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03ABUJA720 2003-04-18 14:36:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Abuja
Cable title:  

NIGERIA: POLICY CONSIDERATIONS IN THE

Tags:   PREL KCRM EFIN ECON PINS PTER PHUM PGOV NI 
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					C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 ABUJA 000720 

SIPDIS


CAIRO FOR POL - J. MAXSTADT


E.O. 12958: DECL:
TAGS: PREL KCRM EFIN ECON PINS PTER PHUM PGOV NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: POLICY CONSIDERATIONS IN THE
PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION


Classified by Ambassador Howard F. Jeter. Reasons
1.5 (b) and (d).




1. (C) Summary. The April 19 election will test the
tensile strength of Nigerian democracy and its
supporting institutions. While many will play
important roles in this national drama, the primary
antagonists are President Obasanjo and Muhammed
Buhari. Not only is this election a litmus test of
democratic consolidation in Nigeria, it also could
spell substantive policy differences on issues key to
the bilateral agenda. Obasanjo and Buhari differ on
economic reform, i.e. privatization, poverty
reduction, and working with the IFI's. Both would
fight corruption and drug-trafficking but their
priorities and approaches would be dissimilar. Both
would want to maintain our strong security assistance
relationship, but Obasanjo would be more aggressive.
Human rights might be better protected under the
President, and our anti-corruption efforts might bear
more fruit under Buhari. In the end, we could deal
effectively with either man; the bilateral
relationship would just vary in areas of accord and
disagreement. History suggests that Obasanjo,
however, would be more predictable and proactive in
seeking a good relationship. End Summary




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


DEMOCRACY


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






2. (C) Twice Nigeria has attempted a civilian-to-
civilian transition through elections; twice it has
failed. Each time a flawed electoral process was
followed by successful coups. The quality of the
April 19 Presidential election and its resultant
aftermath will determine if democracy has been
solidified or put in great peril. Right now, the
signs are not good; dark clouds are gathering,
portending a storm of controversy, with possible
unrest and violence in many areas of the country. The
possible saving grace this time is that there is no
sign the military is particularly interested in
executing a coup now or in the near future.




3. (C) The allegations of massive vote manipulation by
the opposition have cast a pall over the elections and
could bring into question the legitimacy of the winner
and his government. The opposition has alleged that
the fraud committed on April 12 exceeds the
malpractices of 1999 and harkens to the failed
elections of 1983. Compounding the historic
connection to 1983 is the fact that President Obasanjo
was the military leader who handed power to the
civilian government that conducted the 1883 elections;
Buhari was a military leader who engineered the coup
terminating that government.




4. (C) In an April 16 press statement, Buhari
explicitly drew the parallel to 1983, exhorting
supporters to take "mass action" if the Presidential
election repeated the systemic fraud that afflicted
the April 12 contests. (Comment: Buhari's call for
mass action was purposely vague as to exactly what
steps he will ask his followers to take in the
eventuality of another controversial vote count.
While vague, the threat was not veiled. Buhari
basically has told his followers to be ready to grind
the country to a halt if the election is manipulated.
End Comment.)




5. (C) Much of the criticism of the April 12 election
appears warranted; unfortunately, these irregularities
will likely reappear on April 19. There probably has
been significant vote manipulation in many areas.
Unlike 1999 when all three parties fixed the voting in
areas within their spheres of influence, most credible
allegations this time are being levied against the
ruling PDP. While 1999 may have been a "fair cheat",
this time the wrongdoing seems heavily dominated by
only one party, the PDP.




6. (C) The irregularities surrounding the elections
are too significant to ignore. We expect both
international and domestic observers to be critical.
We also have to be prepared to make a statement that
may not set comfortably with the putative winner,
Obasanjo. While we may not reach the point of calling
the entire outcome into question, any public USG
statement must point out the obvious deficiencies and
point fingers at those who were responsible. Given
the contested nature of the elections, we also must
call on the eventual victor to reach out to the
vanquished to strengthen an otherwise controversial
and defective mandate by keeping them involved in the
governance process in a meaningful, if informal, way.
A call for national consensus and unity on the way
forward has to be a part of our message.




