US embassy cable - 01ABUJA1192

POTENTIAL FOR VIOLENCE IN KANO RISING

Identifier: 01ABUJA1192
Wikileaks: View 01ABUJA1192 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Abuja
Created: 2001-05-22 13:44:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PINS PGOV PHUM NI
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.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ABUJA 001192 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
OFFICIAL INFORMAL 
 
 
FOR KFITZGIBBON 
 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/22/2006 
TAGS: PINS, PGOV, PHUM, NI 
SUBJECT: POTENTIAL FOR VIOLENCE IN KANO RISING 
 
 
REF: A) ABUJA B) ABUJA 0762 C) ABUJA 1644 D) ABUJA 1635 
 
 
Classified by DCM Tim Andrews for reasons 1.5 (b) and (d). 
 
 
 1. (U)  Summary:  In a series of meetings held in Kano May 
10-12, Government officials, religious leaders, academics and 
journalists repeatedly stressed to Poloff the "dangerous" 
level of tension between Kano's Hausa-Fulani and large 
immigrant Igbo and Yoruba population.  Communal relations 
there appear to have deteriorated since the Ambassador's 
visit in March, largely because of the continued perception 
among Kano's Hausa majority that Lagos State Government is 
unwilling to prosecute OPC members responsible for the 
killing of Hausas in the Ajegunle incident last October (Ref. 
C).  The activities of Shari'a vigilante groups have also 
increased apprehension among 
Southerners.  Leaders on all sides are concerned, and are 
warning of the potential for a bloody inter-ethnic conflict 
in the city if something is not done to lesson the tension. 
The Obasanjo Administration's reluctance to go beyond 
immediate intervention in times of crisis has not helped to 
alleviate those concerns.  If the Lagos and Kano Governors do 
not begin to coordinate their efforts, and take at least some 
steps towards reconciliation, another round of violence may 
be difficult to avoid.  End Summary. 
 
 
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Storm Clouds 
------------ 
 
 
2. (C)  The Chairman of the Kano chapter of the Christian 
Association of Nigeria, Reverend G.A. Ojo, is pastor of the 
First Baptist Church, the largest Yoruba church in Kano. Ojo 
said that his church was being reduced to an all-male 
membership, as the Yoruba in Kano were sending their families 
back South.  He said that tensions between Kano's Hausa 
majority and its Southern population had risen 
"significantly."  Ojo praised the efforts of Governor 
Kwankwaso, the Emir of Kano, the police and Muslim religious 
leaders for preventing reprisals by Kano's Hausa against 
their Yoruba neighbors following the Ajegunle incident last 
October, in which hundreds of Hausas--largely from Kano--were 
killed in a Lagos suburb. 
 
 
3. (C)  Ojo said that Kano's long-resident Southern minority, 
which numbers in the range of half a million people, was very 
aware of the historical ebb and flow of inter-ethnic violence 
in Kano.  That collective memory extends to the pogrom 
against Igbos in Kano in 1966--itself a reaction to the coup 
attempt in which mostly Igbo officers killed Northern Premier 
Sir Ahmadu Bello, Premier Tafawa Balewa and other Nigerian 
leaders.  By some estimates, up to 30,000 thousands Igbo and 
Yoruba were thought to have been killed in that incident, 
which was a major precipitating factor in the Biafran 
secession.  Ojo commented that "everyone" was aware that 
tensions were particularly high at the moment, and that any 
of several incidents--in Kano or Lagos--could spark a major 
episode of inter-ethnic violence.  Ojo added that the Igbos 
in Sabon Gari were all armed, and implied that the Yorubas 
were as well.  He said that a direct attack against Sabon 
Gari--a densely-populated rectangular enclave approximately 
2.5 by one kilometers--would be unlikely because it is 
essentially an "armed camp."  Ojo predicted that the violence 
would probably be focused on the substantial number of Igbo 
and Yoruba living elsewhere in the city. 
 
