US embassy cable - 03LAGOS2354


Identifier: 03LAGOS2354
Wikileaks: View 03LAGOS2354 at
Origin: Consulate Lagos
Created: 2003-11-14 10:44:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

E.O. 12958: N/A 
 1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Consul General and POLOFF (notetaker) met 
with former Biafran President General Chief Chukwuemeka 
Odumegwu Ojukwu and his assistant Prince Bob J. Onyema on 10 
November.  Ojukwu has plans to travel to the US at the end of 
November.  Ojukwu discussed court cases contesting the 
results of the 2003 national election; the All Progressive 
Grand Alliance (APGA) party's consultations with the All 
Nigeria's People's Party (ANPP) and the 2007 presidential 
election; national reforms and economic development; Biafran 
independence groups; and politics of the South-South and 
South-East. END SUMMARY 
2. (SBU) "I oppose the presidency of Obasanjo, that is what I 
do generally," was his opening greeting to the CG when asked 
of his current activities.  Ojukwu speculated on pending 
court cases contesting gubernatorial elections, believing 
that the results could be overturned in APGA's favor in two 
states in the South-East and one in the South-South.  He 
commented that Governor Muhammadu Buhari's contest of the 
2003 presidential election "will take a long time" because 
there is "no capable judge or one who has the courage to 
pronounce" a decision against Obasanjo.  Ojukwu prophesied a 
two-year court battle, resulting in no "dramatic change." 
Ojukwu concluded by saying that the President's People's 
Democratic Party (PDP) "didn't do very well; they won, but 
they didn't do very well." 
3. (SBU) Ojukwu turned his attention to the 2007 presidential 
election.  He does not believe that Buhari and the ANPP will 
win the national election, but believes the party will 
consolidate its position in the North.  A "viable alliance" 
between the north's ANPP and the east's APGA might improve 
ANPP's chances and he stated that APGA is already "seeing 
what we can do."  Although Ojukwu said there are many things 
that the ANPP and APGA agree upon -- such as stamping out 
corruption -- he foresaw stumbling blocks in regards to 
economic development, and appointments based on quotas 
instead of merit.  Furthermore, Ojukwu does not believe there 
can be any compromise on Shari'a between the devoutly 
Catholic Igbos and northern Muslims and he questioned why 
Nigeria should be a member of the Organization of Islamic 
Countries (OIC).  On the economic front, Ojukwu said that the 
continued marginalization and slow to non-existent economic 
development in the Niger Delta and South-East would not be 
alleviated by the ANPP.  However, Ojukwu views the 
consultation between the ANPP and APGA positively and 
believes that continuous dialogue will improve conditions in 
the long run, despite their disagreements. 
4. (SBU) Other OPEC countries, Ojukwu explained, use oil 
revenues to build roads, but in Nigeria "we use oil to feed 
people - a policy that needs to be changed."  He argued that 
Arab nations do not need oil for foodstuffs because their 
populations are small.  Then he blamed the oil producing Arab 
states for making "corruption a way of life," presumably 
making a parallel to the chronic state of corruption in 
Nigeria, especially in regards to oil revenues.  The CG asked 
if the need for oil was exacerbated ecause Nigerians have 
left their former economic activities, such as agriculture, 
for jobs in the oil sector.  Ojukwu insisted that this 
development occurred before the oil boom, stating that 
Malaysia once used Nigeria as a model for its palm oil 
industry, of which Nigeria was a major exporter.  Now Nigeria 
imports palm oil from Malaysia.  The CG pointed to the vast 
plantations in Malaysia and questioned why Nigeria could not 
do the same.  Ojukwu likened the disparity to the lack of 
national identity in Nigeria.  Malaysia has "a polity with a 
sense of nationhood that we don't have," Ojukwu continued to 
explain.  Everything in Nigeria is destroyed, because 
Nigerians first think of their ethnicity and not of their 
country no matter how large or small the event is.  "Until we 
can find that polity, we will not progress.  We need a 
national conference to redesign Nigeria for Nigerians as 
opposed to a patchwork of Nigeria to suit British commercial 
interests.  We were handed Nigeria in that form and we are 
too shy to do something fundamentally different." 
5. (SBU) Ojukwu showed great optimism for Nigeria, believing 
it could become "the biggest and most dynamic country in 
black Africa, but first it must become a cohesive nation.  No 
one can do it for us, but ourselves."  He stressed the need 
for constitutional reform and decentralization, saying "it 
should be written into the constitution that there must be a 
constitutional review every five years.  If we don't, we are 
mortgaging the future of the next generation based on the 
ignorance of the previous one."  However, Ojukwu expressed 
sadness in the fact that any cause he were to champion would 
be colored by the Biafran War and perceived as a means to 
lead Biafrans again.  Nevertheless, Ojukwu concluded, "I am 
still alive.  I am still Nigerian and I will continue to make 
6. (SBU) When asked about Biafran independence groups, Ojukwu 
said that they represent mostly youths exercising freedom of 
expression.  He did not believe that they can succeed in the 
