Viewing cable 03ABUJA1206

03ABUJA12062003-07-10 10:27:00 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.

101027Z Jul 03
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 
Classified by Ambassador Howard F. Jeter.  Reasons: 
1.5 (B & D). 
¶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 
¶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 
did not." 
¶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. 
¶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." 
¶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 
¶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 
seek immortality. 
¶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. 
¶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. 
¶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. 
¶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, 
¶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). 
¶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. 
¶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.