Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom has reacted to statement credited to Muslim Solidarity Forum asking the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Mathew Kukah to tender an unreserved apology over his Christmas Day message or leave Sokoto State.
Ortom, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary Terver Akase on Thursday, said the statement contradicts provisions of the Constitution which accord Nigerians the right to live freely in any part of the country.
He says “the statement of the group directing Bishop Kukah to apologize or leave Sokoto State is a clear affirmation that Nigeria is being controlled by forces which are bent on setting the country ablaze if their interests are not guaranteed.”
The governor states that Nigerians – both Christians and Muslims need to set aside religious and other sentiments to come together in humility to fast and pray for peace and unity of the country, rather than the current situation where some persons are fanning embers of disunity and hatred.
He says the Holy Bible admonishes the people to pray for their leaders and stresses that what is happening in the country at the moment is beyond human comprehension and cannot be tackled by President Muhammadu Buhari alone.
Governor Ortom advises that people who love Nigeria should desist from making inflammatory statements capable of heightening tensions and taking the country to the precipice of chaos and disintegration.
He says Bishop Kukah is not the first to speak out against impunity, injustice and the collapsing security situation being witnessed in parts of the country. He says “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” as captured in the Bible book of John 8:32.
The Governor commends the Federal Government for issuing a statement to caution the group and reminding its members of provisions of the Constitution which guarantee the right of Nigerians to reside in any part of the country.
He states that Bishop Kukah remains a true patriot who speaks to give direction and make recommendations on the way the people should be governed in an equitable and just manner.
The Governor maintains that Nigeria belongs to all its citizens and no individual or group has the right to threaten others and whip them into silence.
He states that calls such as the one made by Muslim Solidarity Forum can only lead the country to a state of lawlessness which does no nation any good.
The Governor says what Nigerians ought to be worried about at this time in addition to insecurity is the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the dwindling economy which has seen the naira fall to 500 to one dollar in the open market, a situation that is rendering millions of youths jobless
He calls for sober reflection on the projection made by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund that Nigeria may become the poverty capital of the world if nothing is urgently done to improve the productive sector.
The Governor reiterates the need for attention to be given to the productive sector, in order to create jobs for the people to avert the projection that more Nigerians will be destitute in the near future.
Governor Ortom says democracy is built on the rule of law and freedom of speech is also anchored on the rule of law and to the extent that it does not infringe on the rights of other people.