Boko Haram Are Not Terrorists, Army Should Stop Killing Them Because They Are Our Brothers — President Buhari’s Minister [Video]
President Muhammadu Buhari’s communications minister, Isa Pantami, had previously denounced the Nigerian Army’s incursion into Boko Haram strongholds, referring to the insurgents as “our Muslim” brothers who did not deserve to be slaughtered like pigs.
“Do you see the condition of our Muslim brothers’ blood? “Even pig blood has more meaning than that of a fellow Muslim brother,” 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.
Peoples Gazette obtained the audio from an undisclosed source on Thursday night. Although the exact location of Mr Pantami’s sermon and the number of people who attended could not be immediately determined, the words contradicted his recent claims that he had long taken a hardline stance against Boko Haram.
Mr Pantami’s followers in the media have been working hard to depict him as a moderate preacher who has long been lauded 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 dismiss insinuations of his sympathy for terrorists as illogical.
Mr Shekau appeared more angered in the February 2020 video by Mr Pantami’s betrayal in becoming a top government official after years of preaching Salafi doctrine than by the minister’s alleged criticism of Boko Haram’s deadly activities.
In northern Nigeria, Mr Pantami has long been regarded as a respected Islamic cleric. He used most of his sermons to condemn the government’s oppression, and on Thursday, Peoples Gazette published a video of him vowing never to work for the government. The sermon was delivered in the mid-2000s, years before President Muhammadu Buhari appointed 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 are pleading with God to grant us all of our requests. In front of all Muslim leaders, officials, government appointees, and scholars, it is our right and obligation,” Mr Pantami said in his prayers. “We should not all fold our arms and watch helplessly as they spill the blood of our Muslim brothers and defraud them in vain.”
Mr Pantami said that, in contrast to the deadly military operation, Boko Haram members should have been treated with dignity, and that exterminating insurgents amounted to extrajudicial killing.
“Can we justify the way and manner in which Boko Haram fighters are killed, even if they commit a crime?”
“Just look at how they are murdering people as if they are shooting pigs despite the fact that they have committed a crime; why are they killing people extrajudicially? Bring them to justice and give them a fair trial.
“You murdered someone when they were sleeping. Who else, if not Muslims, is subjected to such treatment?” Mr. Pantami explained.
The minister also said that the previous administration should have treated Boko Haram insurgents the same way it treated rebels in the Niger Delta. Unlike Boko Haram, which has been committing heinous acts of violence against Nigerians of all faiths and creeds, the rebels were fighting for a larger share of the oil resources discovered and mined in their areas.
After a three-year violent campaign that included kidnappings of foreign oil workers and gun battles with security forces, the rebels agreed to economic solutions and handed over their weapons in an agreement brokered by former President Umar Yar’Adua.
Mr Pantami, on the other hand, ignored the background of both groups and instead took a stand on how the government should respond to them.
“The people of the Niger Delta did something similar. Mr Pantami said, “They massacre people, steal weapons, kill expatriates, and kidnap some of them.” “Yet you still welcome them back, open a ministry for them, appoint a minister, and pay them a monthly salary despite the fact that they are unemployed.”
“In comparison to what the Boko Haram boys did, the militants did more harm,” the minister said. “However, why would they do such a thing? “What is the point of selective justice?”
Between the mid and late 2000s, Mr Pantami delivered a series of contentious sermons at various worship centers and educational institutions in the country’s northern regions. The audio was accessed this week by the Gazette, with the majority of it already transcribed and contextualized by a scholarly journal published online since March 2019.
Some activists argue that Mr Pantami’s status as a federal minister in charge of citizens’ data and the country’s telecoms infrastructure has become untenable, and that he should either publicly renounce his comments or step down from office.
The Gazette reached out to Mr Pantami several times as part of our series to see if he had renounced his divisive views, but he turned down all requests.