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Bishop Kukah must be allowed to practice his faith, politics, Presidency admonishes Muslim faithful

  • Advises Kukah to equally respect feelings of fellow Nigerians in his private and public utterances

The Presidency on Wednesday said it was “wrong and unconstitutional” to ask the Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Most Rev Matthew Hassan Kukah, to leave his base over his recent “malicious comments” against Islam.

Presidential Spokesperson, Garba Shehu in a statement titled ‘Father Kukah must be allowed to practice his faith and politics,’ said every citizen has the right to freedom of speech and expression and move freely without inhibition.

A group, Muslim Solidarity Forum had called on the Bishop of Sokoto Diocese to tender unreserved apology to the entire Muslim Ummah over his comment saying Kukah’s statements were capable of breaking the age-long peaceful coexistence among religious faithful in the country.

However, the Presidential spokesperson while calling for caution also said that individuals like Father Kukah must equally respect the feelings of his fellow Nigerians in his private and public utterances.

He said though Father Kukah had “greatly offended many with his controversial remarks against the government and the person of the President, responsible leadership in any society must exercise restraint.

The statement read: “The reported ultimatum by a group based in Sokoto, ‘Muslim Solidarity Forum,’ calling on the Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Most Rev Matthew Hassan Kukah to tender an unreserved apology to the entire Muslim Ummah over his recent “malicious comments” against Islam, or quietly and quickly leave the state, 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.

“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.”

Bishop Kukah had in his Christmas message stated that Nigeria was on the verge of becoming a failed state under President Muhammadu Buhari but denied calling for a coup in the country.

Kukah, in the message, accused President Buhari of nepotism, saying there could have been a coup if a southerner and non-Muslim was the president and had done a quarter of what the president had done.

The Presidency had described Kukah’s statement as an attempt to stoke the embers of hatred, sectarian strife and national disunity while the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) termed it as “reckless, inflammatory and unguarded.”

But while responding to questions in Sokoto, Kukah said: “If you call for a coup, it means it is something that is not here. It is something that will happen in the future. So is grammar.

“So if I call for it, it means it is not ready. But if I say had it been so, so and so it would have, the tenses are completely different and I may be probably wrong, if you know better, let me know.

“So it is unfair for any journalist or newspapers to say that I called for a military coup.”

Copyright Daily Trust

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