Let Kukah be, Presidency warns …says quit notice to cleric unconstitutional

The Presidency has cautioned groups over their criticism of Bishop of Sokoto Diocese Most Rev Matthew Hassan Kukah following his comments during the last Christmas on the state of the nation.

It also said the cleric be allowed to practice his faith and politics as enshrined in the country’s constitution, even as he urged the religious leader to guard his utterances in both private and public space.

What Kukah said

In the message titled ‘A nation in search of vindication’, Kukah, among others said: “It is curious that President Buhari’s partisanship and commitment to reinforcing the foundations of northern hegemony have had the opposite consequences. For a long time, beyond the pall of politics, very prominent northerners with a conscience have raised the red flag, pointing out the consequences of President Buhari’s nepotism on national cohesion and trust. With time, as hunger, poverty, insecurity engulfed the North, the President’s own supporters began to despair and lament about the state of their collective degradation. Was this not supposed to be their song? The North that the President sought to privilege has become a cauldron of pain and a valley of dry bones. Today, the North itself is crying the most and why not? No one has suffered as much as they have and continue to. The helplessness is palpable and the logic is incomprehensible.

“One Northern Imam after the other have 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.

During the EndSARS Protests, the North pretended that it was ensconced from the pain that was driving the protests and that they had nothing to complain about. The northern elites claimed that the protests were part of a plot by Christians to overthrow a northern, Muslim government. Their sentiments false, but understandable. However, it turned out to be the lull before the storm. The dam soon broke as the bandits tightened their grip on the region as the spiral of kidnappings, abductions and killings of innocent citizens intensified.”

Trending reactions

However, mixed reactions, mostly along religious lines, followed the cleric’s position.

While the Christian groups and others opposed to the Muhammadu Buhari administration backed Kukah, others, particularly the Muslim folks, believed the Christian leader was attacking Muslims as a people and Islam as a faith.

One of such groups was the Muslim Solidarity Forum (MSF), which  warned  the religious  leader to “quickly and quietly leave” Sokoto, the seat of the Caliphate.

The group, led by Professor Isa Muhammad Maishanu, said  Kukah’s “innuendos and parables” in his speeches  were against Islam and its adherents, adding that they were provocative.

The threat by the forum came Tuesday, some 24 hours after Kukah accused the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), the umbrella body of Muslim groups, of inciting violence against him over the Christmas message

Presidency warns

In a statement Wednesday, however, the Presidency said Kukah, like other Nigerians, has a right to reside in any part of the country, and therefore cautioned the MSF and others not to stoke the fire of religious crisis.

The statement signed by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity Garba Shehu, said the call by the MSF for Kukah to tender an apology to the entire Muslim Ummah over his recent comments was wrong.

The statement said:  “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 coexist 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,” the Presidency further cautioned.

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