Isa Pantami, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, retracted his previous inflammatory statements on Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and other organisations on Saturday, claiming that the remarks were made while he was younger.
Pantami, who fielded questions from Muslim faithful during a Ramadan lecture at Annor Mosque in Abuja, said he is now matured and knows better.
The minister said:“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 the 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 the international events and therefore took some positions based on their understanding, some have come to change their positions later.”
Pantami has been under growing pressure from Nigerians to abandon the government over the controversial comments, and the forum was the latest in a series of concerted image laundering attempts by him.
The minister’s recent political push has struggled to shield him from the intense criticism he is now under over his supposed sympathies for domestic and foreign terrorists.