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Nigeria: New Spiritual Leader


Five days after a plane crash killed the spiritual leader of Nigeria’s Moslems and 95 others, the country has a new spiritual leader. He is Colonel Muhammadu Sada Abukabar, the younger brother of Sultan Mohammadu Maccido, who was killed in last Sunday’s plane crash. Aminu Sahadi Bello is a reporter for Voice of America’s Hausa Language Service. From Sokoto State, he tells VOA English to Africa reporter James Butty that the new Islamic spiritual leader of Nigeria also has an impressive military career.

“The new sultan that has been appointed yesterday was the son of the late Sultan Abubakar the Third. That is the father of the late Sultan Mohammadu Maccido who died recently in the crash. He’s a colonel in the military. He held the position of commandant in the peacekeeping OAU headquarters in Chad. Before his appointment, he was the Nigerian army officer taking charge of Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia between 2003 and 2006,” Bello said.

Bello says Sultan Abubakar was chosen from a list of several candidates.

“When there is a chance like this, anybody who is on the throne that has died, there are about 11 kingmakers from the Sokoto Caliphate, those that have the responsibility of choosing the new sultan. Then out of the contestants, they pick about three and send to the governor of the day. The governor will decide the sultan that will be chosen to be the sultan out of the three,” Bello said.

Bello says the sultan is normally chosen from four ruling houses or families in the Sokoto Caliphate – the house of Sultan Bello, the house of Sultan Atiku, the house of Mohammadu Buhari, son of Shehu, and Sultan Ahmed Rufai.

Bello says even though the Sokoto governor has a say in the selection process, eleven kingmakers play a leading role.

“The government in the state, that is the Sokoto State governor, has a say in the choosing of the sultan. But they are not participating in the selection of the sultan. The eleven kingmakers have the responsibility of selecting three out of the contestants to be taken to the government of Sokoto State. The government of Sokoto will be the last body to decide who will be the sultan,” Bello said.

Bello says the new Sultan of Sokoto is about 53 years old. He also says that although the job of sultan is not limited to older people alone, it is normally held by an elderly person because it is a spiritual and very trusted position which responsibility includes not only taking care of Moslems in Nigeria or Sokoto State but in the West Africa sub-region.

Bello says the people of Sokoto State are still reeling from Sunday’s tragic plane crash because many of their prominent citizens, including Sultan Mohammadu Maccido, lost their lives in the crash.

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