— Firebrand cleric, Apostle Johnson Suleman, has repeated his call for death for those he referred to as Fulani militia, even as he declared his readiness to honour the invitation extended to him on Saturday by the Department of State Security Service (DSS) to report at its headquarters in Abuja on Monday “for an interview by 10am over an inciting statement.”
The formal invitation came four days after DSS’ botched attempt to arrest Apostle Suleman, who is the General Overseer of Omega Fire Ministries, Auchi, Edo State, during his visit to Ado Ekiti, capital of Ekiti State. The radical preacher had been rescued by Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose, who rushed to the hotel in the dead of the night and took the pastor, who was in the state for a crusade, to the Government House.
A story this morning in The Nation quoted Apostle Suleman’s Communications Adviser, Mr. Phrank Shaibu, as saying: “The General Overseer has received an invitation from DSS.
“Even though the invitation is ridiculous, as a law-abiding citizen, Apostle Johnson Suleiman will honour it.
“We also consider the invitation as an afterthought after the botched attempt to arrest Apostle Suleman.”
Shaibu was further quoted as saying that Suleman does not hate Muslims or Fulanis as being speculated in some quarters but has no regrets for asking members of his church to kill herdsmen who move close to the church’s headquarters in Auchi.
Suleman said in the statement: “I have friends as Fulanis. I have members as Fulanis in our northern churches.
“I have a driver who drives me whenever I am in Lagos, he is a Muslim. He has been driving me for years till date.
“I have bought him two cars as well. If I am not tolerant, a Muslim should not be driving me.
“I discovered that the Chief Security Officer (of our church) was also a Muslim. Yes, he was a Muslim supervising the security unit our church.
“Funny enough, majority of my callers on this issue have been Muslims; they have re-echoed what I said on the tape and do not hold contrary views about it.”
The controversial cleric declared that killings by herdsmen must be tackled collectively to save the nation. He said: “I do not have issues with the Fulani people; I have seen and read of some good people from there. I have also seen extremely nice Muslims.
“For example, the Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi is a Fulani man and also a Muslim.
There was a church that was destroyed in his province, he personally rebuilt it.
“The Fulani people who are very enlightened understand the intricacies in this matter and most of them have been speaking with me.
“Whereas the herdsmen who are the perpetrators of this evil are happy with these developments because it has become a religious problem and this is part of my anger.
“There are still real Fulani herdsmen who are nomads and still taking care of their cattle everywhere.
“They carry sticks around. But these particular (killer) herdsmen carry guns, sophisticated weapons and the likes.
“I have made it clear that my anger is with the Fulani herdsmen and my point is; that no one should lay down to be killed by these people. Only cowards do that.
“And I stand my ground that the herdsmen who are killing should be dealt with.”
Earlier in a separate statement in Abuja on Wednesday, Shaibu said the church “wondered why its General Overseer could be so harassed for merely expressing his opinion on the menace of Fulani herdsmen, when freedom of expression is one of the rights guaranteed by the nation’s Constitution.
“The Fulani militia, masquerading as herdsmen, have stated that they are going to kill him.
“Everyone knows that they are armed with AK47 and have already killed over 7000 persons in Nigeria. Women have been raped and houses destroyed.
“Yet, not one of them has been caught or is being prosecuted by the DSS or Federal Government.”
Shaibu stressed that his principal’s message was directed at the Fulani militia, in the guise of herdsmen, that have openly declared intention to kill him.
He said that even if the comments made by Apostle Suleman were found to be inciting , as alleged by the SSS, “a government that believes in robust debate as a means of strengthening democracy would simply have invited him for explanation , rather than attempting to kidnap him.
“We expected a more civilised conduct from a government that promised Change.”
“What most people do not know is that Apostle Suleiman’s father was a Muslim. He was born into a Muslim family.
“He has brothers and sisters that are Muslims and enjoy very cordial relationship with them.”
“So to brand him anti Islam or anti Muslim is being mischievous or taking apostle’s message out of context,” Shaibu stated.