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


ECONOMIC REFORM


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






7. (C) Overall, Obasanjo is more inclined to free
market, private sector oriented reform than Buhari.
Obasanjo's present term started promisingly, but
toward the end, the drive toward reform gave way to
backward steps toward protectionist tariffs. Whether
Obasanjo would be a plodding, imperfect reformer or a
dedicated one will be revealed by his political
appointments. If he returns many of the same Ministers
and senior officials, reform will be little more than
a shibboleth. Should he bring out the broom and sweep
his Cabinet to make room for a cadre of young
technocrats, meaningful reform has a chance. We would
also have to watch the behavior of Vice President
Atiku. Not only does Atiku promise to be actively
involved in the domestic agenda, he will try to steer
policy and decisions to maximize his electoral chances
in 2007. This could throttle reform, particularly in
the last half of the term. Atiku simply does not show
the same reformist impulse exhibited by Obasanjo.
Meanwhile, Buhari will be a perfect reformer; the
unfortunate thing is that at least some of his reforms
will likely be retrograde. He is at heart a statist
and wary of the free market and foreign investment. He
deplores the IFI's. However, he recently has exhibited
willingness to consider privatization's merits. While
Obasanjo is a dedicated micro-manager of economic and
other issues, Buhari is likely to delegate heavily,
and many of his advisors share his statist tendencies.




8. (C) Privatization: This has been one of Obasanjo's
accomplishments and he will likely accelerate the
pace. Conversely, Buhari believes that privatization
will surrender Nigeria's assets to predatory
foreigners and already affluent Nigerians who gained
their wealth dishonestly. For him, privatization is a
scam to make the rich guys richer. His policy would be
to retain many of the parastatals and make them work
better by instilling discipline, fighting corruption,
and making them more efficient. He would likely halt
the ongoing privatization of the national power
company, NEPA. The opportunity costs of keeping
inefficient, non-performing alive, would probably not
be apparent to Buhari, much less deter him.




9. (C) Relations with the IFIs: Obasanjo does not like
the IFIs but knows that he must work with them. If
elected, he would resume a formal arrangement with the
IMF, for example. On the other hand, Buhari had a
confrontational relationship with the IFIs as a
military leader and he is prepared to resume that same
dissonance as the elected Head of State.




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


CONFLICT RESOLUTION


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






10. (C) This is President Obasanjo's ken. During this
election period, he took a leave from active
leadership in West African and regional statesmanship,
except for intermittent forays into the Zimbabwean and
Ivoirien crises. Freed of the constraints imposed by
the elections, we would expect Obasanjo to resume a
high level of engagement; more importantly, we could
expect a good degree of cooperation and harmony of
views, with the exceptions of Zimbabwe and single-
country resolutions in international fora. We also
would expect Obasanjo to do more in Liberia, and exert
more pressure to bring Taylor made control. We could
even engage with him in ways of getting the rascal
out. Nigerian foreign policy would remain Africa-
centric, and Obasanjo would try to give a greater push
to West Africa integration. Buhari is not equally
interested in regional affairs. He has told us Nigeria
should not be involved in Cote d'Ivoire and he would
oppose sending peacekeepers. While Obasanjo hardly
needs a fillip, Buhari would have to be vigorously
courted to engage actively in regional affairs.




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


NEPAD


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






11. (C) This is Obasanjo's brainchild and he will
continue to be one of its prime movers, particularly
on the peer review mechanism. Buhari probably has no
affection for this endeavor. First, it bears
Obasanjo's stamp. Second, the no-nonsense, old-
fashioned Buhari would likely dismiss NEPAD as some
vague, pie-in-the-sky construct that will yield little
practical results. Relations with South Africa and
Senegal would progressively cool.




