Monday, March 22, 2010

Islamic cleric warns against meddling in Nigeria's affairs


KANO, Nigeria (AFP) - Nigeria's top Islamic cleric warned foreigners against meddling in the nation affairs on Sunday, days after Libya's leader suggested the country be broken up into Muslim and Christian areas.

"External commentators on the Nigerian situation should ... be told in no uncertain terms that Nigeria, despite its difficulties, has come a long way and that it should not be taken for granted or viewed as a simplistic conglomeration of ethnic or religious groups," said the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Saad Abubakar.

Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, until recently the chairman of the African Union, suggested last week that Nigeria follow the partition model of Pakistan as a way of ending repeated bouts of inter-religious violence.

Pakistan was formed in 1947 after the Muslim minority of predominantly Hindu India founded their own homeland.

Without making direct reference to Kadhafi, the sultan told a meeting of the supreme Islamic body the Jama'atu Nasril Islam (JNI) in northern Nigeria's political capital Kaduna, that Nigeria was capable of fixing its own problems.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, has over 200 different ethnic groups, but its 150 million people are almost equally divided between Muslims and Christians.

"The bonds that keep us together are much stronger than those that divide us," said Abubakar, according to a copy of his speech seen by AFP.

Kadhafi's comments came as new sectarian killings claimed hundreds of lives in the central Plateau State.

The state, with Jos as its capital, is the de facto buffer between the predominantly Muslim north and the largely Christian and animist south.

Kadhafi suggested that a Christian homeland in the south could have Lagos as its capital while a Muslim homeland in the north would have Abuja as its principal city, while the two communities should peacefully agree to share Nigeria's huge oil and mineral wealth.

His comments drew the ire of the Nigerian government which recalled its ambassador from Tripoli.

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