31 March 2010

Nigeria: Gaddafi Protests Mark's Comments

Lagos — Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi yesterday protested comments by Senate President David Mark describing him as a "mad man" following his call for Nigeria to break up along religious and ethnic lines.

Speaking during a reconciliatory meeting convened by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, yesterday, the Libyan delegation told Acting President Goodluck Jonathan that Gaddafi was not happy with Mark's comments.

Muhammed A. Sherif, leader of the team and Secretary General of World Islamic Call Society based in Tripoli said "Gadafi is not happy with the Senate President's response addressing him as a mad man because he didn't abuse either Nigerian president nor Nigerian people but the Senate President responded by abusing him which his president is not happy, that a highly dignified person in Nigeria will respond in such a way."

Responding, Jonathan described Gaddafi's suggestion that Nigeria should be split along ethnic and religious lines as undiplomatic, saying such statements are likely to "ruffle feathers."

He said he was surprised that Gaddafi was angry over Mark's response which was targeted at him alone but "his comment (Gaddafi) injured 140 million Nigerians."

Jonathan, who is reacting for the first time since the diplomatic row, said leaders should be a little circumspect over the affairs of other nations.

"Gaddafi is calling for Union Government in Africa and yet calling for Nigeria to be divided into two," Jonathan said.

Briefing State House correspondents shortly after the meeting, the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to Acting President, Ima Niboro, said Jonathan made it clear that all leaders should be diplomatic in their comments about other nations because their statements can "substantially ruffle feathers in other nations."

He said the meeting was an initiative by Sirleaf to broker peace between Nigeria and Libya "so she came with two special envoys from the Libyan President Gaddafi and the purpose of the meeting basically is to establish the level of rapport so that the two nations can put behind them the recent statement that has been made and move forward. So it is a process that has been initiated and it is continuing and God willing we will see it to the end."

He said Sirleaf initiated the meeting because she was worried about Gaddafi's statements and its potential effects on African Unity.

Among the Libyan delegation is Mr. Rafa Al-Madani, Executive Secretary Forum for Arab-African Non Governmental Organisation also based in Tripoli and three embassy staff in Nigeria.

It would be recalled that following the row, Nigeria recalled its ambassador from Tripoli earlier this month when Gaddafi proposed that Nigeria break into two countries, the one for Muslims and the other for Christians. The Federal Government had said Gaddafi's comments were insensitive and irresponsible and "diminished his status and credibility." Senate President David Mark said the Libyan leader was a mad man and did not merit a response.

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