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


CORRUPTION


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






12. (C) Both men would fight corruption. Obasanjo
would continue to use the Anti-Corruption Commission
(ICPC) as his spearhead. However, his efforts will be
diluted if he retains many of his current Ministers
and advisors. If so, he risks losing the battle on
corruption to the extent that his second term might
become the Nigerian equivalent of President Grant's
venal second Administration during America's Gilded
Age. Buhari would likely initiate a no-holds-barred
battle against corruption. He would not rely on the
Anti-corruption Commission as presently constituted,
if at all. He would use existing bodies (such as the
Code of Conduct Bureau) and the police and other
security agencies more than the ICPC. There have been
frequent public allegations that Obasanjo and the
Presidency have used the ICPC as a political tool.
These allegations may be untrue, but they have damaged
the ICPC in the eyes of many in the opposition.




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


NARCOTICS TRAFFIC AND MIL-TO-MIL RELATIONS


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






13. (C) Both men would fight narcotics trafficking.
Judging by his past record, Buhari would be much more
aggressive than Obasanjo has been. He might beef up
the NOLEA and aggressively go after major traffickers.
More would be done to combat advance-fee and other "4-
1-9" fraud, and harsh penalties would be levied.
However, we would expect Buhari to be cool toward
extraditions. On military-to-military relations,
Buhari would be less aggressive in deepening ties to
Western states. More of Nigeria's resources would be
devoted to military preparedness. Buhari might be
more belligerent on Bakassi.




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


HUMAN RIGHTS


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






14. (C) Obasanjo has a relatively good human rights
record with the clear exception of the Zaki Biam and
Odi massacres. He has been good on the protection of
political and civil liberties. An Obasanjo
Administration will be expected to continue to improve
its human rights stand on most fronts. Buhari is an
unknown quantity. His past term as a military leader
was associated with numerous abuses such as draconian
prison sentences, executions, and media intolerance.
We do not expect him to be as ruthless as before but
he will likely be less sensitive to human rights
concerns than Obasanjo.




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


SHARI'A


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






15. (C) Obasanjo opposes strict Shari'a punishments.
He would like a test case to make it to federal court
so that the GON could participate in the deliberations
as a friend of the court. His objective would be a
ruling that declares harsh Shari'a punishments, such
as stoning sentences for adultery, unconstitutionally
cruel and unusual. While Buhari's supports Shari'a, we
do not know his stance on the application of
particular punishments like stoning. Most likely,
Buhari would rather not see a case advance to the
federal courts, out of concern that an adverse verdict
could basically gut Shari'a. Instead, he would
probably prefer that the states be left to handle
these affairs according to their individual Shari'a
codes. He might not object to the imposition of the
harshest sentences but discourage governors from
allowing them to be carried out. Unlike Obasanjo, he
would not "weep" for Nigeria if Shari'a sentences were
carried out. On the other hand, Buhari, unlike
Obasanjo, would have clout with Northern Governors and
religious leaders on the Shari'a issue, if he chose to
intervene.




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


COMMENT


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






16. (C) We know Obasanjo better than we know Buhari;
however, familiarity should not affect our objectivity
in analyzing the policies and our potential
relationship with either of the two men, one of whom
will be Nigeria's next President. Obasanjo is pro-
West and pro-America; however, we have had
difficulties and significant disagreements with him.
Buhari may not look to the West or America as much as
Obasanjo; but he has not been antagonistic. He
appears to want a good bilateral relationship and has
been accessible to American diplomats. However, the
relationship might show different areas of potential
cooperation and different areas of disagreement than
under Obasanjo. For instance, Obasanjo might be a
fellow traveler when it comes to regional conflict
resolution; Buhari may be exemplary against
corruption. During his previous incarnations as Head
of State, then President Zia was the first Head of
State received by Buhari in Nigeria. Buhari would
seek greater ties with the Muslim world, and would be
pro-Arab on issues dealing with the Middle East.
Differences of religion may become more prominent in
Nigerian politics, no matter the winner of the
Presidential race.




17. (C) In the end, Obasanjo may be more reformist on
more issues, but he is a flawed reformer who has thus
far lacked the necessary focus and political will to
prioritize and completely implement important
structural reforms. Conversely, Buhari has the
reputation of doing what he says he will do. Buhari
will be a person dedicated to making trains run on
time, in part, by running fewer of them. With either
leader, we would have to quickly engage with him after
the election to identify how we can best advance areas
of agreement and best manage our differences.
JETER