The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, has argued that the certificate forgery scandal by former Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, cannot be compared with the earlier views on terror groups expressed by Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami.
Speaking on a Channels Television programme on Friday, Shehu said the presidency’s response “would have been different” if Pantami had forged his certificate like Adeosun did.
Adeosun resigned as minister in September 2018 after it was reported that her National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) exemption certificate was forged.
Pantami, on his part, had expressed extremist views in support of ideologies of terror groups such as Al-Qaeda and Taliban during his lectures as an Islamic scholar in the early 2000s.
Although he has recanted the views and apologised, there have been heightened calls for his sack, with some Nigerians arguing that his position as Minister of Communication and Digital Economy is dangerous for the country.
The Presidency, however, defended him on Thursday, accusing the minister’s enemies and some information and communications technology (ICT) companies of being behind the plot to remove the minister.
Asked why the presidency let Adeosun go but was quick to defend Pantami, Shehu said the latter’s case only involved people probing his thoughts during the said lectures.
“In the second case which is that of Pantami, you are probing the thoughts, what is called ‘McCarthyism’; you search the inner recesses of the minds of individuals, bring out things they have said, or they are about to say, or you think they would say, and use that against them.
“If Pantami had forged certificate before coming into office, the attitude (of the presidency) would have been different.
“We don’t remain in the same position. Don’t assume that things cannot change. If the one who created you gives it to you that from being bad, you can become good, what says you should deny some other persons this right?” Shehu said.
The presidential spokesman dismissed claims that the presidency’s support for Pantami suggests how the current administration tolerates violent religious extremism.
He said those making such claims are “the problems of the society” for their unwillingness to forgive Pantami.
“Those people who stand in criticism of a man who has said he had wronged the society, he has apologised and changed, and they are not willing to forgive him to move on, they are the ones who are the problem. They are the ones who are deeply intolerant,” he said.