obligation for every single believer, especially in Nigeria,’’ Pantami was quoted to have said in one of his vicious preaching in the 2000s. “Oh God, give victory to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda,” he was also quoted to have prayed.
As massive outrage and demand for his sacking continued on social media on Saturday, Pantami renounced his controversial comments on terrorism. He stated that some of his past views were made out of immaturity, alleging that attacks on him by Nigerians were politically instigated.
Pantami according to Punch said, “For 15 years, I have moved round the country while educating people about the dangers of terrorism. I have travelled to Katsina, Gombe, Borno and Kano states, and Difa in the Niger Republic to preach against terrorism.
“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.
He added, “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.”
Pantami said he made some of the controversial comments when he was still a teenager and insisted that he had changed his views about the issues being used against him currently.
He said, “I was young when I made some of the comments. I was in the university. Some of the comments were made when I was a teenager. I started preaching when I was 13. Many scholars and individuals didn’t understand some international events and, therefore, took some positions based on their understanding. Some have come to change their positions later.”
However, despite Pantami’s regrets over the comments, Johnson, the retired US Army Captain, said the minister should be sacked by the President should he (Pantami) fail to resign.
“When there is an outcry by the people, such a person should resign but if he doesn’t, the President who appointed him into the office has the obligation to relieve him of his duties so that the issue doesn’t drag the administration,” Johnson said.
He also cautioned against poor vetting and screening of people holding public offices in the future.
“Up to the university level, you have to look at the theses they wrote because all these things will help to know the individual’s ideology and philosophy. The screening process in Nigeria is a joke. The ministerial nominees just go before the Senate and take a bow, without asking them any questions and looking at their pasts,” he added.
Also, the National President of Criminology and Security Practitioners Association of Nigeria, Williams Ekposon, said though Pantami claimed to have renounced his support for terrorist groups, the minister was not worthy of being entrusted with information as sensitive as Nigerians’ data. He urged Pantami to apologise to Nigerians and resign from his appointment.
Ekposon said, “We have to be very careful of our speech and how we go about doing things. Professionally, that kind of person should not be in charge of the data of Nigerians. No statesman will admire being identified with Al-Qaeda or Taliban or any other terrorist group.
“In the light of the position he is holding, Nigerians are not secure; our data are not secure with somebody who had wept sentiments with terrorists. A terrorist is a psychedelic being. If a sensitive public office holder has made a statement that is in connection to terrorists, there is something fishy about it. He should apologise to Nigerians and humbly resign. Let it be that the appointment was made in error.”
Also, a Lagos-based security expert, Dickson Osajie, advised the minister to tender his resignation on account of his “romance with terrorists” in the past. He said if effective pre-appointment screening was put in place, an investigation would have revealed that Pantami had a soft spot for terrorists and he would have been disqualified from holding such a critical ministerial position.
Osajie said if Pantami lost his position, it would be a deterrent to those who think they could make any statement in the public space and go scot-free.
Also, the Peoples Democratic Party said it would be wrong to continue keeping the embattled minister as a member of the Federal Executive Council.
The PDP said going by the public outrage against his utterances in the past, the best “is for him to resign and even tender his unreserved apology to Nigerians for his utterances in the past.”