The Presidency has cautioned an Islamic group over its threat to evict Bishop Mathew Kukah from Sokoto State over his recent criticism of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Kukah had roasted Buhari’s government in his Christmas Day message titled “A Nation in Search of Vindication,” where he accused him of leading the country into darkness.
The cleric had said the “spilling of blood” under the Buhari-led administration “must be related to a more sinister plot that is beyond our comprehension.”
Kukah, who is the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, also claimed that President Buhari had, “deliberately sacrificed the dreams of those who voted for him for what seemed like a programme to stratify and institutionalise northern hegemony by reducing others in public life to second-class status,” adding that, “Every honest Nigerian knows that there is no way any non-Northern Muslim president could have done a fraction of what President Buhari has done by his nepotism and gotten away with it.”
The cleric had come under criticism from Muslim leaders and groups in the North, including the umbrella body for Muslims, the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), headed by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, who viewed his remarks as a direct attack on Islam.
Recently, an Islamic group called “Muslim Solidarity Forum” had asked Kukah to apologise for his “malicious comments” or face eviction from Sokoto State, where his diocese is based.
But reacting, the Presidency, in a statement issued by President Buhari’s senior media assistant, Garba Shehu, said the group was wrong to have asked Kukah to leave the state.
Shehu said even though Bishop Kukah had allegedly wronged many Nigerians, it was against the Nigerian Constitution to evict a citizen from any part of the country.
He said, “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. Nigeria’s strength lies in its diversity. 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.
“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. 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.
Shehu added that, “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.”
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