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It is wrong to give Kukah quit notice, but Kukah must be careful with his utterances – Garba Shehu

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The Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity to the President, Garba Shehu has condemned ‘The Muslim Solidarity Forum’, an Islamic umbrella body for its statement that asked Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Kukah to tender an apology to Muslims or leave Sokoto State.

Mr Shehu said Kukah’s speech was within the limit of his freedom of speech and expression, and the bishop has the right to move freely in the country without any restrictions.

Recall that the Muslim Solidarity Forum acting Chairman of the Sokoto chapter, Prof. Isa Muhammad Maishanu had asked Bishop Kukah through a press conference on Tuesday that to either apologise for attacking Islam through his preaching or leave the State.

The Chairman said Muslims have accommodated their Christian guests in peace but Kukah’s constant attack on Islam had the possibility of generating inter-religious crisis in the peaceful state.

The press conference by the Islamic group is one of the many controversies that has trailed the bishop since he criticised the Buhari administration and laid allegation of a northern hegemony.

Reacting to the statement of the Islamic umbrella on Wednesday, Shehu said it is against the law for any group to issue quit notices or unilaterally sanction any perceived breaches.

He however said even though Kukah was within his freedom of speech and expression, the bishop has offended many with people and groups with his alleged ‘anti-Islamic rhetoric’.

He continued that Kukah should exercise restraint and preserve the good relations that Sokoto State has created with followers of all faiths. And Kukah must respect the feelings of his fellow Nigerians in his private and public utterances.

Here is the full statement:

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.
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