The Federal government has described the reported ultimatum by a group based in Sokoto, “Muslim Solidarity Forum,” calling on the Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Kukah to tender an unreserved apology to the entire Muslim Ummah over his recent “malicious comments” against Islam, or quietly and quickly leave the state, as “wrong and not in line with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, in a statement, noted that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guarantees the right of every citizen in the country.
According to Shehu, Under our Constitution, every citizen has the right to, among others, freedom of speech and expression, the right to own property and reside in any part of the country, and the right to move freely without any inhibitions.
The Presidential Spokesman who declared that Nigeria’s strength lies in its diversity, added that “The right for all religions to co-exist is enshrined in this country’s Constitution”
“The duty of the government, more so, this democratic government, is to ensure that the Constitution is respected. But all must respect the rights and sensitivities of their fellow Nigerians.
“Father Kukah has greatly offended many with his controversial remarks against the government and the person of the President, with some even accusing him of voicing anti-Islamic rhetoric.
The President’s Media aide while calling for restraint, added that knee- jerk reaction will cause the fraying of enduring relationship and crises
“On matters such as these, responsible leadership in any society must exercise restraint. Knee-jerk reactions will not only cause the fraying of enduring relationships, but also the evisceration of peaceful communities such as Sokoto, the headquarters of the Muslim community as beacon of pluralism and tolerance.
He noted that the Sultanate has historically had good relations with followers of all faiths. That is why Father Kukah was received on his arrival in Sokoto with friendship and tolerance.
“Under our laws, groups or factions must not give quit notices, neither should they unilaterally sanction any perceived breaches. Where they occur, it is the courts of law that should adjudicate. Unilateral action is not the way to go.
Groups such as the Muslim Solidarity Forum must be seen to share and uphold the country’s multi-religious principles. And individuals like Father Kukah must respect the feelings of his fellow Nigerians in his private and public utterances.
Recall that on Tuesday, the Muslim Solidarity Forum (MSF), had issued a statement asking the cleric to “quickly and quietly leave” Sokoto, the seat of the caliphate.
The group had claimed that Kukah’s “innuendos and parables” in his speeches were against Islam and its adherents, adding that such statements “were provocative”
The group said Matthew Kukah had in the message accused the Muhammadu Buhari administration of not living up to expectation in tackling the nation’s economic and security challenges.
He was reported to have accused the President of institutionalizing northern hegemony against national interests,” adding that if a President of non-Northern extraction had done a fraction of that, he would have been removed from office via coup de tat.
Despite Kukah saying he was misquoted in the portion of the message about coup and maintaining that “he is more interested in how religion can be used to foster unity.”, the MSF aligned with JNI, accusing Kukah of not only unable to “appreciate in his Muslim hosts or their religion,” but disparaging them with “provocative and uncouth language..”
The statement by the Acting Chairman of the forum, Isah Maishanu, described Kukah’s comments as an attempt to break the age-long peaceful coexistence between the predominantly Muslim population and their Christian” and urged the Catholic mission to stop Kukah’s malicious vituperations against Islam and Muslims.”
Kukah’s comments, according to him, “signified a deeply-rooted and blind pathological hatred for Islam.”
He also accused Kukah of opposing Shari’ah law’s implementation in some Northern states.
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