C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ABUJA 001206
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/09/2013
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: APGA PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE OJUKWU MEETS
Classified by Ambassador Howard F. Jeter. Reasons:
1.5 (B & D).
Â¶1. (C) SUMMARY: Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, APGA's
Presidential candidate in the recent elections and
leader of Biafra's failed secession in the sixties,
met Ambassador Jeter at his residence on June 25 to
discuss the Nigeria's elections, his observations on
Obasanjo, and the way forward for Nigeria. End
Â¶2. (C) Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, APGA's 2003 Presidential
candidate and leader of the East's (Biafra) failed
secession in the sixties, requested a meeting with
Ambassador to discuss current issues in Nigeria.
Ojukwu commented that rigging had been expected but
that what the governing PDP and Obasanjo did went
beyond the pale of even Nigeria's permissible limits,
forcing the opposition to contest the results.
"Obasanjo is the incumbent and if he had rigged 10
percent, no one would have complained. Even if he
only took 25 percent, we could have accepted it,
Ojukwu claimed. However, Obasanjo "provoked" us and
"rode roughshod" over the process to gain his re-
election, Ojukwu declared. "I hold the President
personally responsible for the failure of the
elections," Ojukwu stated. Ojukwu said that he had
told Obasanjo that he was his friend but, nonetheless,
had to take responsibility. When Ambassador Jeter
asked how Obasanjo responded, Ojukwu said simply, "he
Â¶3. (C) Ambassador Jeter asked Ojukwu if he would
pursue his case to the Supreme Court and commented
that the quality of the electoral tribunals should not
be pre-judged before the tribunals had actually
finished their hearings. Ojukwu confirmed that he was
committed to following the legal process to its
conclusion, saying that it was the opposition's "only
alternative." The Ambassador pointed to the
computerized voters list and the guidelines for
registering parties as positive outcomes from the 2003
elections, adding, moreover, that there had been no
suggestion of military intervention. Ojukwu responded
that talk of military intervention was present, and,
indeed, increasing due to Obasanjo's hubris.
(Comment. We have no indication that this is true; in
fact, Obasanjo has pretty much neutralized a
politicized military. END COMMENT.
Â¶4. (C) Ojukwu commented on conversations held with
the President since the elections. Ojukwu
characterized Obasanjo as someone who feels he has
"conquered" the country. Obasanjo pointed out that no
leader in Nigeria's history had his level of control
over the Middle Belt, the East, the Southwest and the
National Assembly at the same time. Ojukwu says that
he warned Obasanjo that this is not good politics and
that Obasanjo's political barometer was off kilter.
Ojukwu told Obasanjo that the Middle Belt is in arms,
the East is in arms and, worse, the North is in arms.
Ojukwu warned the President that he was making the
same mistake that Gideon Orka made in 1990. (NOTE:
The 1990 "Orka Coup" was unsuccessful. If it ever had
a chance for success, Orka's coup became doomed when
he announced his intent to excise the northern states
from Nigeria, prompting a backlash from other officers
dedicated to keeping Nigeria together. END NOTE.)
Ojukwu recounted Obasanjo responding that "if they
(the North) try anything, I will deal with them."
Â¶5. (C) The Ambassador asked if Obasanjo had made
efforts to balance representation in the government,
pointing out that Obasanjo's Ministerial appointments
come from every part of the country. Ojukwu responded
that any balance in appointments was superficial. He
said that a "bigger Yoruba presence, an angry North
and an East cut out of the system" does not constitute
balance. Commenting that Obasanjo is viewed as a
"Yoruba President," Ojukwu said that the main problem
is that he "draws lines without regard for the
people." Ojukwu dismissed the Igbo appointees to the
new Cabinet as politicians "unacceptable to the East."