 
4. (C)  Ojo asserted that while the Shari'a issue in Kano did 
not help matters, Christian leaders had confidence in the 
Government's intentions not to allow Shari'a to affect their 
population.  Their primary concern, he said, was with crime 
and mob violence.  He added that an action by Shari'a 
enforcers, for example, could provide an opportunity for 
Kano's "Yandabas" (gangs of criminally inclined, unemployed 
youth) to set off unrest in order to begin looting.  Ojo said 
that Kano's Hausas were "furious" over the failure of Lagos 
State to prosecute Frederic Fashehun (leader of the OPC) and 
other OPC members for their perceived involvement in the 
Ajegunle incident.  He complained bitterly about the actions 
of the OPC in Lagos and Lagos State Governor Bola Tinubu: 
"Either they do not know that what they do puts us at risk, 
or they do not care.  But we have no control over them.  We 
can only sit and wait." 
 
 
------------------- 
The National Police 
------------------- 
 
 
5. (C)  Deputy Commissioner of Police, Emmanuel Ezozue, an 
Igbo, confirmed that Kano's security situation had become 
"dangerous."  He said that preventing reprisal violence after 
Ajegunle was a significant accomplishment, but added that 
anger in the Hausa community over that incident had not 
dissipated in the intervening seven months.  If anything, he 
said, it was increasing because of a perceived lack of 
justice in Lagos and the severely depressed economy in Kano. 
Ezozue said, "My own brother left Kano for Abuja.  It's just 
too dangerous."  Asked whether Kano's police would be able to 
stop the unrest feared by many, the Deputy Commissioner said 
flatly, "No.  There are too many of them, and not enough 
police." 
 
 
------------ 
The Governor 
------------ 
 
 
6. (C)  Governor Kwankwaso discussed at length the recent 
Hisbah enforcement action against hotels that continue to 
serve alchohol in the State (Ref. A).  He said that while he 
had arrested those involved in the burning of the Igbo-owned 
Henzina Hotel, he could not try them at this point because of 
the potential reaction by Shari'a supporters.  Kwankwaso said 
that Kano's Hausa majority, independent of the Shari'a 
question, continued to be outraged by the failure to 
prosecute any of the organizers or perpetrators of the 
violence in Ajegunle.  He was especially critical of Lagos 
Governor Bola Tinubu: "The man should have kept Fashehun 
under house arrest in his hotel, a house, anywhere, for six 
months so people up here would calm down.  Letting him go 
after one week did not help me manage the situation here." 
 
 
7. (C)  Kwankwaso said that he had requested but not received 
any help from the Obasanjo Administration on how to handle 
the increasingly precarious security situation in Kano.  In 
the immediate aftermath of the Ajegunle violence, delegations 
sent by the Federal Government fanned out across the 
nation--including Kano--to preach peace and restraint. 
Clearly frustrated with the lack of current support from 
Abuja in addressing the causes of the violence, Kwankwaso 
declaimed: "Kano is the most difficult city in Nigeria to 
manage!  It is the second largest in the country, and most of 
its people are poor, even by our standards.  Lagos has 
bankers, lawyers, a middle class, in addition to its poor.  I 
have a few rich Alhajis--the rest are nail clippers and 
people selling sugar-cane on the streets."  Acknowledging the 
economic roots of recurring unrest in Kano, Kwankwaso added, 
"A hungry man is an angry man.  And many people in Kano are 
hungry."  (Note: Violent crime in Lagos is much worse, viewed 
in per capita terms, than Kano, so the Governor's assertion 
is not entirely accurate.  End Note.) 
 
 
8. (C)  Kwankwaso re-iterated that many of Kano's poor Hausas 
were focusing much of their anger on the perceived injustice 
against their kinsmen in the Ajegunle incident and its 
aftermath.  He said that immediate revenge would have 
dissipated the collective anger generated by that incident. 
Kwankwaso added that he had been only half successful in 
preventing a recurrence of violence: while reprisals for 
Ajegunle were averted, the anger it generated remains. 
According to Kwankwaso, the desire for vengeance appeared to 
be growing. 
 
