Nigerian religious and political leaders have criticised a call by the Libyan President, Muammar Gaddafi, for the partitioning of Africa's most populous nation into two countries - one for Christians and one for Muslims - writes Lekan Otufodunrin.
Nigeria said it was recalling its ambassador to Libya, noting that Gaddafi's remarks were offensive and irresponsible.
Gaddafi said on 17 March that partition had saved many lives in India and Pakistan. He asserted that splitting Nigeria into two "would stop the bloodshed and burning of places of worship".
Gaddafi's comments came in a speech to students and were quoted by the Libyan State news agency, Jana.
"The entire population of Muslims and Christians in this country has not shown any sign to say that they cannot peacefully coexist," said Methodist Church Nigeria Prelate, the Rev. Sunday Ola Makinde.
The Rev John Hayab, spokesperson for the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in northern Nigeria, said Gaddafi's suggestion should be ignored. He claimed that the former president of the African Union sponsors State terrorism around the world.
Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama'at in Nigeria described Gaddafi's statement as uncalled for. The Islamic group said Nigeria needs true federalism.
The head of Ahmadiyya in Nigeria, Moshood Adenrele Fashola, told the annual Convention of the Jama'at, "We should not be divided into two. This is because we are brothers and sisters. What we have in Jos is more ethnic than religious because no religion tolerates killing one another for no just cause."
Recurring violence in the central Nigeria Jos area, Gaddafi noted is a "deep conflict of a religious nature" caused by the federal state, "which was made and imposed by the British in spite of the people's resistance to it".
Nigeria's 149 million people are almost evenly divided between Christians and Muslims.
The West African nation has a history of sectarian clashes which has resulted in the killing of many persons and the burning of property.
Jos, the capital of Plateau State in North Central Nigeria, has this year recorded three incidents of religious and ethnic clashes that have claimed hundreds of lives this year.
Makinde said it is cynical for anyone to suggest that partition would resolve an ethno-religious crisis when there has been a series of attacks launched on Islamic faithful "by fellow Muslims [extremists]".
"Why are Muslims and Christians in the South not in crisis? I wish to put on record once again, that any attempt to Islamise Nigeria will fail. What should be done at this moment is for justice to be done because life is sacrosanct and no one has the right to take another [hu]man's life," said Makinde.
The spokesperson for the Arewa Consultative Forum, a social cultural group in Northern Nigeria, Anthony Sani, said Gaddafi's call is an indication that he is ignorant of the fact that no Nigerian community has 100 per cent of its inhabitants practicing either Islam or Christianity.
"The recent orgy of killings in Jos, the Plateau State capital, was not enough grounds for the country to be dismembered along such impossible lines as demanded by Gaddafi," Sani noted.
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]