"I object to the feeling of conquest," Ojukwu
complained. He said that Nigeria needed
"accommodating politics" instead of confrontation, and
that Obasanjo's pursuit of a Yoruba agenda was
detrimental. Ojukwu commented that "public posturing
does not solve problems" and stated that "we (Igbos)
have always complained about being ruled by the North,
but now we know it was infinitely better than
Â¶6. (C) Ambassador Jeter asked if Ojukwu did not
believe that the President would work harder this time
to make the 2007 elections better in order to ensure
his legacy. Ojukwu agreed that Obasanjo wanted a
legacy but questioned whether Obasanjo's legacy was to
ON THE WAY FORWARD
Â¶7. (C) Ojukwu identified Nigeria's three major
problems: 1) a crippled economy, 2) increased
corruption, and 3) an extremely agitated North. He
commented that he worries when the North is upset
because "they follow no middle ground;" for them it is
either acquiescence or an all-out fight. The
Federation is faulty, Ojukwu claimed and stressed that
Nigerians should not be over-emphasizing the divisions
that already exist, as Ojukwu believed Obasanjo is
doing. He said that Shari'a and Islamic
"fundamentalism" are on the rise because of the other
things going wrong. Instead of ignoring the problems,
Ojukwu suggested that Nigerians should discuss
specific limits and include them in the Constitution.
"Instead, we don't talk about the problems, especially
those related to Nigeria's unity," he averred.
Â¶8. (C) Ojukwu said that three weeks ago he advised
Obasanjo to tell Nigerians that the Presidency was
aware of the problems with the elections and assure
the public of the Government's support for democracy.
He proposed that Obasanjo call publicly for a National
Conference and make sure that no one tampers with its
decisions. He said Obasanjo should also clean up the
problems with INEC. Ojuwku said that the President's
first step should be to "sack the entire Commission"
and institute policies to improve the independence of
elections in Nigeria.
Â¶9. (C) As the meeting drew to a close, Ambassador
reminded Ojukwu that a cardinal principle of U.S.
policy on Nigeria was to maintain the country's
territorial integrity. That policy had not changed,
and we would oppose efforts, from any quarter, that
sought to fragment the country.
Â¶10. (C) Despite Ojukwu's claim of friendship with
Obasanjo, there is a history of enmity between them.
Ojukwu threw Nigeria into a costly, tragic civil war
that claimed at least a million lives and ended when
Biafra surrendered to the GON's commanding general,
Â¶11. (C) Obasanjo considers himself Nigeria's
foremost nationalist while he sees Ojukwu as Nigeria's
worst secessionist. If Ojukwu has somehow managed to
like Obasanjo, we doubt if that feeling is
reciprocated. Moreover, it is true that secessionist
embers die hard and still burn in Ojukwu's chest.
Nevertheless, his influence and popularity among the
Igbo are unassailable. For many, he symbolizes the
Igbo's unrequited aspirations for national leadership
in Nigeria or in a republic they can call their own.
Because of his special status, he helped attract
significant support to APGA in the April elections.
But for vote manipulation in the five Southeastern
states, APGA probably might have won numerous National
Assembly seats and 1 to 3 gubernatorial races (Enugu,
Anambra and Imo).
Â¶12. (C) The election also gave Ojukwu a new lease on
political life that he is exploiting with flare. He
has now added the sobriquet of "wronged Presidential
candidate" to his litany of perceived injustices by
the GON. Pointing to the legitimate flaws in the
election in the Southeast, Ojukwu is attempting to
stoke Igbo sentiment by publicly claiming Obasanjo's
election is illegitimate. He and other Igbo leaders
are also contemplating establishing a shadow
government, a move that will worsen his relations with
Abuja and likely alienate other parts of the country.
Â¶13. (C) Many of Ojukwu's moves and utterances are
bombastic. Yet much of it reflects genuine
frustration among the Igbo that the election results
were excessively tampered. Because the electoral
tribunals will overturn very few, if any, of the
Southeast races and because Obasanjo has dismissed the
idea of reaching a "political solution" with Igbo
moderates to allow APGA to reclaim some seats, many
Igbo politicians who otherwise would have kept their
distance have rallied around Ojukwu. Now the question
is will Ojukwu fizzle out in time or will he continue
to agitate. While widespread violence and unrest is
unlikely from this quarter, continued Ojukwu posturing
could keep political tension in the Southeast high.