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His Eminence, Sa'ad Abubakar III, Sultan of Sokoto, is the spiritual heir to the leadership of the Sokoto Caliphate in Nigeria. As such, he is also the president of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, and formal leader of Nigeria's 70 million Muslims, roughly 50 percent of the nation's population. He came to the throne in November 2006, having served 31 years in the Nigerian military. He was Nigerian Defence attaché in Pakistan for three years before returning to Nigeria in 2005. In addition to being an outspoken advocate for religious harmony and improved Muslim-Christian relations, the Sultan has criticized local leaders in northern Nigeria for failing to improve rural infrastructure. The World Health Organization has expressed appreciation for the support that the Sultan has given the immunization program in Nigeria, following a period when polio vaccinations in northern Nigeria were delayed due to opposition from some local religious leaders.
On Thursday, November 15, 2007, CGD was honored to host His Eminence, The Sultan of Sokoto, Sa'ad Abubakar. Clarence J. Robinson Professor of International Studies and Professor of Public and International Affairs at George Mason University John Paden provided remarks and Carol Lancaster, Visiting Fellow, Center for Global Development and Director, Mortara Center for International Studies, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, moderated the discussion.