Friday, November 03, 2006

Sokoto Heir to the thrown

Nigeria Authorities Name New Sultan

Published: November 2, 2006
Filed at 4:30 p.m. ET
SOKOTO, Nigeria (AP) -- Authorities in Nigeria named an army colonel Thursday as the country's top Muslim leader, replacing his brother, who died in a plane crash last weekend.
Local government authorities named 50-year-old Muhammadu Saad Abubakar III as the new sultan of the northern state of Sokoto, said Maigeri Dingyadi, a top official in the Sokoto state government. Abubakar is the younger brother of Muhammadu Maccido, who died in Sunday's crash in Abuja that killed 96 people.
Maccido was the spiritual leader of tens of millions of Nigerian Muslims and his successor is likely to inherit that influence. The sultan of Sokoto has traditionally held strong sway over the nation's Muslim population, approving dates for the start and end of Muslim fasts and speaking on issues of religious policy in Nigeria.
Abubakar held various commands in the Nigerian army and in peacekeeping missions during a military career that began 31 years ago. Before his appointment as the 20th sultan, he was Nigeria's defense attache to Pakistan, with responsibility for Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.
Thousands of people poured into the streets of Sokoto city in jubilation on Thursday to celebrate the announcement of the new sultan.
Dingyadi said Abubakar was the choice of the local sultanate council that traditionally selects the sultan. The decision was backed by Sokoto Gov. Attahiru Bafarawa, he said.
Abubakar promised in a statement ''to hold office in the name of Allah ... and do justice to everybody, irrespective of religion, tribe or creed.''
Maccido was an important voice of moderation in Africa's most-populous nation of 130 million people, which is roughly split between a predominantly Muslim north and a Christian and animist south.
Thousands were killed as the imposition of strict Islamic law by 12 predominantly Islamic states in the north increased friction with Christians and other non-Muslims. Through the tensions, which flared with the end of strict military rule in 1999, Maccido urged peace among all religious groups.
Abubakar becomes the 20th sultan of Sokoto. He is a direct descendant of the Islamic scholar Uthman Dan Fodio, who founded the Sokoto Caliphate that became one of the largest pre-colonial states in Africa. Fodio launched a campaign from Sokoto in 1804 that spread Islam across much of the northern half of Nigeria and parts of neighboring Niger, Cameroon and Benin.

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