President Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, has described as ‘wrong calls by the Muslim Solidarity Forum in Sokoto State that Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Matthew Hassan Kukah should apologize or leave Sokoto State over his alleged ” malicious vituperations against Islam and Muslims”.
The forum had enjoined Bishop Kukah to tender an unreserved apology to the Muslim Ummah over his Christmas message to Nigerians or leave Sokoto State.
But in response, Kukah had said he was ready to apologise if he is shown any part of his Christmas sermon that insulted Islam.
Reacting, Garba Shehu in a statement on Wednesday said that the reported ultimatum given by the group is wrong because it is not in line with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
According to him, 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 inhibitions.
Shehu further urged Father Kukah to respect the feelings of his fellow Nigerians in his private and public utterances.
”The right for all religions to coexist 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.
”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.”