The presidency, on Wednesday, declared that an Islamic group, the Muslim Solidarity Forum (MSF), has no right to serve an eviction notice on the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Rev. Hassan Mathew Kukah over its controversial Christmas Message.
It, however, agreed with the Islamic group that Kukah’s remarks against President Muhammadu Buhari have been very offensive to many Nigerians.
Reacting in a statement on Wednesday, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said under the Nigerian laws, groups or factions must not give quit notices to anyone but must tolerate religious and ethnic differences.
Recall that the fiery cleric had tongue-lashed President Buhari and his administration for what he called unbridled nepotism and favouritism. He said further: “One Northern Imam after the other has posted videos of lamentation on the social media asking why, with all the cards of power in the hands of northern Muslims, everything is bursting in the seams. How come our region has become a cesspool of blood and death? Why did President Buhari hand over a majority of the plum jobs to Northern Muslims? Was it for efficacy and efficiency? What was the logic? President Buhari must pause and turn around because his policy of nepotism has been rejected by the gods.”
The acting Chairman of MSF, Prof Isa Maishanu, had in a rather belated statement reacted to the cleric’s Christmas Message but Shehu urged the group to uphold the country’s multi-religious principles.
He wrote, “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.
“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.”