wikileaks ico  Home papers ico  Cables mirror and Afghan War Diary privacy policy Privacy
Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
02LAGOS76
2002-12-07 11:46:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Consulate Lagos
Cable title:  

SOUTHERN SECESSION UNLIKELY DESPITE TENSIONS

Tags:   ECON  NI  PBTS  PGOV  PHUM  PREF  PREL 
pdf how-to read a cable
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 04 LAGOS 000076 

SIPDIS


FOR REVIEW AND CLEARANCE BY BRIAN BROWNE


E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/08/2012
TAGS: ECON NI PBTS PGOV PHUM PREF PREL
SUBJECT: SOUTHERN SECESSION UNLIKELY DESPITE TENSIONS


REF: FBIS 071146Z DEC 02


Classified By: CONSUL GENERAL ROBYN HINSON-JONES. REASON: 1.5 (d).




1. (C) Summary. While electoral divisions are under growing
media scrutiny, most southern political analysts privately
acknowledge that fears of imminent secessionism are unfounded
at present. Though some disgruntled groups demand the
creation of their own state within the federation, most do
not call for complete severance. Issues reinforcing
political cohesion in the South include momentum towards a
national conference, interest over upcoming elections,
potential spoils of oil revenue, and the ICJ ruling on
Bakassi. Despite relative low risk at present, GON
sensitivity to any potential secessionist war may influence
decisions on domestic and foreign political issues. End
summary.




--------------------------


CURRENT SOUTHERN SECESSIONIST RUMBLINGS


--------------------------






2. (U) The latest secessionist threat was declared on
December 20, 2002 by Lagos-based lawyer Festus Keyamo, who
announced the creation of an "Unarmed Revolutionary Council"
to govern the "Future Republic of the Niger-Delta," complete
with flag, national anthem, and coat of arms. According to
press reports, Keyamo warned that the "future republic" would
emerge if Nigeria failed to convene a sovereign national
congress, engage "true fiscal and political federalism," and
enact the on-shore/off-shore abrogation bill. Keyamo hoped
the announcement would "raise the consciousness" of the
South-South's oil-producing states. The movement's slogan is
"This is a revolution, and it must succeed."




3. (U) Other well-known southern groups with secessionist
tendencies or platforms include the Movement for the
Sovereign State for Biafra (MASSOB), the Ijaw Youth Congress
(IYC), the Egbesu Supreme Council, and the Coalition of Oodua
Self-determine Groups (COSEG), which consists of the Oodua
Peoples Congress (OPC), Oodua Liberation Movement (OLM),
Oodua Youth Movement (OYM), Yoruba Revolutionary Movement
(YOREM), and the Federation of Yoruba Consciousness and
Culture (FYCC). These groups held a joint press conference
in September to decry the voter registration exercise, which
they charged was "tailored to favor the Hausa/Fulani North."
They publicly called for a UN plebiscite to determine
Nigeria's future, including the right to ethnic
self-determination and secession from the Federation. The
groups pledged to "fight together for each nationality to be
independent and build her own sovereign state, as an
independent member of the United Nations."




--------------------------


SECESSION NOT IMMINENT, FOR NOW


--------------------------






4. (C) Despite rancorous posturing from some quarters and
debate over the Miss World fiasco, individuals from major
southern ethnic groups refute their compatriots' claims to be
on the verge of secession. Though fearful the situation may
change, Patriots leader Rotimi Williams told Poloffs on
November 15 that Nigeria "is not at a critical stage yet.
This is the opportunity stage to prevent deterioration of the
country." As the head of a group of senior Nigerian
statesmen, Williams envisions that a worst-case scenario
could emerge whereby frustrated ethnic groups begin agitating
again for a "political breakaway," either through peaceful
negotiation or through war. Although Williams expects the
GON would "crush" any violent rebellion, the underlying
discontent "will come again" if frustrations are not
addressed.




5. (U) Nigeria's older generation remembers the root causes
of conflict that led to the Biafran War's outbreak, but the
South's younger generation mostly remembers the war's
terrible consequences. The idea of launching another civil
war repulses young professionals and workers from across the
South, many of whom were born during or survived childhood
through the war. Throughout the southern states, stories can
be heard about the severe economic hardship endured through
the war years and beyond. Many Southerners still recount
tragic fates suffered by family members who were killed
directly, by collateral violence, or through starvation.




