A group, APC Advocates Forum, under the umbrella of the All Progressives Congress, APC has thrown its support with the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami over extremist comments, urging those calling for his removal to judge him by his service records and not previous comments.
The group in a press conference in Abuja on Monday described Pantami like the biblical Paul who was on his way to Damascus on a destructive mission but was converted on his way.
They said that the Minister is one Nigerian who had spoken in positive terms in the past, out of his conviction as an impressionable Islamic cleric, about Al’Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden at a time many other clerics in Nigeria believed Saudi was doing the right thing.
Coordinator of the group, Comrade Kabiru Duhu,
said Pantami was one of the few Islamic preachers that dared, preached publicly against the deadly sect, before it was designated as a terrorist group.
“This was why Abubakar Shekau, leader of the insurgent group in February 2020 issued a fatwa on him, (Pantami) and reminded Nigerians how his group shot and killed other preachers.
“We are surprised that a group of Nigerians with the backing of some vested interest began a campaign of calumny against Pantami starting with false claims of him being on a United States of America, USA’s terror watch list.”
Duhu said, “as young Nigerians, we are ready to defend our belief.
“Pantami openly recanted his previous comments and took it upon himself to preach against Islamic extremist ideologies across major cities of Northern Nigeria, which has over the years made him a target for Boko Haram which had been radicalizing thousands of youths.”
He claimed many Nigerians first heard about Pantami when President Muhammadu Buhari appointed him, Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), subsequently a cabinet member saying, “he had at least for10 years, been a known figure in the North for his itinerant anti-Boko Haram preachings.
“They began to dig up his past views to paint him in a dangerous light long after he had recanted those positions after all their plans and accussations against him failed.
“We were therefore, not surprised that a former US ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell made it clear that Pantami was not considered an individual of interest by American security agencies because his country pays more attention to actions than words.
“Not long after the Presidency dismissed calls for his sack and reaffirmed his competence especially as the sector of the economy he oversees, was instrumental in taking the country out of the Covid-19 induced recession at a time more established economies are still struggling.
“Pantami in only two years in office as the supervising minister, Ministry of Communications and digital economy has achieved alot with Economic Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) for a Digital Nigeria (2020 – 2030), development of SIM Card Registration Policy, development of Revised NIN-SIM Registration Policy and many others,” he stated.
He further stressed that the telecommunications sector recorded a growth rate of 15.90%, its highest growth rate in the last 10 years under Pantami.
“With these achievements, we make bold to declare that Pantami has done well and should be judged by his work in office, not by rhetorics that he had long recanted and for which he is Boko Haram’s number one enemy today.
“We stand by the Presidency and urge Nigerians not to be swayed by the pull him down antics of his traducers who don’t mean well for the country,” Duhu added.