Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, has explained why he made comments that seem to be backing terrorist groups including Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
While renouncing his past controversial comments, the minister said he was young when he made the radical comments, adding that he is now mature and now knows better.
He spoke while answering questions during his daily Ramadan lecture at Annor Mosque in Abuja on Saturday.
“For 15 years, I have moved round the country while educating people about the dangers of terrorism. I have traveled to Katsina, Gombe, Borno, Kano states and Difa in Niger Republic to preach against terrorism.
“I have engaged those with Boko Haram ideologies in different places. I have been writing pamphlets in Hausa, English and Arabic. I have managed to bring back several young persons who have derailed from the right path.
“Some of the comments I made some years ago that are generating controversies now were based on my understanding of religious issues at the time, and I have changed several positions taken in the past based on new evidence and maturity.
“I was young when I made some of the comments; I was in university, some of the comments were made when I was a teenager. I started preaching when I was 13, many scholars and individuals did not understand some of international events and therefore took some positions based on their understanding, some have come to change their positions later,” Daily Trust quoted Pantami as saying.
Pantami has come under serious fire over his alleged link with terrorist groups, with many Nigerians calling for his resignation or sacking by President Muhammadu Buhari.
In a viral video recorded many years ago which was later confirmed by his lawyer, Michael Numa, the minister was seen engaging the late Boko Haram leader, Mohammed Yusuf, in a public debate.
According to Peoples Gazette, Pantami, an Islamic scholar, also once declared that he was always happy when infidels were massacred.
The online news platform said Pantami’s comments were contained in three audio recordings of his teachings in the 2000s, when he took extreme positions in support of the brutal exploits of Al Qaeda and Taliban elements on a campaign to obliterate the West and conquer other parts of the world.
In his latest interview, however, the minister said his statements were misconstrued, rejecting affiliations with terror groups.
The Nigerian Twitter community has been trending hashtag #PantamiResign online, with the supporters of the minister also coming up with a counter-hashtag – #PantamiWillStay.