Saturday, 10 September 2011

In the Wikileak Report General Abdulrahman Dambazau Stand Tall! Read full cable and Judge


Viewing cable 10ABUJA207, GON Chief of Army: Political Climate Dangerous, Politicians

U10ABUJA207 2010-02-25 12:39 2011-08-30 01:44 SECRET Embassy Abuja

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RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
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RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 0002
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RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 ABUJA 000207

SIPDIS
STATE FOR AF/FO, AF/W, AF/RSA, INR/AA
OSD FOR DASD HUDDLESTON
NSC FOR GAVIN
PARIS FOR POL (BAIN AND KANEDA)
LONDON FOR POL (PLORD)
ROME FOR AF WATCHER
ADDIS ABABA ALSO FOR AU
AMEMBASSY YAOUNDE PASS TO AMEMBASSY MALABO

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2020/02/25
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINS PINR MARR NI
SUBJECT: GON Chief of Army: Political Climate Dangerous, Politicians
Putting Stability at Risk

REF: ABUJA 181; CARSON-SANDERS FEB 24 TELECONS

CLASSIFIED BY: SandersRR, Amb, state, EXEC; REASON: 1.4(B), (D)

¶1. (S) Summary: Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Dambazau, concerned
about the current political environment in Nigeria, told the
Ambassador February 24 in a one-on-one session at a safe house in
Abuja, that he still considers Goodluck Jonathan the
Commander-in-Chief of Nigerian Armed Forces until such time as
there is another constitutional action or manifestation that
confers that authority back to ailing President Yar'Adua. He said
the armed forces were not alerted to the return of the President
until his aircraft had taken off already from Saudi Arabia. Up
until this point, Dambazau stressed he had not been worried about
stability, but admitted that Nigeria had entered a phase where
anything can happen. He is committed to watching out for any signs
of a coup or any involvements or subliminal efforts by politicians,
particularly from the North, to try to encourage such an action.
Dambazau said the most important thing to him was for Nigeria to
remain stable and that he would not sit back and allow the country
to become unstable, noting rule of law needs to prevail. He hoped
that the politicians would get their act together and put the
country back on track. For him, his hopes rest with the National
Assembly right now, notably the Senate, to try to find
constitutional and rule of law ways out of the mess. The COAS said
that it has been decades since he has seen the country polarized so
severely, particularly within the GON Cabinet (FEC), along ethnic
and region lines, and that the FEC was bankrupt in its ability to
provide any executive direction. The FEC was further divided into
two camps, Yar'Adua's and Jonathan's, but strictly for either
political or financial gain. In both cases, Yar'Adua and Jonathan
had allowed themselves to be "caged off" by people that do not have
the best interest of the nation at heart. He concluded that
Jonathan has an opportunity, but he is squandering it as he is
currying favor to special interest and its beginning to show. Asked
what could the USG do to help Nigeria at this delicate time, the
COAS said to tell Jonathan to be his own man; stop bowing to former
President Obasanjo as that makes everyone nervous; and, standup as
a national leader, not a regional one. Meanwhile an irate Chairman
of the Governors' Forum, Kwara Governor Saraki, called the
Ambassador midnight Feb 25 to complain fiercely about the USG's
February 24 statement on the political environment saying the USG
was not giving Nigeria a chance to work through the situation. Also
on February 24, the Senate passed the first stages toward a
constitutional amendment of sections 145 and 190 requiring
Presidents and Governors to transfer to their deputies in writing
after 14 days of being out of the country. End Summary.



¶2. (S) In a late evening February 24 meeting, Ambassador met with
Nigerian Chief of Staff of the Army (COAS) Abdulrahman Bello
Dambazau at a safe house on the outskirts of Abuja to discuss the
current political climate. Datt and RSO accompanied Ambassador but
Dambazau wanted only a one-on-one. The COAS made several key points
during the two hour session focused on the confusing leadership
situation, what he hopes will happen in the next 10-14 days, and
the importance of Nigeria remaining stable. Dambazau, who had met
with Assistant Secretary Carson on February 8 (ref A), said his
views had changed drastically since that time on the fragile
political environment. At that time he was not concerned with
stability; but, he is now. On the Presidential Guard being called
out to escort Yar'Adua from the airport, Dambazau said this was
appropriate and standard, as they are responsible for all
ceremonial activity concerning the President.

ABUJA 00000207 002 OF 004


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Who is in Charge: Yar'Adua or Jonathan?

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¶3. (S) In response to the question as to whom the COAS believes is
the Commander-in-Chief of Nigerian Armed Forces at this time,
Dambazau, a northerner said, Goodluck Jonathan. In the view of the
COAS, Jonathan holds that authority until such time as either the
National Assembly implements a constitutional action returning
authority to Yar'Adua, or there is some other manifestation that
shows the President is capable and has resumed his duties. Dambazau
said it was unfortunate that the entire Yar'Adua health situation
had not been handled well. There were a few people around the
ailing President who were manipulating the situation for both power
and money, he noted. The COAS highlighted that the "Katsina group"
around Yar'Adua has "caged" the President off and even before his
departure to Saudi Arabia more and more Yar'Adua was not being seen
as a national figure. It is unfortunate that Jonathan is beginning
to do the same thing. The people that Jonathan has around him now
are behaving just as badly as the Katsina clique, with Jonathan
handing out favors to his ethnic group, which the Army Chief sid
was not/not Ijaw. Dambazau said the Acting/Vice President comes
from the smallest ethnic minority in Bayelsa State, and that he is
beginning to behave like a "sectional," leader and less like a
national figure with national responsibilities. The COAS said he
has had several meetings with Jonathan and that he is a "simple man
who is easily influenced." He gave the example of the recent
transfer of naira 19 billion of GON funds to a Niger Delta
environmental project that was done at the end of a meeting that
Jonathan had with a group from his region. Dambazau said this was
done outside of the normal Cabinet decision-making process based on
a meeting he had had with his "kinsmen."

