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Nigeria’s Muslims, Christians Clash

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    Angry Nigerian President Obasanjo lashes out at religious leaders over violence By PANA President Olusegun Obasanjo Photo: MGN Online LAGOS, Nigeria (PANA) -
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 3, 2004
      Angry Nigerian President Obasanjo lashes out at religious leaders
      over violence
      By PANA

      President Olusegun Obasanjo Photo: MGN Online
      LAGOS, Nigeria (PANA) - Seemingly frustrated that his government's
      efforts to curb Nigeria's spiraling sectarian and communal violence
      has not yielded the desired results, President Olusegun Obasanjo has
      vented his anger on religious leaders in central Plateau, which has
      been a hotbed of such crisis since 2001.

      On the heels of tit-for-tat killing by Muslims and Christians in the
      state, the president recently visited affected areas to meet with
      religious and political leaders and fashion out a permanent solution
      to the crisis, which has claimed hundreds of lives in the Christian-
      dominated state alone.

      Ending the crisis became urgent after it sparked reprisal attacks
      from Muslims in the northern city of Kano, where the police said 30
      persons died after two days of violence that targeted Christians and
      non-indigenes. Christian leaders put the figure of the dead at 600.

      Instead of the president's efforts getting big play, it was his angry
      exchange with the religious leaders that made local newspaper
      headlines. Writing under the headline, "Obasanjo berates religious
      leaders, calm returns to Kano," the private Guardian newspaper said
      the president was angered by questions from the local leaders of the
      Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Jama'atu Nasril Islam

      "Mr Chairman of CAN, you are talking absolute nonsense, and don't
      provoke me," the president reportedly retorted when asked by the CAN
      chairman, the Reverend Yakubu Pam, why he did not visit the state
      when suspected Muslim militants killed dozens of Christians who took
      refuge in a church.

      In what was seen as a reprisal attack, suspected Christian militants
      killed 67 Muslims early this month. Muslim leaders put the number at
      over 300.

      "You have the audacity to say that you did not hear anything from me.
      Did I hear anything from you? What meaningful thing have you
      contributed to make peace in this state other than you being chairman
      of CAN? CAN my foot!" said Pres. Obasanjo, a southern Christian.

      He also did not spare the JNI secretary-general, Sheik Abdulaziz
      Yusuf, who asked him whether he was really interested in the unity of
      Nigeria in view of the endless crises across the country. Saying his
      record showed him as an incurable believer in Nigeria's unity, the
      president noted: "I have fought for it. I have almost died for the
      unity of Nigeria. I had been imprisoned for it. I don't think anybody
      needs any evidence of a Nigerian who is more committed than myself."

      The private Punch newspaper reported that the president later left
      the venue of the meeting in anger, and quoted the Reverend Pam as
      accusing him (Obasanjo) of coming to Plateau with an agenda. Rev. Pam
      said the CAN leadership in Plateau had lost confidence in the
      president's trouble-shooting ability.

      "The same people who cooked up the crisis in Kano have been going to
      him and deceiving him by telling him all kinds of lies. They want
      recognition because they are idle, but I am a man of God and I have a
      lot of things to do. This is the first time I am seeing a leader
      abusing a pastor, an ordained man of God," Rev. Pam said.

      There is a growing frustration in Nigeria over the endless violence,
      which human rights organizations estimated has left more than 10,000
      dead since 1999, when the country returned to civilian rule after
      years of military dictatorship.

      Nigeria's 130 million people are almost evenly divided between
      Christians and Muslims, though the country also has a sizeable number
      of animists and atheists. The adherents of the various beliefs live
      peacefully together in most cases, but analysts said attacks and
      counter-attacks between the largely-Muslim north and the Christian
      south are pushing the country to the edge.




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