The presidency has faulted a group, the Muslim Solidarity Forum, over a threat it issued to the bishop of Sokoto diocese, Most Rev Matthew Hassan Kukah, to tender an apology over a recent comment credited to him or leave the state.
In a statement signed on Wednesday by the Senior Special Assistant to the President, (Media & Publicity), Garba Shehu, the presidency described the situation as an assault on the cleric’s freedom.
The presidency also declared that Bishop Kukah must be allowed to practice his faith and politics, describing the stance by the Muslim solidarity forum as wrong and not in line with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Bishop Kukah in his Christmas message had lamented the state of the polity, condemning the president’s leadership style and ascribing the prevailing national condition to his decisions, a comment the Muslim Solidarity Forum says was an insult to the entire Muslim Ummah and “malicious comments” against Islam.
But in its statement, the presidency explained that “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 statement read in part.
“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”.
While admitting that Bishop Kukah offended many with his controversial remarks against the government and the person of the president, the presidency called for restraint, warning that groups or factions such as the Muslim Solidarity Forum must not give quit notices, neither should they unilaterally sanction any perceived breaches.