By Omeiza Ajayi
The All Progressives Congress APC Advocates Forum has weighed in on the controversy surrounding past extremist views held by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Sheikh Isa Ali Pantami, saying like the biblical Apostle Paul who got converted on his way to Damascus, the minister should be judged based on his track record of service and not his past.
At a news conference Monday in Abuja, Convener, APC Advocates Forum, Comrade Kabiru Duhu, conceded that “Dr Pantami is one Nigerian who has had to speak in positive terms in the past out of his conviction as an impressionable Islamic cleric, about AlQaeda and Osama Bin Laden at a time many other clerics in Nigeria believed that Saudi Arabia was doing the right thing”.
He added that, “along the line, he (Pantami) had an experience similar to what the Holy Bible told us that Apostle Paul had on the road to Damascus after he was exposed to fresh evidence”.
The forum said Pantami thereafter openly recanted his previous comments and took it upon himself to preach against Islamic extremist ideologies across major cities of Northern Nigeria and which has over the years made him a target for Boko Haram.
“So, whereas many Nigerians from the South first heard about Dr Pantami when President Muhammadu Buhari named him the Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and subsequently as a cabinet member, he had for at least 10 years been a known figure in the North for his itinerant anti-Boko Haram preachings.
“He was in fact one of the few Islamic preachers that dared preached publicly against the deadly sect,before it was designated as a terrorist group, and which 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”, the forum stated.
They also hailed the minister for his achievements in the ministry within two years, recalling how he launched the decade-long Economic Policy and Strategy for a Digital Nigeria in 2019 as well as the development of a SIM Card Registration Policy in February 2020.
The forum said, “under Pantami, there is now a revised NIN-SIM Registration Policy, the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (2020 – 2025), launching of the Emergency Communication Centres and 112 Emergency Communication Number, significant drop in Right of Way charges after meeting with state governors” and a host of other achievements.