The Department of State Security Service (DSS) yesterday formally invited the General Overseer of Omega Fire Ministries, Apostle Johnson Suleman for interrogation, four days after its botched attempt to arrest him in Akure.
Suleman indicated last night that he would honor the invitation.
But he also dismissed insinuations that he was inciting one segment of the society against the other or that he hated Muslims and Fulanis.
The DSS, in a letter to Suleman, whose church is based in Auchi, asked him to report at its headquarters in Abuja tomorrow “for an interview by 10am over an inciting statement.”
An attempt by operatives of the agency to arrest Suleman in his hotel room in Ado-Ekiti was aborted by Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State who rushed to the hotel and took the pastor to the Government House.
Suleman was in the state for a crusade.
A top source said: “The service decided to invite Apostle Suleman to interact with him on whether or not he delivered any hard sermon and what informed it. Such interaction can reveal the mindset of such a person.
“There is no way the security service can be silent on any act capable of breaching the nation’s security.
“After the interaction with him, we will determine the next step. It can be in form of caution, signing undertaking or whatever the law says. It will be preemptive to say anything on the invitation.”
When contacted, Apostle Suleman’s Communications Adviser, Mr. Phrank Shaibu, said: “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.”
Suleman, in a statement yesterday, denied hating Muslims or Fulanis as being speculated in some quarters.
He said he merely asked members of his church to kill herdsmen who move close to the church’s headquarters in Auchi, Edo State.
Suleman said he was moved to make the call based on the mindless killings across the nation by Fulani herdsmen.
He said his driver in Lagos and Chief Security Officer of the church in Auchi are Muslims in whom he has absolute confidence.
Suleman also said some of his friends are Fulanis while a number of his family members are still Muslims, most of whom have benefitted from his philanthropic gestures.
He said: “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.”
He said that killings by herdsmen must be tackled collectively to save the nation, saying many of them were carrying out too many nefarious activities.
“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,” Suleman explained.
He went on: “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.
“Are we saying that the man should fold his arms and allow the same Fulani militia to kill him?
“Is he wrong to give his security aides orders that they should kill any of the so called herdsmen found near him or his church? Is there nothing like self defence in our law?” he asked.
Shaibu said that the firebrand pastor’s message which may have drawn the ire of the DSS and the Federal Government was directed at the Fulani militia, in the guise of herdsmen,that have openly declared intention to kill him.
Shaibu said 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 civilized 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,” he stated.