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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 November 2006, 10:30 GMT
Nigeria gets new Islamic leader
The new sultan (photo: The Daily Trust)

A new Sultan of Sokoto, the spiritual leader of Nigeria's 70m Muslims, has been announced.

Colonel Muhammadu Sada Abubakar, 53, is the younger brother of Sultan Mohammadu Maccido, who was killed in a plane crash on Sunday, along with 95 others.

Col Abubakar had been serving as Nigeria's military attache to Pakistan.

Like all sultans, Col Abubakar is descended from Uthman Dan Fodio, who led a 19th Century jihad to spread Islam across northern Nigeria.

The BBC's Ardo Abdullah Hazzad in the northern city of Sokoto, says that thousands of people have gathered to celebrate the appointment outside the imposing sultan's palace.

Easy-going

Col Abubakar is to greet the crowds after earlier going to thank Sokoto State Governor Attahiru Bafarawa for naming him as the 20th sultan.

I want to congratulate the state government for choosing a consensus sultan
Muhammadu Bello, trader

Col Abubakar was chosen by a group of traditional rulers, known as kingmakers, who passed a shortlist of three to Mr Bafarawa for the final decision.

"May he continue where the late sultan stopped," trader Muhammadu Bello told Reuters news agency.

"I want to congratulate the state government for choosing a consensus sultan."

Col Abubakar, who has also served with West Africa's peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone, was top of the list and so the governor was expected to select him.

He is described as being relaxed and easy-going.

The late Sultan of Sokoto Mohammadu Maccido
The late sultan was widely revered for his peace efforts

The Sokoto Caliphate founded by Dan Fodio became one of the largest pre-colonial states in Africa.

The sultan's role includes announcing the start and the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in Nigeria.

The BBC's Alex Last in Nigeria says the sultan is meant to be a symbol of good governance and Islamic unity.

Crash

The late sultan was widely respected for trying to ease tensions between Nigeria's Muslim and Christians communities, which occasionally spill over into sectarian violence.

Map

His son and grandson were also killed when a Boeing 737 flight operated by ADC airlines crashed just after take-off from the capital, Abuja, on its way to Sokoto.

Nigeria held three days of national mourning and President Olusegun Obasanjo went to Sokoto to pay his respects.

It was the third major Nigeria plane crash in just over a year.

ADC's licence has been suspended.


SEE ALSO
Obituary: The Sultan of Sokoto
29 Oct 06 |  Africa
Nigerians fly despite the risks
30 Oct 06 |  Africa
In pictures: Nigeria plane crash
29 Oct 06 |  In Pictures

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