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Nigeria: After Pantami, are there ‘more closet extremists’ in government?

By Chinedu Asadu

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Posted on April 27, 2021 08:34

Isa Ali Pantami, Nigeria’s Minister of Communications and Digital Economy
Isa Ali Pantami, Nigeria’s Minister of Communications and Digital Economy/all rights reserved

As a young Islamic lecturer in the 2000s, Isa Pantami made inflammatory comments in support of the extremist ideologies of terror groups such as Al-Qaeda and Taliban. Now, in his role as Nigeria’s minister of communications and digital economy, he oversees the country’s databases. Many citizens are not comfortable with that. They are now asking: ‘Who else in this government may hold similar views?’

Until recently, Pantami had come across as an internationally-acclaimed scholar who had passed through some of the world’s best universities including Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge University and Robert Gordon University of Aberdeen, Scotland, where he obtained a doctoral degree in computer information systems.

That reputation took a hit last week after audio and video clips from the 2000s surfaced online. In the clips, Pantami preached that — while he was against the ideologies of Boko Haram terrorists — he supported what Al-Qaeda and the Taliban stood for.

The minister has been under growing pressure to resign, for supporting actions of terror groups in the past; but the Nigerian presidency has dissuaded him, instead defending the 48-year-old after he apologised and said he has “changed several positions taken in the past.”

In the clips — which were of his radical teachings as chief imam of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU) in Bauchi State, where he graduated in 2003 — he had said that he considered Osama Bin Laden “a better Muslim” than himself and that “we are all happy whenever unbelievers are being killed but the Sharia does not allow us to kill them without a reason.”

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