6. (U) TRACES OF UNITY AMIDST ETHNIC DIVERSITY. Though
diminished since 1999, unifying forces of shared history and
political struggle against military rule hold meaning for
many Nigerians. Ardent pessimists of Nigeria's cohesion
concede that traditional ethnic groups today are weaving a
new pattern in the nation's political cloth. With near
consensus, the South sees the June 12, 1993 national election
as a major turning point, the effects of which continue to
reverberate. Legborsi Saro Pyagbara of the Movement for the
Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) calls June 12 a "true
water-shed day" in which the public "forgot about ethnic
differences" to condemn the election's annulment. Hundreds
of other analysts, pundits, poets and artists publicly share
his view.




--------------------------



--------------------------


FIX IT AND MAKE US PART OF IT, OR WE'LL ABANDON IT


--------------------------



--------------------------






7. (C) ON-GOING CALLS FOR A NATIONAL CONVENTION. Most
critics of the status quo focus on improving Nigeria's
legitimacy, threatening secession only as a last resort. The
two most frequent proposals to redress on-going southern
grievances are to hold a national convention and to
decentralize federal resource control. The most popular
incarnations of these ideas are the "sovereign" national
convention and the on-shore/off-shore abrogation bill. The
national conference proposal has been floated for years
without much forward momentum. NGOs regularly lobby and
educate key political figures on the potential benefits of
such an exercise, hoping to convince powerbrokers that one
could be held without negating entrenched interests.
Reformists and NGOs seeking long-term stability argue that
geopolitical groups must send their respective
representatives to forge a new social compact on unity and
the role of Nigerian government. Serious, divisive issues
impeding national cooperation must be discussed openly in a
forum to devise new rules about how differences will be
peaceably settled. The meaningful legitimacy of the current
constitution is dangerously low, they warn, as it is a
document inherited from military rulers.




8. (C) The South-South "in particular feels strongly that
areas have been neglected," Williams asserts. For this
reason, his Patriots group advocates restructuring the
constitution to eliminate the belief that "no one will ever
be president from the South-South" and that "unless one
belongs to the majority ethnic groups, one stands no chance
at all." To Williams, as long as Nigerian minority groups
feel they are treated as "second class citizens," a serious
threat to cohesion exists. He believes minority groups will
not even try to contest in a system that seems to guarantee
rule by groups historically dominating Nigerian politics.
Asked whether "zoning", the presidency according to
ethnicity does not encourage tribal divisions, Williams
disagreed. He argued that if society is to "mature" toward
equal opportunity devoid of ethnic opportunism, an
institutionalized power-sharing arrangement must be
implemented at least on a short-term basis.




9. (C) While some Nigerians fear a national convention would
re-ignite disgruntled groups' secessionist tendencies, others
argue such a meeting would diffuse underlying tensions and
initiate a productive way forward. The Committee for the
Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) claims that a national
convention will "raise Nigerians' adrenaline but not lead us
to kill ourselves." Had a convention been "called during the
military years, the Niger Delta would have called for
secession," CDHR posits. In today's civilian climate,
particularly with the Bakassi issue at present (paragraphs
11-12), a national conference is unlikely to fan the embers
of secessionism, they argue.




10. (C) Meanwhile, some groups are calling for the creation
of their own state within the federation. One of the groups
most disappointed by the nation's lack-luster performance in
meeting public needs is the Ogoni people of Rivers State.
The Ogoni believe they were martyred as a people for Nigerian
democracy, but many resent receiving so few dividends to
date. In meetings held during a recent fact-finding mission
by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR),
the National Commissioner for Refugees, and Poloffs, Ogoni
members asserted that their only hope was to have an Ogoni
state with its own resources administered according to their
own decisions (septel).




--------------------------



--------------------------


MUTUAL SECURITY AND FOREIGN INTRIGUE: WHAT IF . . . .


--------------------------



--------------------------






11. (C) BAKASSI AND THE LIMITS OF ETHNIC AUTONOMY. CDHR
thinks the October 10 ruling on Bakassi by the International
Court of Justice further diminished the South's impulse
towards secessionism by reminding it of its need for northern
military coverage. "Bakassi has reminded the South that we
live better together," remarked Belo Aideloje, Secretary
General of CDHR. Combining the regions together, "Nigeria is
seen as so mighty that no one (e.g. Cameroon) could stand up
to it." The "mutual need for security" has sparked a "spirit
of kith and kinship among communities of the South-South,
South-East, and South-West," claims CDHR. Therefore,
perceived mutual security needs has undercut ethnic
animosities, they conclude. "There is an overestimation of
the strength of ethnic groups. Each tribe knows its limits.
People are careful to not be pushed outside the tensile
strength of their own group," CDHR explains. Yet, it
concedes that these ties have not been as well developed
between the South and the North.




