THE presidency has warned that no group or faction must issue quit notices to any Nigerian living in any part of the country.
Garba Shehu, the senior special assistant to the president on media and publicity, stated this in a statement on Wednesday in reaction to threats by Muslim Solidarity Forum (MSF), a Sokoto-based Muslim group, giving Matthew Kukah, the Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, an ultimatum to apologise for his Christmas message or vacate the State.
Kukah had spoken against how President Muhammadu Buhari is handling the affairs of the nation during his Christmas message to his teeming congregation in Sokoto.
He accused the president of turning nepotism into a state policy, noting that there could have been a coup if a non-northern Muslim president had done a fraction of what the president is doing.
He also said that the president is promoting and institutionalising a northern hegemony that has reduced others in public life to second-class status.
Kukah’s comments have earned him criticisms from the handlers of the president, sympathizers of the Buhari administration, sociopolitical bodies like the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF) and religious body like Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC).
The latest threat by MSF was contained in a statement on Wednesday signed by its acting chairman, Isa Maishanu.
Isa said Kukah’s Christmas message was trying to break the age-long peaceful coexistence between the predominantly Muslim population and their Christian guests.
He called upon the cleric to “quickly and quietly leave the seat of Caliphate” or immediately stop his “malicious vituperations against Islam and Muslims” and tender unreserved apology to the Muslim Ummah.
According to the statement, “In February 2020, he (Kukah) staged a demonstration in the heart of Sokoto over the killing of a single Christian priest, presumably, by the Boko Haram insurgents, but did not consider hundreds of Muslims, Fulani herders that were mercilessly killed by the Christian militia in Taraba state in 2018.”
The statement went further to ask the clergyman what he thought could happen if the peace-loving Muslims of the seat of Caliphate, responded to his incessant provocative attacks on them and their religion like what happened in Kafanchan 1987, Zango Kataf 1992, Tafawa Balewa in 1991, 1993, 1995 and 2001, Yelwa Shandam 2004, Zonkwa and Jarkasa in 2011?”
However, Garba said the ultimatum by the group “is wrong because it is not in line with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
“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.”
He noted that 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 noting that “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.
Garba added that under Nigeria 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,” he said.