The minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, has renounced some past comments he made on Al Qaeda and Taliban, saying his views on many issues changed as he grew older.
The mister came under severe criticism after a trove of videos of his preaching in the early 2000 in which he supported Al Qaeda and Taliban resurfaced online.
Daily Independent report triggered outrage after claiming that the United States government allegedly placed the minister on a watchlist for having reported links with Boko Haram leaders.
The newspaper later retracted its story, apologised to Mr Pantami and deleted the report from its website.
But in response to a question on the matter at An-Nur Mosque during a Ramadan Lecture, Mr Pantami said his views changed as he grew in age and wisdom.
Mr Pantami, noted that as a Muslim, he has never supported the Boko Haram sect.
“On the claim that I am a Boko Haram sympathizer, I want to say that people who have been following my religious evangelism, as a scholar, dating back from 2005 and 2006, know me better. They know what I often preached about,” he said.
The Communications and Digital Economy Minister said within the last two decades, he was invited and travelled to Niger Republic, Katsina, Borno, and Gombe, among other northern states, where he ‘vehemently’ condemned Boko Haram’s ideology.
“Besides these missions I embarked on to speak against religious fundamentalism, I also published pamphlets on the nefarious activities of the terrorists’ sect,” he added.
Mr Pantami said that though some of the media attacks on him were motivated by political and economic reasons, he would not be perturbed.
He further noted that he has never been fixated on issues, but rather changes his stance immediately he discovers that his viewpoints and verdicts on such issues are wrong.
He pointed out that though he started preaching as early as when he was 13 years old, his viewpoints have consistently changed as a result of acquiring more knowledge, exposure, travelling and maturity, as he advanced in age.
“I have changed my stance on some issues based on additional facts even after expressing Fatwa, a nonbinding religious opinion in response to a question posed to me,” he said.
Mr Pantami disclosed that as a scholar he was able to preach to many fanatical youths who shunned terrorism and went to acquire quality education, becoming engineers and other professionals.
Dr. Pantami said he does not tolerate injustice, adding that every Nigerian has the right to practice the religion he likes, in line with the constitution’s provision for freedom of religion.
“If we recall, President Joe Biden of the United States, then as a Senator in America, did not support the invasion of Afghanistan by his country. And at that time, I also did not. So, anything that will lead to war is what I have always been against. That is why I don’t like injustice.
“Barack Obama as American President then sought for understanding between the Muslim nations when he realized what he was thinking about them was wrong. So, in any given time, the last position is the right position, and that represents my views.
“I once saved two Corp members who were about to lynched in Bauchi State during a fight between Christian and Muslims. I personally took them to the mosque to save their lives. So, anybody who will protect Christians will you still call him a fanatic? Also, I want to say that I was never suspended or expelled from any school as a student or lecturer because of my views, especially on religious matters,” he said.
It would be recalled that after the controversy generated by the Daily Independent newspaper in linking the Minister with terrorism, the Public Affairs Section of the United States Embassy could not provide any information on the allegation but referred PRNigeria to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). After further investigations, Mr. Pantami’s name was not found in the list of Most Wanted Terrorists, Fugitives or other Criminals even as he often travelled to the United States.