Viewing cable 01ABUJA2938

01ABUJA29382001-11-21 16:56:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Abuja
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

211656Z Nov 01
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 ABUJA 002938 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/21/2011 
Classified by Ambassador Howard F. Jeter; reasons 1.5 (b) and 
¶1. (C) Summary: Nigeria has entered a period of unease. 
During the past several months, the country's political elite 
has been more attentive to political intrigue than the 
demands of responsible governance. As a result, civilian 
government faces multiple challenges. Communal clashes have 
engendered a general sense of insecurity and doubts about GON 
competence.  Proposed electoral reform has pitted state 
governors against national lawmakers and could lead to a 
constitutional showdown over election scheduling.  In the 
lead up to the PDP national convention, internecine guerilla 
politics threatened to balkanize the ruling party.  It took 
last minute deal-making to produce an orderly convention that 
has helped reduce the political heat; yet fissures remain in 
the ruling party.  On the economic front, with unemployment 
and inflation high, people are looking hard to find their 
promised democracy dividend.  President Obasanjo's critics 
cast these problems at his feet, claiming his heavy-handed 
leadership style and 
 inattention to domestic matters have helped spark dry 
tinder. Many Nigerians have voiced concern about the 
sustainability of civilian government if the resulting 
brushfires are not extinguished. It will take sustained 
effort and political acumen to walk Nigeria out of its 
current rough patch. Since returning from the U.S., President 
Obasanjo has demonstrated more attention to internal security 
in meetings with state governors and local leaders. End 
¶2. (C) As the end of 2001 draws near, Nigeria is 
significantly more tense than it was a year ago. If forced to 
render an honest appraisal, the country's political elite 
would have to blame itself for this diminution of Nigeria's 
political stock.  Competition for position and influence in 
local, state and federal governments and within the political 
parties has been destabilizing. Electioneering, with an eye 
toward the 2003 polls more than eighteen months away, began 
months ago and consumes the full attention of most 
politicians. With too many politicians jockeying for position 
while trying to derail real and perceived opponents, the 
electoral season has become perpetual and frenetic. The media 
fuels the competition with a lively but indistinguishable mix 
of factual and fictional reporting.  Not a day passes without 
front-page reports of the latest Machiavellian intrigue and 
political deadlock.  Relishing this partisan fare, 
politicians and the media give scant substantive attention to 
the issues of the day: p 
ublic security, communal unrest and economic development to 
improve the lives of the majority of Nigerians, who survive 
on less than one dollar a day. 
¶3. (C) Instead of travelling a new, higher road under 
President Obasanjo's expected moral guidance, politics 
continue to be driven by money, greed, personal connections 
and the all consuming ascriptive considerations of ethnicity, 
region and religion. Policy formulation and platforms on 
issues have become orphaned in the process.  Injected with 
daily doses of this coarse politicking and perceiving no real 
improvement in their lives, the public is increasingly 
cynical and government is losing its relevance.  The growing 
perception is that democratization is becoming a misnomer -- 
that the political process is too top heavy and that 
incumbents will hijack democratic processes for their own 
benefit and that of their patrons and proteges. 
¶4. (C) While politicians fiddle, civil disturbances have 
flared with devastating impact during the past several 
months.  An estimated three thousand are dead in the wake of 
communal conflicts in Jos and Kano, as well as portions of 
Kaduna, Nasarawa, Taraba and Benue states.  In each instance, 
the police have been overwhelmed and unable to quash the 
unrest.  The military was summoned to restore order or to 
help the police to do so.  By our count, the military 
controls internal security or provides significant assistance 
to the police in parts of 15 of Nigeria's 36 states (The 
British High Commission's count is 18 states).  The deterrent 
presence of military units in Kaduna may have prevented 
violence in the state capital when Shari'a criminal law was 
formally introduced November 2.  That Kaduna authorities felt 
the need for a visible military presence demonstrates the 
level of tension lurking in many areas of the country. 
Moreover, troops in Kaduna City did not prevent a gruesome 
incident (at least ten dead) 
in the southeast corner of the state. 
