At age 34, Imam Isa Pantami delivered a public lecture in Bauchi on September 12, 2006, titled, ‘Who are the Taliban?’ When the sermon resurfaced recently, it almost ruined the reputation of Pantami who had become Nigeria’s Minister of Communication and Digital Technology.
Critics described the sermon as “incendiary” and Nigerians demanded the Minister’s resignation over a past of clear loyalty and commitment to the Taliban, an Islamic militant group in Afghanistan.
On Sunday, the Taliban seized Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital and ended the reign of Ashraf Ghani, the country’s democratic president.
Observers and diplomats are concerned about the effect that the takeover of the Taliban in Afghanistan could have on African countries, especially Nigeria. Their fear is connected to the affiliation of Nigeria’s Boko Haram with the international terrorist organisation.
The rumoured affiliation of Pantami, a serving minister, to the group also raises concerns of possible Islamization of the country.
Pantami was appointed in 2019 as a minister at the inception of President Muhammadu Buhari’s second tenure, after serving as the Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).
A CLERIC UNDER FIRE
In the controversial Pantami’s sermon, he praised the Taliban in glowing terms, saying they were under “trials from Allah” and dealing with infidels from the Western world who wished to destroy their “good image”.
“A very important thought that came into my mind is that what our brethren-Al Sunnah (Salafists) want to know is how the Taliban who lived in Afghanistan were subjected to trials from Allah on this earth and how they’re subjected to a test of faith and love,” Pantami said.
“There are a group of infidels from the Western world, who don’t have any other target in this life except to destroy the good image of the Taliban in the eyes of their Muslim brethren and to destroy the Taliban’s image even in the eyes of the infidels themselves, by means of accusing the Taliban of deeds which were not committed by them.”
He also condemned the United States’ support for Afghanistan against the insurgents terrorising the country.
He said: “Under the pretext of promoting peace, the USA invaded Afghanistan. Their entry into the country was characterised by their support for one group against the other.
“Right now, if Allah were to bring a test of faith on Nigeria, who do you think would be the first to invade Nigeria? America! If they invaded, who do you think they would support? Muslims or Infidels? Infidels! This is exactly how they seek to operate.”
THE GAME OF DENIAL
With the hashtag #PantamiResign, social media users accused the minister of endorsing terrorism for expressing admiration and praise for Osama Bin Ladin, founder of Al-Qaeda, and Mullah Omar, founder of the Taliban Islamist group.
However, he denied the allegation, saying he was being framed up by forces against the Federal Government’s policy of compulsory National Identity Number (NIN) registration for all Nigerians.
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