Nigeria has recalled its ambassador to Libya after leader Muammar Gaddafi suggested Nigeria be divided into two states – one Christian and one Muslim.
The foreign ministry said the Libyan leader’s statement was “irresponsible”. Earlier in the week a senator had called Col Gaddafi a “mad man”.
Col Gaddafi had suggested the split to prevent any more bloodshed between rival groups in central Nigeria.
Hundreds have died this year in ethnic and religious violence around Jos.
Although the violence in Nigeria generally takes place between Muslim and Christian communities, the underlying causes are a complex mix of political, social and economic grievances.
Nigeria is roughly split between its largely Muslim north, and a Christian-dominated south.
In a statement, the foreign ministry said it was recalling its Tripoli ambassador for “urgent negotiations” because of the “irresponsible utterances of Colonel Gaddafi”.
“His theatrics and grandstanding at every auspicious occasion have become too numerous to recount,” said the statement.
Col Gaddafi, until recently head of the African Union, praised the partition of India in 1947 as the kind of “historic, radical solution” that could benefit Nigeria.
Splitting India in 1947 caused a breakdown of law and order in which at least 200,000 people died. Some estimates say one million people were killed.
About 12 million people were left homeless and thousands were raped.
An attempt by the Igbo people of south-eastern Nigeria to secede in 1967 sparked a war which left more than one million people dead.