12. (C) Another source discounts the mutual security theory,
claiming Obasanjo's true agenda is in fact to replace
northern hegemony of the armed forces with diversified
officers at the lower ranks. Proceeding slowly, carefully
and quietly, avoiding media attention which would unravel the
whole endeavor, Obasanjo has progressed to the point that the
South no longer depends on the North for military support, he
argues. Nevertheless, CDHR asserts, the South still believes
military power is a northern product, a perception which
reinforces cohesion.




13. (C) COTE D'IVOIRE AND THE WEST. External observers
believe the GON's lingering memories of foreign roles in
secessionist disputes affects its present decision-making on
international affairs. Eusebe Hounsokou, Representative for
Nigeria of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees,
thinks GON is with-holding direct military aid to Cote
d'Ivoire because of a grudge held since civil war. Cote
d'Ivoire was reputedly an arms conduit to Biafran insurgents.
Should a similar conflict erupt here, many Nigerians ask
what foreign actors, including the United States, would do.
"When the critical time comes," Williams asserts, "I hope no
foreign government will encourage any group to breakaway. I
hope they instead will encourage the government in power not
to ignore the problem or crush (the rebels)."




--------------------------



--------------------------


RIVALRY FOR SCARCE RESOURCES: STEEP CHALLENGES AHEAD


--------------------------



--------------------------






14. (C) Many, if not most, analysts fear uneven resource
distribution and economic hardship are steadily corroding the
country's stability. Daily street scuffles across the South
have varied causes, but some relate to the question of
national unity. George Ehusani, Secretary General of the
Catholic Secretariat, blames most of the violence on poverty,
which impedes Nigeria's forming "a melting pot like the
United States." Given "impoverished conditions," he finds it
unsurprising that violence erupts with "people biting each
other." Competition over resources is often expressed as a
conflict between "indigenes" and "settlers," two concepts
whose precise definitions can differ wildly from one village
to the next. Ehusani sees most of Nigeria's current threats
to cohesion in these terms, including the complexities of
expanding Shari'a.




15. (C) Ehusani, who traveled to Kigali last fall, is
publishing his analysis of potential lessons Nigeria can
learn from the Rwandan genocide. He fears "ethnic
antipathies, combined with long-standing issues of perceived
or real injustice, mixed with severe economic depression"
could spark similar mass violence in Nigeria. While the
military regimes "suppressed genocidal sentiments," under
democracy, the situation now may be "boiling over."
"Disorganized violence," Ehusani argues, is manifest between
poor individuals. "If violence is organized by a Big Man,"
on the other hand, he fears it is used in Nigeria to
"manipulate the Small Man versus the Small Man to the gain of
the elite." He claims religious teachings of peace and
forgiveness are the main deterrents to all-out class warfare
and mass violence in Nigeria.




--------------------------


COMMENT


--------------------------






16. (C) Nigerian unity may prove more resilient than expected
from a cursory glance at the headlines on present violence
and political posturing. Following Ehusani's theory of
Nigerian conflict, one might ask what a "Big Man" might
expect to gain from an organized secessionist movement and
whether current political conditions make this strategy
attractive. At the moment, Southerners are asserting their
agendas tenaciously within the actual political framework and
appear willing to see what opportunities may be yielded by
upcoming elections. "Big Men" are busily seeking to maximize
their share in the present political arena; "Small Men" are
waiting to see what will happen next.




17. (C) Uncertainty about the elections' potential outcome is
generating excitement, nervousness, and speculation. Still,
the expectation that elections will indeed be held as
scheduled in April and May is surprisingly widespread in the
South. This expectation seems to be putting frustrations
over the slow pace of progress on hold, even as challengers
to incumbent officials engage rhetoric that is increasing
public attention to problems the government has left
unsolved. In some cases, anger over unresponsive government
is being channeled into determination that the next
government will be more responsive to their needs. Sincere
or not, opportunists will keep threatening to secede to mount
pressure on an otherwise unresponsive government.




18. (C) While the loudest commentators clamor for their
ethnic group's representation at the government's helm,
candidates who adopt popular issues in their platforms may
bolster Southerners' commitment to democracy and the nation.
Issues are not yet in vogue among politicians, but issues
such as infrastructure, health care, and employment have
nationwide relevance and popularity (septel). A few
forward-thinking politicians are testing the plausibility of
capitalizing on some issues' popularity for their political
ambitions. General Ibrahim Babangida, one of the savviest
politicians, recently condoned the possible utility of a
national conference (reftel). However contrived a
convention's outcome, the mere exercise would be highly
welcomed by many Southerners. Politicians also have yet to
exploit the positive nation-building sentiments related to
the June 12, 1993 events. How to seize the spirit of unity
engendered by the events without raising painful memories or
embarrassing past political actors remains problematic.
Creative and nation-minded leaders may find a way yet. End
comment.


HINSON-JONES