President Muhammadu Buhari, through one of his media aides, Garba Shehu, on Thursday, April 22, gave a crucial response to the widespread call among Nigerians for the sack of Isa Pantami, the minister of communications and digital economy.
The presidency's unflinching position is that President Buhari is not considering the removal of Pantami from office as requested by many sections of the Nigerian populace.
In fact, the president has made a statement of defence for the minister, explaining why he should retain his seat.
1. Smear campaign
The view of the presidency is that the agitation for Pantami's sack is nothing more than part of a smear campaign to bring him down and rubbish his reputation alongside his many contributions to the growth and development of the nation.
In specific term, Shehu in the statement said these moves against Pantami is an insidious phenomenon that seeks to cancel his career.
2. His Past is gone
More, the presidency noted that whatever it was the former Islamic cleric believed in and preached in the past has been renounced and rejected by him.
Part of the statement that captures this stance read:
"The minister has, rightly, apologized for what he said in the early 2000s. The views were absolutely unacceptable then and would be equally unacceptable today, were he to repeat them. But he will not repeat them – for he has publicly and permanently condemned his earlier utterances as wrong."
3. He was young
Closely linked to this is the argument by the presidency that the preacher was young at the time he made some controversial remarks, adding that around that period, he was just in his twenties but has acquired a better understanding of the reality of things with time.
The presidency said:
“In the 2000s, the Minister was a man in his twenties; next year he will be 50. Time has passed, and people and their opinions – often rightly – change."
4. Fairness in judgement
Based on the foregoing, the president also informed Nigerians that his administration will continue to be fair in dealing with all, including Pantami, with a view to improving lives.
President Buhari said his government "is committed to improving the lives of all Nigerians – and that includes ensuring they are not over-charged or under-protected for those services on which modern life depends."
5. Plot against Pantami by politicians
Another claim by the presidency is that the plot against the minister is sponsored by some persons in opposition political parties.
The statement noted that verified information points to the fact newspaper editors turned down financial offers from politicians who were scheming to use to media to propagate their evil campaign against Pantami.
The statement mentioned:
"...there is now well-reported information that alleges newspaper editors rebuffed an attempt to financially induce them to run a smear campaign against the minister by some ICT companies."
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had urged President Buhari to immediately sack Pantami.
According to a press statement released by the PDP's national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbodiyan, on Sunday, April 18, the opposition party noted that the recent allegations surrounding Pantami are too sensitive to be taken for granted.