¶5.  (C) There have been other disturbances with death tolls 
directly related to partisan politics or political 
manipulation of ethnic and religious differences in parts of 
the country.  October street battles between rival PDP and 
APP hoodlums in Zamfara State were bloody.  Communal and 
political flare-ups in Delta state (Warri) and  the South 
East region have cost lives and could easily rekindle.  Other 
areas are simmering and could erupt as well.  A bitter 
struggle between Kwara State Governor Mohammed Lawal and 
political kingmaker Olusola Saraki exists alongside ethnic 
muscle-flexing between partisans of the Hausa-Fulani emirate 
system (established traditional rulers) and the Yoruba in 
Ilorin.  The Yoruba (aspiring traditional rulers), who 
probably now comprise a majority of the city's population, 
want an Oba of Ilorin to be installed.  The ruling 
Hausa-Fulani see this as an encroachment.  Complicating 
relations between Hausa-Fulani and Yoruba everywhere is the 
recent release in Lagos of the OPC's violent 
street general Ganiyu Adams, whom Northerners blame for the 
October 2000 Ajegunle riots that left scores of Hausa-Fulani 
dead in Lagos. 
¶6.  (C) The frequency and intensity of the clashes, coupled 
with the multiple military deployments throughout the 
country, generate the impression that civilian politicians 
cannot maintain order without the military's help.  In the 
public mind, the question has turned from whether there will 
be future communal violence to where and when that violence 
will occur.  Politicians reinforce this sense of insecurity 
by publicly bickering over the causes of the unrest and 
assigning blame to their opponents.  For instance, Benue 
Governor Akume has accused former PDP Chairman Gemade of 
helping to stoke the violence there.  Minister of Defense 
Danjuma, in turn, has reportedly accused Akume of spending 
state funds to enlist former military personnel in Tiv 
militia.  In turn, Danjuma has been accused of suborning his 
Jukun brethren in their confrontation with the unpopular Tiv. 
¶7.  (C) Some Nigerians are making negative comparisons, 
stating that previous military governments were more adept at 
preventing civil disorder than the current Administration. 
Comparisons with Nigeria's last elected government - the 
short-circuited Shagari Administration - are making the 
rounds.  While the vast majority of Nigerians prefer 
democracy and want to avoid a return of the military, they 
also want a democracy that works.  At the very least, 
civilian government should not be seen as undermining public 
security and the economy.  The growing chorus of those who 
say their lives were better during the Abacha years should 
sound a disturbing alarm at Aso Villa.  Even if the chorus is 
misguided and looking backward through rose-colored glasses, 
perceptions are often more important than objective reality. 
¶8. (C) The controversy over the proposed electoral law also 
makes politicians appear so concerned with their own 
preservation that they cannot adequately guide the ship of 
state.  The reform would extend the tenure of incumbent local 
governments.  This would make local government elections, now 
slated for April of 2002, contemporaneous with Presidential, 
National Assembly and Gubernatorial elections scheduled for 
¶2003.  This sounds like a simple technical fix.  However, 
such a change could alter political power relationships in 
the states.  If local elections remain in 2002, governors and 
state assembly members can better influence these elections, 
laying solid ground work for their 2003 campaigns.  On the 
other hand, the Presidency and national legislators will gain 
greater influence at the local level and, thus, over the 
governors' re-election prospects if local elections are 
¶9. (C) The constitution is unclear whether the National 
Assembly can change election dates.  Governors have publicly 
scorned the proposed measure as unconstitutional.  National 
Assembly leaders likewise have chastised governors in their 
public statements.  Meeting in mid-October, speakers of state 
assemblies agreed to dissolve their local governments in 
¶2002.  This would leave a one-year void at the local 
government level should the proposal become law.  Since 
electoral registers are to be compiled by the Independent 
National Electoral Commission (INEC), INEC could refuse to 
provide registers to the state-level commissions that are 
supposed to run the local government elections.  The 
state-level commissions might compile their own registers and 
hold elections in defiance of INEC, or the governors might 
appoint "care-taker" local government councils (that would 
doubtless be firmly under gubernatorial control). 
