The All Progressives Congress (APC) Advocates Forum, has appealed to Nigerians to judge Dr Isa Pantami, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy on his service records to the country rather than his past comments.
Mr Kabiru Duhu, convener of the forum, said this on Monday in Abuja, while speaking with newsmen on the minister’s previous comments which suggested that he had sympathy for terrorism and extremist ideologies.
“We invite you today to present our thoughts on the raging controversy over previous comments of the minister, Dr Pantami which he had since recanted.
“Let’s start by saying from the outset that we are a group of young Nigerians who are very much interested in the progress of the country and are ready to defend our belief,”Duhu said.
According to him, Pantami was one Nigerian who has spoken in positive terms in the past out of his conviction as an impressionable Islamic cleric.
This, he said, was especially about AlQaeda and Osama Bin Laden at a time many other clerics in Nigeria believed that Saudi authorities were doing the right thing.
He added that whatever he may have said in the past, Pantami had openly recanted such comments and had taken it upon himself to preach against Islamic extremist ideologies.
Duhu said the minister did this across major cities of Northern Nigeria which over the years made him a target for Boko Haram.
He added that the minister had in the past ten years been a known figure in the North for his itinerant anti-Boko Haram preaching.
He said that Pantami was one of the few Islamic preachers that dared preach publicly against the deadly Boko Haram sect before it was designated as a terrorist group.
“This was why Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the insurgent group in February 2020 issued a fatwa on him and reminded Nigerians how his group shot and killed other preachers.
“So, 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 U.S terror watch list.
“When that failed, they began to dig up his past views to paint him in a dangerous light long after he had recanted those positions,”Duhu said.
He said that Pantami’s achievements in only two years in office as the supervising Minister of Communication and Digital Economy remains unprecedented.
He noted that the telecommunications sector within the period recorded a growth rate of 15.90 per cent which was its highest growth rate in the last ten years.
“With his numerous achievements, we make bold to declare that Pantami has done well and should be judged by his work in office, but not by rhetoric that he had long recanted and for which he is Boko Haram’s number one enemy today.
“We stand by the president and we urged Nigerians not to be swayed by the pull him down antics of his traducers who don’t mean well for the country,”Duhu said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the presidency has since dismissed calls by a section of the society for Pantami’s sack and reaffirmed his competence.
This, it said, was especially as the telecommunication sector of the economy he oversees was instrumental in taking the country out of the COVID-19 induced recession at a time when more established economies were still struggling.
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