2 February 2011
By Austin Ekeinde
Southern Nigerians could take up arms to fight northern Boko Haram Islamists, and are holding back only out of respect for the president, a former militant leader from the oil-rich Niger Delta said on Monday.
Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, a Muslim who led a rebellion in the delta until a peace deal with the government in 2004, said bomb attacks by Boko Haram could provoke retaliation by mostly Christian southerners, including those living in the delta.
President Goodluck Jonathan has already declared a state of emergency in parts of the north which Boko Haram targeted in Christmas Day bomb attacks, including one against a church near
that killed 37 people. Abuja
The attacks, and their spread from the north into other parts of the country, have raised the prospect of sectarian and regional violence escalating in a country about evenly divided between mainly southern Christians and mainly northern Muslims.
Asked if northerners could be targeted by some from the majority Christian south, he replied: "It is seconds away ...
is on the precipice of a civil war." Nigeria
"For Niger Delta people to take up arms is just a minute away. It
's just Goodluck that is holding us back," said Asari, who is from Jonathan 's southern, mainly Christian Ijaw tribe, but who converted to Islam.
"We have all reached the extreme. There is nothing anybody can do about it except we fight."