 
9. (C)  Consul General Lagos has reported to us that the 
commission convened to study the causes of the Ajegunle riots 
is nearing the completion of its report.  It appears that the 
Commission may adopt the conspiracy theory that the violence 
was instigated by a prominent Northerner to de-stabilize the 
country, and therefor conclude that the Hausas in the 
Ajegunle market riot started the violence and essentially 
provoked the conflict that led to their own deaths.  While it 
is difficult to determine with absolute certainty all that 
happened in Ajegunle, as far as Northerners are concerned, 
the bare facts of the incident speak for themselves: a large 
number of the non-indigene Hausa minority were killed by a 
majority population of Southerners, which suggests the 
simpler explanation of bitter, long-standing grievances 
boiling over, as they often do in Nigeria, with the minority 
ethnic group taking the lion's share of the casualties.  Not 
surprisingly, Hausas and Yorubas have divergent perspectives 
on those events, and on the Odu'a Peoples' Congress (OPC), 
that are not easily reconciled.  The OPC appears to be viewed 
by Lagos State government as a legitimate civilian cultural 
and law enforcement organization, whose responses can be 
sometimes excessive.  It is generally viewed in the North as 
a criminal, para-military organization that enjoys the tacit 
support of Governor Tinubu and his Attorney General, and took 
the lead in the unrest that resulted in the deaths of 
hundreds of Hausas. 
 
 
10. (C)  Acting in the ad-hoc manner of previous heads of 
state, President Obasanjo is reluctant to address this 
situation beyond traditional responses to immediate 
violence--police and army repression.  He risks alienating 
what Yoruba base he has if he aggressively pursues the OPC. 
He is already viewed by much of the Northern leadership as 
having "gone ethnic."  In the eyes of Northerners, neither 
Minister of Justice Bola Ige nor Governor Tinubu appear 
interested in prosecuting criminal acts by OPC members 
either. Although there are many Northerners serving in the 
Obasanjo Administration, including senior conservatives who 
remain loyal to his government, many other Hausas believe 
that President Obasanjo is representing Yoruba--rather than 
national--interests.  Barring intervention by the Executive, 
the problem is left to the Governors, the police, and--if 
there is a truly serious outbreak of inter-communal 
violence--the military to solve. 
 
 
 
 
11.  Comment: Truth can remain highly elusive in any 
discussion across ethnic lines about seminal historical 
events in Nigeria.  Each of the three major ethnic groups 
tailors--or invents--facts to support its own long-standing 
story of victimization by the others, which usually and 
conveniently elides over that group's role as victimizer. 
These stories color even the most basic perceptions, and 
provide the rationale for occasionally devastating violence 
against members of the perceived "aggressor" ethnic group, 
thereby creating new victims ad nauseam.  Rightly or wrongly, 
Kano's Hausas believe that their people were victimized by 
the OPC in Lagos, and that both the Lagos State and Federal 
Governments have failed to arrest and to prosecute the 
perpetrators.  By all accounts, due to poverty, prejudice, 
familial ties and anger at perceived injustice, many Hausas 
in Kano appear poised to seek vengeance against their Yoruba 
neighbors with fairly slight provocation.  Once violence of 
that nature commences, regardless of the justification, the 
Igbos are usually also attacked.  This is partly because they 
are Southerners, but primarily because their homes and 
businesses are targets of opportunity for looting by 
participants in the violence. 
 
 
12.  Comment Continued.:  There has been limited contact 
between Governors Tinubu and Kwankwaso, while the Mission 
maintains close ties with both.  Encouraging co-operation on 
calming ethnic tensions is one option for the USG to pursue. 
At the least, Governor Tinubu should be made aware that 
releasing an inflammatory report on the Ajegunle incident in 
Lagos will not enhance the security of his ethnic kinsmen in 
Kano, to say the least.  A visit to Kano by the Governor or 
other Lagos officials to express regret for the loss of life 
at Ajegunle--similar to Gov. Makarfis' "tour" of the 
East--might be helpful in defusing some of the tension. 
USAID is currently planning conflict-resolution programs 
which may be of use, if their resources could be partly spent 
on a public education campaign via radio for the largely, 
illiterate Northern population. We will continue to sound 
opinion amongst Nigerian security personnel, including NSA 
Aliyu Mohammed, to guage their own level of concern, and to 
express our misgivings about the security situation in Kano. 
End Comment. 
Andrews 

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