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Nigeria Muslims Mourn Christian Governor

Published: 18/12/2012 05:18:03 PM GMT
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ABUJA - Nigerian Muslims have mourned the first-ever Christian governor of the northern state of Kaduna, suspending their celebrations in a show of solidarity with their Christian neighbors.“Governor Yakowa has demonstrate (more)

ABUJA - Nigerian Muslims have mourned the first-ever Christian governor of the northern state of Kaduna, suspending their celebrations in a show of solidarity with their Christian neighbors.

“Governor Yakowa has demonstrated a high level of simplicity and understanding,” Sheikh Yusuf Sambo Rigachikun, the national leader of Jama'atu Izalatu Bidia Wa'iqamatussuna (JIBWS), told

“Though he is not a Muslim, he deserves to be honored and as a group we share in the pains of the state.”

Kaduna state governor Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa died Saturday in a helicopter crash in the southerly oil-producing Bayelsa state.

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Five people were also killed in the crash, including former national security adviser General Owoye Azazi.

Yakowa, a retired senior civil servant from the minority Kaduna South, was the first Christian Governor of the mainly Muslim state.

He will be buried on Thursday December 20. Yakowa's Muslim deputy was sworn in as Governor on Sunday in compliance with the country's constitution.

Following the tragedy, Muslims have postponed the holding of their annual conference in honor of the late governor.

“We suspended the event in honor of the late gentleman who was by all standards an exemplary leader,” Rigachikun said.

The event is the annual meeting and preaching of the organization touted to be one of the largest Muslim groupings in northern Nigeria.

“We salute his rare courage in steering the ship of state despite the huge challenges and for trying his best to cement the faith communities while alive,” Rigachikun said.

“We pray Allah SWT to solace his family and the entire people of the state, Christians and Muslims alike who would definitely miss this rare breed.”

Muslim Grief

In a similar gesture, Nigeria's most popular Muslim politician Muhammadu Buhari suspended his birthday anniversary ceremonies over the governor's death.

“Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, the National Leader of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), expresses personal grief and a deep sense of loss over the death of the Governor of Kaduna State, Sir Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa, the National Security Adviser, Gen. Andrew Owoye Azazi and others on Saturday in a helicopter crash in Bayelsa State,” CPC spokesman Rotimi Fashakin said in a statement obtained by

“This is a monumental national tragedy and Gen. Buhari sees it so.”

The Muslim gestures won plaudits from Christians in the state.

“The decisions of the Muslim group and indeed that of the General (Muhammadu Buhari) once again underline the bond that exists among the human and indeed the faith communities in Nigeria, and is a sharp rebuke to those seeking to tear us apart,” Pastor Emmanuel Onwubiko told

Imam Abdur-Rahman Ahmad, leading Muslim leader in Nigeria, hailed the gesture as “another demonstration of good faith in time of national grief”.

“It is something expected of all people of faith because death is a leveler,” he told

“And what is more, this was a leader of a whole state and whose short tenure demonstrated ample evidence of tolerance and respect for all.”

Nigeria, one of the world's most religiously committed nations, is divided between a Muslim north and a Christian south.

Muslims and Christians, who constitute 55 and 40 percent of Nigeria's 140 million population respectively, have lived in peace for the most part.But ethnic and religious tensions have bubbled for years, fuelled by decades of resentment between indigenous groups, mostly Christian or animist, who are vying for control of fertile farmlands with migrants and settlers from the Hausa-speaking Muslim north.

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