¶10.  (C) President Obasanjo has met with governors and key 
federal lawmakers to seek a resolution.  While the talks 
might have succeeded in reducing the public rhetoric, there 
is no sign of an agreed fix to this problem as of yet. Unless 
the sides can find compromise, this issue becomes one of 
constitutional interpretation for the courts.  But Nigeria's 
discredited judiciary lacks adequate moral authority and 
arbitrating such a high stakes political game would expose 
the weak court system to intense political heat. If the 
politicians toss such a highly charged issue into the courts, 
there will likely be rulings and counter-rulings, injunctions 
and counter-injunctions as few would be willing to accept a 
ruling adverse to their interests.  Similar antics in the 
past have led to such confusion that the entire political 
process bogged down.  Nigeria's elected politicians know 
this, but they seem intent to seek to maximize their personal 
advantage with little regard for the effect their pursuits 
have on the overal 
l system. 
¶11. (C) Obasanjo's desire to eject PDP national chairman 
Gemade (his hand-picked and expensively-purchased candidate 
in 1999) and countless, unseemly turf battles at the local 
level have undermined the credibility of the ruling party and 
further whittled an already waning internal cohesion. As the 
party held local and state congresses, in preparation for the 
National Convention, competition turned white hot. 
Allegations of cheating and intimidation were common.  In 
some states, rival factions held separate congresses, picking 
competing slates of delegates for the National Convention. 
Trying to postpone the National Convention that would have 
ousted Gemade from party leadership, pro-Gemade PDP officials 
filed suit for an injunction.  Rumor has it that Gemade paid 
the judge to issue the injunction.  Rumor also has it that 
Obasanjo ordered that the same judge be paid even more to 
lift the order. 
¶12.  (C) After several late night sessions of party leaders, 
including the President, Gemade relinquished his claim to the 
Chairmanship, reportedly in exchange for a fistful of Naira 
and a promised Cabinet position.  Gemade's deal paved the way 
for creation of a slate of unopposed candidates for all key 
national party positions.  This slate was selected by 
acclamation at the November 9 convention.  What had the 
makings of a genuine donnybrook turned into a Nigerian-styled 
garden party due to eleventh hour deal making and movement of 
money.  Despite its flaws, that the convention did not 
denigrate into an untidy affair has helped reduce overall 
political tensions.  However, the party is sorely divided in 
several states and the grumbling has not subsided completely. 
  Many people are dissatisfied with the undemocratic manner 
in which the national officials were selected and presented 
as a fait accompli to the convention delegates.  Moreover, 
the continuous running to the courts and crying in the press 
to resolv 
e what were essentially political disputes left a sour taste 
in the public's mouth which the contrived sweetness of the 
convention could not remove.  People see the PDP ructions not 
as a principled fight but as a contest to see who wrests 
control over the party for personal reasons that have little 
to do with bringing democracy or better leadership to the 
¶13.  (C) While political competition has been in overdrive, 
the government's stewardship of the economy has been focused 
on short-term fixes to long-term problems.  The maxim that 
civilian government runs an economy better than the military 
has not provided much comfort thus far.  The Presidency 
micro-manages economic policy, with either Obasanjo or Vice 
President Abubakar making decisions even on routine matters. 
At the local, state and national levels, most officials are 
seen as venally dipping their hands into governmental 
coffers. Unemployment remains high; manufacturing 
productivity remains low.  The national government has said 
the right things but shown little ability to actually 
implement policies that would spur direct investment and 
create jobs. Due primarily to budgetary indiscipline and 
failure to rationalize exchange rates, the government missed 
important targets in the IMF Stand-By-Agreement (SBA), which 
has now expired.  Fortunately, the government is negotiating 
an informal agreement with the 
IMF which, if successful, may result in a new SBA down the 
line.  However, due to the SBA expiry, Nigeria no longer 
meets Paris Club terms and will have to renegotiate debt 
repayment with its creditors. 
¶14.  (C) On a positive note, privatization has gone fairly 
well.  Complex transactions like NITEL, though behind 
schedule, have moved faster than most experts anticipated. 
The bidding to privatize NITEL was successful and generated 
significantly more revenue than expected.  A bumper 
agricultural crop and higher than expected oil revenues this 
year will partially moderate negative perceptions of the 
government's economic performance. However, economic strains 
may be more pronounced in 2002. Following the slump in oil 
prices, oil revenue likely will fall; Nigeria also cannot 
completely insulate itself from the overall global downturn. 
Meanwhile, there will be political pressure to engage in 
deficit spending as elections approach. 
