Saturday, April 24, 2021

Isa Pantami: The Nigerian minister haunted by extremist views

 Nigeria's presidency says it "stands behind" an embattled minister facing calls for his resignation after extreme Islamist views he held in the past recently came to light.

BBC NEWS

Isa Pantami, minister of communications and digital economy, and also a renowned Muslim cleric, expressed views sympathetic to groups such as al-Qaeda and Boko Haram.

In one sermon from the 2000s he said he considered al-Qaeda founder, Osama Bin Laden, a better Muslim than himself, and in another, he said he was happy when infidels were massacred.

Recordings of him expressing these views began circulating on social media last week, leading to calls for his resignation or sacking by President Muhammadu Buhari.

But in its first reaction since the saga began, presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said the minister was being "subject[ed] to a 'cancel campaign'".

The minister also attempted to renounce his past views at the weekend, telling a local newspaper that some of the comments were based on his "understanding of religious issues at the time" and that he has changed several positions "based on new evidence and maturity".

But that has not stopped calls for his sacking or resignation with many using the #PantamiMustGo hashtag on Twitter to express concerns over his access to sensitive data as the minister of communications.

He has also been defended under the #PantamiMustStay hashtag as the issue exposed the religious and ethnic lines in this multi-ethnic country.

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