Nigeria’s Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami has denied any links to terrorist groups, noting that he has always preached peace and has been attacked in the past by fellow Muslims for protecting his “Christian brothers.”
Pantami who has come under scrutiny on account of his perceived extremist views in the past, also argued that his personal driver, secretary and technical assistant are all Christians.
The Muslim cleric, turned minister, who spoke to Peoples Gazette on Friday, said he has never had issues with his Christian aides, friends and associates of many years.
“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,” Peoples Gazette quoted him as saying.
“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.”
Mr 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.
Mr Pantami 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.
The revelations jolted Mr Pantami’s political and media allies, many of whom said they had long considered him to be a moderate and astute preacher of Islamic faith across Northern Nigeria, according to Peoples Gazette.
Mr Pantami told The Gazette as part of today’s exchange that his teachings over the years were rooting in peace and tolerance.
“I have always preached peace and tolerance. In some cases, I was attacked by my fellow Muslims for supporting my Christian brothers and sisters.”
Mr 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.”