¶15. (C) Many critics blame President Obasanjo for the tense 
state of affairs.  They lambaste him for assuming the image 
of an international statesman while neglecting pressing 
matters at home.  Also, they claim that he has been 
unprepared to engage in the dialogue and give-and-take 
necessary for democratic politics to take hold.   Many 
observers expected Obasanjo to expend significant effort 
developing a political culture and the "informal 
constitution" key to ensuring that the relationships between 
the executive and the legislature and between the national 
and state governments are cooperative and do not fall below a 
certain level of propriety.  Instead, Obasanjo has been 
described as too eager to choke dissent and differing 
opinions. He has meddled in the internal affairs of the 
National Assembly and tried to make the PDP and the National 
Assembly subservient to Executive will.  He has also tried to 
undermine governors who have shown too much independence or 
who displeased him.  What should be accomplished 
by dialogue, Obasanjo often attempts by edict, his 
detractors' claim.  In short, he has alienated many previous 
supporters while garnering few new adherents; yet, many of 
his past supporters recognize there are currently few viable 
alternatives to Obasanjo's leadership. 
¶16. (C) Some of this criticism of Obasanjo comes from the 
sour grapes of people disappointed that Obasanjo has not 
given them the benefits or access they expected, or has not 
been as malleable as they thought he would be when elected 
two years ago.  However, much of the criticism is justified. 
Obasanjo's coarse performance might not be so pronounced had 
the National Assembly or governors compensated with good 
leadership at their respective levels. Unfortunately, too 
many lawmakers and local executives have been masters at 
enriching themselves while novices at governing. 
Consequently, their failures have only served to aggravate 
the impact of the President's lack of political skills. 
¶17. (C) Recently, Obasanjo has taken a few tentative steps 
toward defusing political tension.  On October 31, he 
formally inaugurated a national security panel.  The panel's 
mandate is to examine the underlying causes of communal 
violence and develop recommendations to prevent further 
outbreaks.  If the panel is active and not another ad hoc 
creation that does not function well or produces a report 
that gathers dust, Obasanjo may recoup lost points.  He also 
has met with the Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba state governors 
and traditional rulers of the three states to defuse the 
Tiv/Jukun violence in the area.  The President held a 
November 11 meeting with all 36 governors to discuss internal 
security.  These moves indicate recognition by the Presidency 
that internal security must receive high priority.  The 
meetings may also help narrow the political distance between 
the President and some governors while also showing average 
Nigerians that he is becoming engaged on an issue that means 
a lot to them.  However, the 
 measure of success will not be in the number of meetings 
held but in re-establishing a general sense of public 
security. Given the complexity of many of these localized 
disputes, reaching the objective will take sustained 
attention and political will. 
¶18.  (C) Civilian politicians, in general, and Obasanjo, in 
particular, have managed to steer the country into the roiled 
waters between shore and shoal. Insecurity is a pervasive 
sentiment.  Ethnic, religious and regional tensions are more 
pronounced than at the beginning of the year.  Much of the 
goodwill Obasanjo enjoyed at the outset of his mandate has 
been expended, often with few positive results to show.  Hard 
decisions that might inflict pain but are needed to 
jump-start the economy will be increasingly difficult to take 
as elections draw nearer.  Every group feels it is on the 
wrong end of the political give- and-take, and zero sum 
politics are omnipresent.  This sense of insecurity and loss 
has also produced an unfortunate strain of selective amnesia 
-- some people are starting to remember the days of military 
rule as days of stability and order, rather than long years 
of repression and suffering. 
¶19.  (C) Meanwhile, civilian politicians are so concerned 
about maintaining themselves in office that they seem not to 
give appropriate weight to the public's lack of confidence in 
their collective performance.  They risk creating the 
impression that civilian government is the sole reserve of 
the elite rather than the only system of governance capable 
of arbitrating competing demands in a diverse society without 
resort to repression.  The political class could enhance its 
stock by finding reasonable solutions to the electoral law 
squabble and by softening the many jagged edges of party 
politics.  More importantly, government at all levels -- but 
most especially the federal government - needs to be seen as 
getting a better handle on security issues. Prudent economic 
management would also take the sting out of some 
anti-government criticism.  If politicians do not show a 
degree of statesmanship in these areas, next year promises to 
prove more challenging than this one has turned out to be.