Crowds Riot Over Man Who Should Be King

WHEN Ibrahim Dasuki was named Sultan of Sokoto on Nov. 6, 1988, the highest religious office among Nigeria's Moslems, his city erupted in violence. Angry Moslems had wanted the son of the late Sultan to be named successor instead. What angered people even more were strong indications that the local ``kingmakers,'' or elders, had indeed named the son, Muhammad Maccido, as successor - but had been overruled by Nigeria's military government.

The riots underscored an important feature of Nigeria today: Many Nigerians still attach much importance to their ancient system of traditional leadership.

The reaction to Dasuki's appointment also spoke to the kind of leader Nigeria's Moslems want. ``He, Sultan Dasuki, has infringed on certain traditional values, such as modesty,'' says Mohamud Jega, a lecturer at Usman Danfodio University in Sokoto: ``People do not appreciate ambition.'' And there was criticism of his ``wordly'' activities: He is a successful banker.

As an Oxford University graduate, Dasuki, a former high-level official in the government, reflects the new breed of traditional leader in Nigeria. But Dasuki had a hard act to follow: His predecessor, Siddiq Abubakar, was very popular.

Maccido, first son of the late Sultan Abubakar, is a high school graduate. Like Dasuki, he is a successful businessman, in shipping. But he is seen as more modest, less ambitious than Dasuki.

The two men live across the road from each other: Dasuki in the palace, and Maccido in a modest complex of thick, mud-walled rooms, where he continues to receive a steady stream of visitors and supporters.

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