The Presidency may have ruled out the prospect of firing Isa Pantami, the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, for previous statements supporting militant organizations such as the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
Pantami’s ordeal at the hands of those asking for his dismissal, the Presidency said in a statement on Thursday, was not about his past utterances but about his present job as a minister.
Garba Shehu, the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, released a statement titled “Statement by the Presidency on recent campaign against the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy.”
The White House agreed with the troubled minister’s claim that he was young at the time he made those remarks and that his stance had since changed.
It stated that the minister would never make such comments again after condemning and apologizing for them.
“Today, there is an unfortunate fashion in public debate that holds leaders in politics, faith, and civil society accountable in the present for any comment they have ever made in the past – no matter how long ago they made it, and even if they later rejected it,” the statement read.
“This pernicious phenomenon tries to derail other people’s careers based on what they said, regardless of when they said it.
“Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, is currently the target of a ‘cancel campaign’ launched by those seeking his removal.
“They don’t give a damn about what he may or may not have said 20 years ago; that’s just the tool they’re using to try to ‘cancel’ him. They will benefit, however, if he is prevented from making decisions that will better the lives of ordinary Nigerians.
“To his credit, the Minister has apologized for what he said in the early 2000s. His opinions were unacceptably radical at the time, and they would be just as unacceptably radical today if he repeated them. He will not repeat them, however, because he has officially and permanently denounced his previous statements as false.
“The Minister was a young man in his twenties in the 2000s; he will be 50 next year. People and their views change over time, and this is mostly for the better.
“However, astute Nigerians recognize, this fabricated controversy has little to do with the Minister’s previous statements, but rather with his current conduct.
“The administration is committed to ensuring that Minister Pantami and all Nigerian people obtain fair care, fair rates, and fair security in the ICT sector.”
Shehu stated that the Buhari administration is committed to improving the lives of all Nigerians, including ensuring that they are not overcharged or underprotected for services that are essential to modern life.
He said that the embattled minister has been leading the charge against illegal data deductions and pricing; he has transformed the government’s virtual public engagement to respond to COVID-19 and save taxpayers’ money; he has established ICT start-up centers to boost youth entrepreneurship and create jobs; and he has changed policy to ensure that locally produced ICT content is used by ministries, beginning with the Department of Defense.
“Minister Pantami has pushed the contribution of the ICT sector to GDP to more than 18 percent in two short years, making it one of the top two, playing a critical role in the economy’s emergence from the COVID 19-induced recession,” he added.
“The minister and this government have made enemies by putting people first. Some in the opposition see momentum and want it to be stopped at all costs. And there is now well-reported evidence that newspaper editors turned down an offer by some ICT firms to bribe them to run a smear campaign against the minister in exchange for money, despite the fact that many of them stand to lose money as a result of lower rates and stronger consumer safeguards.
“The government is currently investigating the veracity of these allegations of attempted inducement, and police and judicial intervention must be expected if they are found to be credible.”
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