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2005-09-24 13:48:00
Consulate Lagos
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

241348Z Sep 05
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 LAGOS 001480 



E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/13/2015

Classified By: Consul General Brian L. Browne for Reason 1.4 (D)

1. (C) Summary: In an August conversation with the Consul
General, Minister of Solid Minerals Oby Ezekwesili stressed
the President will step down in 2007. Despite urging from
several quarters to prolong his tenure, Obasanjo wants to
make room for a reformer from the next generation of Nigerian
politicians. Obasanjo vehemently opposed the presidential
aspirations of former head of state Babangida, Vice President
Atiku and former Lagos military governor Marwa, said
Ezekwesili, a member of Obasanjo's inner circle of economics
reformers. To off-balance his enemies, to keep his allies on
his side for as long as possible, and to prevent himself from
being deemed a lameduck, Obasanjo will not reveal his true
intentions (retirement) until the eleventh hour, Ezekwesili
forecasted. End summary.



2. (C) During a late August conversation, Solid Minerals
Minister Oby Ezekwesili told the Consul General that
President Obasanjo was under tremendous pressure to remain in
office beyond 2007. In addition to the political hacks and
presidential courtiers who flock to Aso Villa, Obasanjo was
being pressed by some respected voices inside and outside
Nigeria. These voices were hard for Obasanjo to ignore,
Ezekwesili maintained. Most of Nigeria's leading businessmen
have privately asked Obasanjo to continue in office. Many
African leaders have also given private counsel that he
should stay for the good of the continent. (Comment:
Ezekwesili acknowledged that some leaders who wanted Obasanjo
to remain were acting in their own benighted self-interest.
Many of the leaders want to remain in power themselves.
Should Obasanjo extend his tenure, it would make it
fashionable for them to do the same. Something similar can
be said of Obasanjo's support among Nigerian business
leaders. The administration has been good to certain key
businesspeople and they to it. Predictably, these business
figures would like to continue this profitable relationship.
End comment.)

3. (C) Nevertheless, Ezekwesili said President Obasanjo
would step aside for a like-minded reformer of the next
generation of Nigerian politicians. Ezekwesili, a close and
staunch supporter of the President, said she has discussed
the issue with the President several times. During each
discussion, his focus has been on protecting his legacy as a
democratic reformer. The only way to do this was to
relinquish power in 2007. While in the short term the
benefits to remaining are clearly apparent, Obasanjo feared
that tinkering with the constitution could do long-term harm
by setting a precedent that could allow a truly ruthless

individual to perpetuate himself in power. Conversely, the
problems with leaving office in 2007 were manifold; much work
needed to be done on many fronts to ensure democracy takes
firm root. The most obvious problem was the identification
of a successor. Obasanjo thought it time to close the book
on his generation, with his administration being the final
chapter for a generation that has ruled and more often
misruled Nigeria for over roughly 30 years, Ezekwesili opined.

4. (C) Ezekwesili stressed that Obasanjo recoiled from the
notion of Vice President Atiku, former Head of State
Babangida or former Lagos Governor Marwa succeeding him.
Leaving Nigeria in the hands of one of these three, who
currently are the PDP's leading candidates, was a prospect
that tormented the President. Ezekwesili declared, "Never,
never, never!" to the idea of one of this trio ascending to
the presidency. Ezekwesili stressed Obasanjo was seriously
ruminating about the question of his successor. She thought
the President would suffer the public speculation and
suspicion that he wants to remain in power after 2007. The
most important thing for the President was getting the
succession right. If he had to endure bad press and comments
in the interim, Obasanjo was willing to do so, she asserted.

5. (C) She indicated Obasanjo was viewing several governors
as well as a few current ministers as potential successors.
Ezekwesili predicted Obasanjo would tarry until the last
moment before he publicly committed to a successor. This way
he would keep the Babangidas and Atikus on their haunches -
they could not make a decision until he did. They must then
temporize. Also, it would keep his genuine as well as
convenient allies in line. Until he anointed someone, all
factions that sought his blessings would continue to curry
his favor by acting according to his aims. Once he
identified his favorite, some of the losers might become
active dissidents, reasoned Ezekwesili.

6. (C) Comment: Ezekwesili is very close to and fond of the
President. Thus, she sees him as many Nigerians do not and
she gives the most charitable explanations to his actions,
again, a predilection many Nigerians do not share. Yet, we
believe she has honestly recounted her discussions with
Obasanjo. He probably has told her he will leave. However,
he has probably told advisors of a less principled mold than
Ezekwesili that he is inclined to renew his lease on Aso
Villa. This may be part of a deliberate tack by Obasanjo to
keep everyone guessing or it could be the action of a usually
decisive man caught on the horns of one of his life's and his
nation's greatest dilemmas. End comment.

7. (U) This cable has been cleared by Embassy Abuja.