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What Can the USG Do to Help?

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¶4. (S) Ambassador asked the Chief of the Army if he had seen the
USG statement noting our concern about the uncertain political
environment, which she noted was tough and one of our high water
marks on the situation. She added that Nigeria cannot afford to
fail and that we wanted to ensure right from the beginning that
everyone understood this. Dambazau said yes he had seen it, and
thought it was tough, but understood our position. Ambassador
explained that she expected a significant amount of blow back from
some quarters of government, but it was important to put these
markers down now because we want Nigeria to do the right things
doing this transition period. Dambazau said that he hoped the USG
"would give Nigeria time" to find its footing. He was "counting on
the National Assembly, particularly the Senate," to find a way out
of the political morass. However, he added, that too may not
happen. Ambassador said that the USG would be watching the
political situation over the next 10-14 days very closely to see
who is doing what and where the center of power ends up. We have
strong concerns about the situation being manipulated by a "few
people around the President" issuing edicts in the name of the
President when he cannot make decisions for himself. How can
anyone trust any decision or statement coming out of the Villa, not
knowing if it is really from the President or a surrogate with

ABUJA 00000207 003 OF 004


malicious intentions? Dambazau agreed. Ambassador also noted her
concern about the very carefully worded February 24 press statement
from the Villa announcing Yar'Adua's return; not/not referring to
Jonathan as Acting President, but as the Vice President; and,
stating that Jonathan "would oversee the affairs of state," instead
of noting he still retained authority over government until the
President's health improved. She also added that Yar'Adua's wife,
Turai, was scheduled to have a meeting with Jonathan later the
evening of February 24 instead of Jonathan actually seeing the
President.



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Wither Jonathan?

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¶5. (S) On the Acting/Vice President Jonathan, the COAS said that he
was too easily influenced by others and that his biggest Achilles
heel and what most northerners were worried about was Jonathan's
relationship to former President Obasanjo (OBJ). Dambazau said OBJ
is "in and out of Aguda House, Jonathan's residence, several times
a day now, and it is making people uncomfortable, particularly in
the North." "One thing he must do is show people that he is his
own man." It appears to everyone now that whatever Jonathan is
saying is being orchestrated directly by Obasanjo. Ambassador
revealed that she had a request into see Jonathan for February 26,
but given the current political situation it was possible that the
meeting would be cancelled. However, if it was not, how useful did
Dambazau think it would be to put a marker down with Jonathan on
these issues, particularly stepping far away from Obasanjo; showing
leadership as a national figure, not a regional one; and, proving
he has decision-making independence? The COAS said he believed
that these were important messages for the USG to convey, and that
we should do so soon. Right now the country needs to not only have
faith in its leaders, but also believe that its leaders have the
best interest of the nation at heart.



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Stability

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¶6. (S) Dambazau highlighted that Nigeria's stability is at risk
now, and that this is one thing that senior generals like him could
not allow, noting that any military action would only be along the
lines of law and order. He added that the politicians really need
to find a solution soon. The COAS said that the Nigerian military
is not interested in running the country; this is not our role. We
have worked hard to professionalize, we are recognized for our
peacekeeping efforts around the world, and we believe in democracy
and civilian rule. Ambassador asked the COAS if he received an
order from the Villa to call out the troops or execute a military
action, how he would respond. Dambazau was clear. "There are only
three people that I take orders from, and this is clear in our
chain of authority and command," he said. They are: the Minister
of Defense, the Chief of Defense Staff, and the Commander-in-Chief
of the Armed Forces, who he considers at this time to be Jonathan.

ABUJA 00000207 004 OF 004


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Comment

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¶7. (S) Clearly the General is worried. This was a more pensive
Dambazau then just two weeks ago when USG officials met with him at
the CMR (ref A). He, like the USG, is closely watching the
political situation. He, also like the USG, hopes that unauthorized
and questionable edicts do not start coming from the Villa. The
Mission here has no expectation that Yar'Adua will ever physically
emerge in public or that he is in charge of his mental faculties.
We will also not believe any information coming out of the Villa.
Dambazau, although he thinks Jonathan is easily influenced and a
"simple man," still believes that he is in a position/position --
regardless of whether he carries the title of acting president or
vice president - to help steer the country out of the current mess.
However, in order to do that and gain respect, Jonathan must begin
to transform himself into a national figure, drop OBJ, and work
with the National Assembly, particularly the Senate to find
solutions in the best interest of Nigeria. The question is whether
Jonathan can and will do this. Ambassador plans to make the
"dropping OBJ issue" one of the center pieces of any conversation
she is able to have with Jonathan over the next couple of days. She
will also raise the importance of the Acting/Vice President to be
seen as a national, rather than regional figure. As per options
discussed in ref B, Mission looks forward to moving forward on
proposed future telecons between Jonathan and current and past USG
officials, and possible other high-level visits to continue to put
pressure on Nigerian politicians to get their act together; show
better leadership; and, do a better job of protecting the interest
of the Nigerian people and the nation. What we do not want because
of poor leadership is a Niger-like move where a military group
walks into the Nigerian Cabinet meeting and takes over.
SANDERS