In a swift response to the threats asking Bishop Mattew Hassan Kukah to apologise or "quickly leave” Sokoto state, the presidency on Wednesday night, January 13, spoke in defence of the respected cleric.
The Muslim Solidarity Forum (MSF), a society based in Sokoto, had on Tuesday, January 12, said the message of the cleric was a direct attack on Islam and then asked him to leave.
Speaking through its acting chairman, Isa Muhammad Maishanu, the group also stressed that Bishop Kukah is fanning embers of religious violence, though the cleric in question has “as a matter of honour” challenged MSF to show where he attacked Islam or Muslims.
But in a rub-hitting response to the threats by MSF, a media aide to President Muhammadu Buhari, Garba Shehu, said Kukah "has the right" to freedom of speech, among other protection under the law.
Legit.ng outlines 4 things Malam Shehu said in his timely yet controversial rebuttal.
1. Kukah should be allowed to practise his faith and politics
According to the presidential aide, to threaten Bishop Kukah is mistaken because it is not in line with the constitution of Nigeria.
2. Respect rights and sensitivity of Nigerians
Garba Shehu said "the right for all religions to co-exist" must be respected, while rights and feelings of Nigerians must also be respected.
3. Kukah offended many with controversial remarks
Although the statement was meant to defend Kukah, presidency insisted that the cleric's remark is controversial, offending many people who deemed his homily as attacking other people's faith.
4. Religious and political leaders must exercise restraint
Shehu said it is the duty of responsible leadership in any society to exercise restraint. Shehu said:
"Knee-je'rk reactions will not only cause the fraying of enduring relationships, but also the evisceration of peaceful communities."
Meanwhile, the Christians Association of Nigeria has reacted to the call for Kukah to apologise for his statement, describing the threats of MSF as laughable.
The general secretary of CAN, Rev. Joseph Daramola, said the respected cleric spoke within the limits of his fundamental human rights.
"What do they want to do to him? Are they going to prosecute him? Are they suing him to court? Why would he apologise? Do they have the monopoly of right? "
Ortom backs Kukah
Governor Samuel Ortom has backed the position of Bishop Mattew Kukah, saying Nigeria is not well.
The Benue state governor warned that attempts by the federal government to "whip into silence" speakers of truth will not take Nigeria to a greater height.
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