The Buhari-led Presidency has condemned Sokoto-based Muslim Solidarity Forum (MSF) for calling on the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Dr. Matthew Kukah, to tender unreserved apology to the Muslims, or quietly and quickly leave the state, over his controversial Christmas essay.
According to a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President (Media and Publicity), Garba Shehu on Wednesday, the Presidency took a stand saying the MSF’s comment “is wrong because it is not in line with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
While Professor Isa Maishanu of MSF had described the essay as “malicious comment” against Islam, Shehu affirmed that under Nigeria’s 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 inhibition.
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“The Sultanate has historically had good relations with followers of all faiths. That is why Fr. 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,” he added, urging groups like MSF to share and uphold the country’s multi-religious principles.
In reaction to Maishanu’s statement, asking Kukah to vacate the Seat of the Caliphate, the Youth Wing of the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU) has vowed to retaliate any form of attack on Kukah, over his recent message on Nigeria’s woes.
National leader of the SOKAPU youth wing, John Isaac, pointed out that MSF was trying to incite the peace-loving people of Sokoto and some Northerners against the cleric over his Christmas essay, in which, “out of patriotism, he voiced out the obvious truth.’
The SOKAPU statement entitled ‘Enough of the Bigotry and Senseless Attacks on Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, lamented: “Prof. Maishanu could descend so low, throwing caution to the wind and toeing the path of religious rascality and bigotry by deliberately attempting to paint the bishop’s message in religious colour and further inciting the general Muslim Ummah against the bishop.
Kukah had written in his Christmas essay: “Every honest Nigerian knows that there is no way any non-Northern Muslim President could have done a fraction of what President Muhammadu Buhari has done with his nepotism and got away with it.”
Isaac said the demeaning call by “the so-called professor” for Kukah to apologise to the Muslim Ummah or quietly leave Sokoto was not just ridiculous and unacceptable, but an affront to the rights of all Nigerians to live freely in any part of the country.
His words: “We believe that the reckless statement credited to the professor does not, in anyway, reflect the position of a responsible group such as MSF.
“While we call on the Department of State Services (DSS) to arrest Maishanu to serve as deterrent to those already misled by his unguarded statements and prevent a religious war.”
The youths and people of Southern Kaduna will not accept further attacks on the person and character of Bishop Kukah under any pretence, as neither Maishanu nor any person or group can mourn more than the bereaved, he added.
“The bishop’s message was directed at the powers-that-be and cannot in any way be said to have been directed at Muslims and Islam, a religion well-known to profess peace.
“The youths of Southern Kaduna, therefore, vow to retaliate any form of attack directed or aimed at putting the bishop in harm’s way by any group of ethnic loyalists, religious extremists and enthusiasts.”