Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman, has argued that the certificate forgery by Kemi Adeosun, ex-minister of finance, cannot be compared with the earlier views on terror groups expressed by Isa Pantami, minister of communications and digital economy.
Speaking during a Channels TV 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 to bypass Nigerian laws that mandate public officials to undergo the one-year service.
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 2000s.
Although he has recanted the views, there have been heightened calls for his dismissal, with some Nigerians arguing his position as minister of communications is a sensitive one.
The presidency, however, defended him on Thursday, accusing the minister’s enemies and some information and communications technology (ICT) companies of being behind the “smear campaign” against him.
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,” he said.
“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?”
The presidential spokesman dismissed claims that the presidency’s support for Pantami suggests how the current administration tolerates violent religious extremism.
He said, instead, that 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 and 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.