afrol News, 18 March - David Mark, President of the Nigerian Senate, calls the Libyan leader a "mad man" over the latter's proposal to split Nigeria into a Christian and a Muslim state. Religious leaders call the proposal "evil". And today, Nigeria recalled its ambassador to Libya.
Muammar Gadaffi's remarks to African student, recommending a split-up of Nigeria, have been given much attention in the country. Politicians, religious leaders and civil society have reacted strongly, calling Mr Gaddafi anything from "mad" to "evil", "ignorant", "reckless" and "inflammatory".
The issue was brought up in the Nigerian Senate yesterday, where Senator Anyim Ude showed the assembly a national newspaper entitled "Split Nigeria", asking for a consideration if "inflammatory statements" also from abroad should be condemned.
Senate leader David Mark swiftly answered Mr Ude: "With all due respect, why do you want to give a mad man that level of publicity?" referring to Mr Gadaffi. "A mad man who said the same thing about Switzerland; he said the same thing about England; he said the same thing about every other country and then you want to give that any other prominence at all," Mr Mark went on.
But Nigerian Senators still wanted to talk about the Libyan leader when meeting the press after the session, exclusively in negative terms. Senators were angered by the "balkanisation" proposal, which they said would yield much more bloodshed. Senator Otaru Ohize said Mr Gaddafi was "not wishing Nigeria well."
Senator Joel Danlami, speaking to the national newspaper 'This Day', described the Libyan leader as "a reckless leader and an incurable madman who should confine his advice and energy to his country, Libya. Nigerians have lived together and we have mixed, intermarried as Christians and Muslims and I believe we need to live together."
Among Nigeria's Muslim leaders, Mr Gaddafi's statements have been received as insults. The Head of Ahmadiyya Islam in Nigeria, Moshood Adenrele Fashola, in a speech yesterday said "it is evil" to call for a partition of Nigeria according to religious divisions.
"We should not be divided into two," Mr Fashola was quoted as saying by the Nigerian 'Daily Champion'. "This is because we are brothers and sisters. What we have in Jos is more ethnic than religious because no religion tolerates killing one another for no just cause," the Islamic leader added.
An umbrella group of political organisations and civil society in Nigeria's Muslim north, the Arewa Consultative Forum, today told the press the Libyan leader was "ignorant". No Nigerian community was either 100 percent Christian or Muslim. "It is not for Gaddafi to dabble into the internal affairs of Nigeria," the Arewa statement concludes.
Other Nigerian political leaders have also focused on the great ethnic diversity in the country - which in only a few cases is the cause of violence but more often is a great resource - as a basis to understand dynamics in Nigeria. Religious divisions were less important, they argue.
Nigeria's Acting President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, has not made statements directly responding to Mr Gaddafi's proposals. Speaking to peace activists yesterday, Mr Jonathan however emphasised that there was "no basis for rivalry among religious groups in the country" and as such called on Nigerians to unite and "embrace peace at all times."
The first official reaction came today by the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which recalled its ambassador to Libya for "urgent negotiations" as a protest. A Ministry statement said the "irresponsible utterances of Colonel Gaddafi" had caused the reactions.
"His theatrics and grandstanding at every auspicious occasion have become too numerous to recount," added the statement, signed by Ministry spokesman Ozo Nwobu. "His comment on the crisis in Jos, Plateau State, are most unacceptable and unbecoming of any leader who claimed to advocate and champion the cause of African integration and unity," Mr Nwobu concluded.
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