Boko Haram Are Our Brother, Army Should Stop Killing Them, Buhari Minister in Trouble As New Video Surfaces
Isa Pantami, President Muhammadu Buhari’s communications minister, previously condemned the Nigerian Army’s incursion into Boko Haram strongholds, calling the rebels “our Muslim” brothers who did not deserve to be slaughtered like pigs.
“Are you aware of the state of our Muslim brothers’ blood?”
Mr Pantami lamented in a sermon delivered a few years ago, when former President Goodluck Jonathan ramped up military operations against the raging terror sect, that “even pig blood has more meaning than that of a fellow Muslim brother.”
On Thursday night, the audio was obtained from an unnamed source by the Peoples Gazette. Despite the fact that the exact position of Mr Pantami’s sermon and the number of people who attended could not be determined immediately, the words contradicted his recent statement that he had long taken a hardline stance against Boko Haram.
Mr Pantami’s media supporters have worked hard to portray him as a moderate preacher who has long been praised for his anti-Boko Haram sentiments. Mr Pantami also joined his supporters in amplifying Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau’s threat against him, citing it to refute claims that he sympathises with terrorists.
Mr Pantami’s betrayal in becoming a top government official after years of preaching Salafi doctrine seemed to enrage Mr Shekau more than the minister’s alleged criticism of Boko Haram’s deadly activities in the February 2020 video.
Mr Pantami has long been known as a revered Islamic cleric in northern Nigeria. He condemned the government’s tyranny in several of his sermons, and Peoples Gazette released a video of him vowing never to work for the government on Thursday. President Muhammadu Buhari named him as the head of the Nigerian Telecommunications Development Agency (NITDA) in 2016 and then as a cabinet minister in charge of communications in 2019.
“We’re begging God to give us all of our desires. It is our right and duty in front of all Muslim leaders, administrators, government appointees, and scholars,” Mr Pantami said in his prayers. “We should not just be helpless spectators while they spill the blood of our Muslim brothers and defraud them in vain.”
Mr Pantami said that, in comparison to the deadly military operation, Boko Haram members should have been treated with dignity, and that killing insurgents was extrajudicial killing.
“Can we justify the way Boko Haram fighters are killed, even if they have committed a crime?”
“Look at how they slaughter people like pigs despite the fact that they have committed a crime; why are they killing people extrajudicially? Bring them to justice and ensure that they are given a fair trial.
“You assassinated someone as they slept. Who else is subjected to such treatment if not Muslims?” Mr. Pantami elaborated.
The minister also said that the previous administration should have handled Boko Haram insurgents similarly to Niger Delta rebels. Unlike Boko Haram, which has carried out barbaric acts of violence against Nigerians of all religions and creeds, the insurgents were fighting for a greater share of the oil wealth found and exploited in their territories.
In an agreement brokered by former President Umar Yar’Adua, the rebels committed to economic solutions and handed over their arms after a three-year violent campaign that included kidnappings of foreign oil workers and gun battles with security forces.
Mr Pantami, on the other hand, dismissed both groups’ histories and instead took a position on how the government could deal with them.
“The Niger Delta people did something similar. “They massacre people, steal guns, kill expatriates, and kidnap some of them,” Mr Pantami said. “Yet, despite their unemployment, you invite them back, open a ministry for them, name a minister, and pay them a monthly salary.”
“The militants did more damage than the Boko Haram boys,” the minister said. “However, why would they do such a thing?” says the narrator. “What is the point of selective justice?” asks the narrator.
Mr Pantami preached a series of divisive sermons at various worship centres and educational institutions in the country’s northern regions between the mid-2000s and the late-2000s. The audio was accessed by the Gazette this week, and the bulk of it had already been transcribed and contextualised by a scholarly journal that had been published online since March 2019.
Some activists argue that Mr Pantami’s role as a federal minister responsible for citizens’ data and the country’s telecoms infrastructure has become untenable, and that he should either publicly apologise or resign.
Mr Pantami was contacted several times by The Gazette as part of our series to see if he had renounced his controversial views, but he declined all requests.