short-run and was not alarmed by their assertions.  He did, 
however, describe this movement as a reflection of the 
frustrations of the people in the region, highlighting the 
economic deprivation and unemployment that plagues the nation 
and the Igbos of the East.  "Even in democratic practice, we 
should learn to tolerate things unpleasant," Ojukwu opined. 
He recounted that in a meeting with President Obasanjo, 
Ojukwu could not denounce these groups as "they are Igbos and 
have some justifications."  He advised the President to 
listen to them and find ways to alleviate their problems. 
"It is a cry; and as a President you should do something to 
help them."  In the east, the most dangerous development is 
hunger.  Ojukwu observed that distended stomachs were 
becoming a common sight in the East and he worried that when 
properly enraged, these people may make the troubles in the 
Delta seem minor by comparison. 
7. (SBU) The Federal Government has long ignored the plights 
of Delta and Rivers States, Ojukwu explained.  He stressed 
the irony that the region that produces the nation's wealth 
does not reflect it and the people of the region "are doing 
nothing, not even agriculture."  He understood their 
frustration and expressed compassion for their condition. 
"No amount of troops will quell the political effort," he 
said in reference to the Nigerian military's Operation 
Restore Hope in Delta State.  "The side I find troublesome is 
the blackmailing of oil companies.  I don't support that 
transaction.  They should blackmail their own government" to 
do something about their problems rather than the companies 
that were easy targets.  Furthermore, Ojukwu regretted the 
practice because "success triggers" the trend.  There needs 
to be a long-term solution from the GON. 
8. (SBU) Ojukwu ended his discussion by focusing on the state 
politics of Anambra and the need for decentralization. 
(Background: Governor Chris Ngige, was kidnapped by the man 
who financed and rigged his election for not following 
through on back room promises some of which were made while 
the aspiring governor was naked.  The bizarre incident caused 
a state constitutional crisis and political brawl that 
attracted national attention.)  Embattled Governor Ngige 
apparently sought assistance from Ojukwu who chuckled when 
describing how he has been hiding so that no one will try to 
hand the troubles of Anambra over to him.  He described the 
situation in Anambra as tragic and shared the CG's amazement 
at how Anambra's crooked politicians brazenly operate with 
impunity.  "I told Ngige, as long as I have a picture of you 
naked, you're not fit to be a governor." 
9.  (SBU)  Anambra, in Ojukwu's opinion, reflects a core 
problem in Nigerian politics -- too much power rested in the 
Federal Government.  Ojukwu heavily advocated 
decentralization, saying that states only exist when based on 
constitutions that derive power from within the state, not 
from a "proclamation from the center."  He identified a first 
step as giving powers to the already existing zonal 
structures, or regional groupings of states.  In reflection, 
Ojukwu tied decentralization to his own political ghost of 
Biafra, believing that the GON's biggest but erroneous fear 
is that decentralization would reopen these old national 
wounds.  "That was not the reason for the war," he 
pronounced.  Ojukwu concluded that when politicians and 
individuals accept responsibility and address problems that 
need to be addressed, "Nigeria will stand as a beacon to the 
rest of Africa.  I want to tell the people who are living 
here now that we haven't arrived there yet, but we will." 
10. (SBU) Ojukwu was born November 4, 1933 in Zungeru, Niger 
State.  He received his primary and secondary education in 
Nigeria and a B.A. and M.A. in the United Kingdom, studying 
history at Epsom College, Lincoln College, and the University 
of Oxford and concluded his education in 1962.  He also 
received military training from the Eaton Hall Office Cadet 
School and Joint Services Staff College in the UK.  Ojukwu 
enlisted in the Nigerian Army in 1957 and was based in the 
North, rising to the rank of Colonel in 1962.  From 1966 to 
1967, Ojukwu was appointed Military Governor of the defunct 
Eastern Region.  In May 1967 he was proclaimed Head of State 
and Commander-In-Chief of the "Republic of Biafra" and was 
dismissed from the Nigerian Army in July of that year.  In 
1968 he was made General of the Biafran Army and held that 
position throughout the Biafran Civil War of 1967-1970.  In 
January 1970 he was granted political asylum in Cote d'Ivoire 
and did not return to Nigeria until his pardon on June 18, 
1982.  He holds the traditional titles of Ikemba Nnewi and 
Eze Igbo, is married, and maintains his address at 29 Queens 
Drive, Ikoyi, Lagos.  He has another residence in Enugu 
State.  He will travel on 29 November to Maryland with his 
wife where he receives regular medical treatment for his 
eyes.  He said that when in the US, he doesn't go out much 
and he is looking forward to staying in his hotel and reading 
his books.  Ojukwu does not often like to travel saying, "I 
have a thing about traveling out of Nigeria.  Ever since I 
returned from exile, I never felt comfortable leaving."  His 
wife, however, is a frequent traveler and often buys products 
for her beauty shop in Nigeria. 

Latest source of this page is cablebrowser-2, released 2011-10-04