By criticising the policies of President Muhammadu Buhari, Matthew Kukah, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, is disrespecting Nigerians especially supporters of the Nigerian leader.
Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, made the assertion while reacting to the ultimatum given to the Catholic Bishop by a muslim group yesterday.
Mr Kukah had in his 2020 Christmas message to Nigerians blasted the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. He accused the Nigerian leader of institutionalizing nepotism in the country, adding that had a non-northern muslim leader did a fraction of what Mr Buhari has done, the person’s administration would have been toppled by now.
His comments generated mixed reactions. While the Catholic Church threw its weight behind the cleric, Muslims groups like the Muslims Right Concerns (MURIC) and the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) lambasted him.
The latest attack on the Bishop coming from Muslim Solidarity Forum (MSF) led by acting chairman, Isa Maishanu, is calling on the Catholic cleric to apologise or leave Sokoto State.
Mr Maishanu who described the comment of the cleric as provocative said his group’s concern is the image and reputation of Muslims, which, according to him, Mr Kukah finds pleasure in attacking without an iota of caution and by referring to him [the president] as a Muslim, that automatically brings all Muslims into the issue.
But describing the ultimatum as unconstitutional in a statement today, Mr Shehu said the cleric has greatly offended supporters of his principal and should desist from doing so in the future.
“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,” he said.
“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.
“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,” Shehu added.