By Rafiu Ajakaye
Nigeria's top Muslim spiritual leader on Sunday condemned an ultimatum for ethnic Igbo to quit the northern region, saying anyone wanting to attack the latter would have go through him first.
“If anybody or group of persons plans a negative attack on Igbos, he or they should attack me first because I am against the so-called ultimatum issued by the Arewa youths that Igbos should leave the north,” Sa’ad Abubakar told a delegation of Igbo leaders visiting him to commemorate the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday, or feast of sacrifice.
Abubakar is the sultan of Sokoto and the president general of the influential Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), the umbrella body for the country's estimated 100 million Muslim population.
His comment comes amid confusion and apprehension over an ultimatum some northern youths gave for Igbo to leave the northern region by October -- although the threat was later withdrawn following a warning by President Muhammadu Buhari.
That ultimatum was the fallout of what the northern youths called the excesses of Igbo separatists led by Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), which seeks to break away from Nigeria.
The Muslim leader said balkanizing Nigeria along ethnic lines would not resolve the discontent of various interest groups within it, and called for peaceful dialogue to ensure “equity and fair play religiously, socially, and economically”.