Presidency says recent comments by the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Kukah, angered and offended many Nigerians.
It, however, cautioned an Islamic group, the Muslim Solidarity Forum, to be mindful of its utterances against the fiery cleric.
The Sokoto-based group had asked Kukah to leave the state or tender an apology over his comments on Islam.
But the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said in a statement on Wednesday that though Kukah has offended many with his anti-Buhari remarks, under the Nigerian laws, groups or factions must not give quit notices to anyone but must tolerate religious and ethnic differences.
In his December 2019 Christmas homily, Kukah had accused President Muhammadu Buhari of nepotism and inability to protect Nigerians.
But the fiery cleric’s message ruffled some feathers in the Presidency and among some supporters of President Buhari.
Kukah had said, “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.”
But MSF acting Chairman, Prof Isa Maishanu, in a rather belated statement on Tuesday reacted to the cleric’s Christmas Message.
Shehu, however, urged the group to uphold the country’s multi-religious principles.
He said, “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.”