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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
05LAGOS838 2005-06-02 15:16:00 SECRET Consulate Lagos
Cable title:  

NIGERIA: IJAWS -- WHO ARE THEY AND WHY THEY MATTER

Tags:   PGOV PREL NI PTER ENRG 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
					  S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 05 LAGOS 000838 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/02/2015
TAGS: PGOV PREL NI PTER ENRG
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: IJAWS -- WHO ARE THEY AND WHY THEY MATTER

REF: A. 04 ABUJA 1715

B. LAGOS 605

C. LAGOS 507

D. LAGOS 276

Classified By: Consul General Brian L. Browne per 1.4 b and d



1. (SBU) Summary: Ijaws are the largest ethnic group in the
volatile, oil-laden Niger Delta. As such, Ijaws view
themselves as the legitimate stewards of the region's vast
resources. Though united in the desire for "resource
control," Ijaw leaders differ over how to attain that goal.
These tactical differences are made more dissonant by
clashing personal ambitions and competitive power seeking
among the diffuse Ijaw leaders.



2. (SBU) Politicians and Traditional rulers believe elected
office the best vehicle for advancing Ijaw interests and have
set their sights on the vice-presidency in 2007. Ijaw civil
society groups advocate civic action and protest (sometimes
violent) as the means to greater political participation and
fiscal federalism. Militias such as Dokubo Asari's Niger
Delta People's Volunteer Force (NDPVF) opt for violence and
intimidation. By cloaking themselves in nationalistic
ideology, militias draw from a wellspring of Ijaw discontent,
inspiring adherents and admirers, while frightening their
elder kith.



3. (C) Bayelsa State Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha is the
most prominent Ijaw. Yet he is far from being a dominant
figure. Moreover, the youth leaders seem to inspire more
support than the older traditional rulers and elected
officials. Among the youth, there is a discernable trend
toward a more militant nationalism, speckled with violence,
and rhetorical hints of separation. Unless the Delta sees
more economic and political development, this militant trend
will continue. Moreover, it could undermine US interests in
the Delta and the overall stability of this important tract
of Nigeria's real estate. End Summary and Comment.



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


IJAWS -- THE VICE PRESIDENTIAL HOPE


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





4. (SBU) As the largest ethnic group in the Niger Delta and
the fourth largest ethnic group in Nigeria, Ijaws believe
they have been under represented in national politics. More
than ever, they are clamoring to cure this perceived slight.
Those Ijaws operating within the mainstream political
framework have set their sights on controlling the
south-south geopolitical zone and through this vehicle,
placing one of their own in the vice presidency in 2007,
preferably within the PDP. A second goal is to occupy the
gubernatorial seats in Bayelsa, Rivers, and possibly Delta
states.



5. (C) Bayelsa Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, an
archetypal "big man" politician is the most likely VP
candidate among the Ijaws (ref C). Alamieyeseigha is the sole
Ijaw governor and serves as "godfather" to many Ijaw
traditional chiefs and junior politicians. The presidents of
the umbrella Ijaw civil society groups, the Ijaw National
Congress (INC) and the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), are also
beholden to him. Alamieyeseigha has Bayelsa's treasury at his
disposal. In the last four years, federal oil allocations to
Bayelsa state totaled over 100 billion Naira or roughly 800
million dollars. Though widely acknowledged as a spendthrift
who blurs the line between official and personal outlays,
Alamieyeseigha gets credit for implementing some development
projects in Bayelsa, namely roads, health care facilities,
and a fledgling university. Recent press reports intimate the
ICPC or EFCC may investigate the governor. For now
Alamieyeseigha's camp is nonplussed telling us, they have
"nothing to hide."



6. (C) The governor is relatively popular among Ijaws. He
has gained support from his public advocacy for increased
political representation, fiscal federalism, and the desire
for state jurisdiction over the politic service. Ijaws have
also appreciated his "hands-on" personal involvement in
containing community violence. Of course, Alamieyeigha's
lavish patronage helps buttress this popular support.



7. (C) The governor had hitched himself tightly to current
Vice President Atiku Abubakar. While still close,
Alamieyeseigha has drawn some distance between him and the
Vice President as the VP's fortunes in the PDP diminish as a
result of his cold war with President Obasanjo. To win the VP
nod for 2007, Alamieyeseigha realizes he will need northern
support. Thus he has launched a conscious campaign to win the
favor of key northern power-brokers and elites. Given
Alamieyeseigha's ample financial resources and the importance
of the Niger Delta, former head of state Babangida has also
sent feelers to the governor about possibly joining his
presidential ticket in 2007, according to a Babangida insider.



8. (Comment: An Ijaw VP (Alamieyeseigha or otherwise) would
presumably advocate the Federal government give oil-producing
states more than the 13% of oil revenues currently allocated.
The success of such an effort is uncertain. However, in any
event, an Ijaw vice president would be able to dispense
considerable patronage to loyal subjects. His elevation would
help quiet the lament that the Niger Delta has been Nigeria's
financial lifeline, but "its sons" have yet to ascend to the
senior ranks of national political office. If an Ijaw does
not become vice-president in 2007, most contacts predict
these mainstream adherents will not abandon electoral
politics. They will just sharpen their plans for 2011. End
Comment)



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



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


IJAWS FOR GOVERNOR AND OTHER INFLUENTIAL POLITICIANS


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



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





9. (C) With financial and street muscle behind him, Dr.
Abiye Sekibo, current Federal Minister of Transportation, is
the apparent front-runner to succeed Peter Odili as Governor
of Rivers State. Sekibo, an Ijaw from Okrika, Rivers State,
is widely acknowledged as having armed and helped finance
Ateke Tom's NDVG, in order to "carry" the 2003 elections for
Rivers Governor Peter Odili and the ruling People's
Democratic Party (PDP). Sekibo reportedly continues to fund
the NDVG and to play a key role in stoking conflict between
rival militias as he prepares for his gubernatorial run in


2007. Although a leading candidate, Sekibo is divisive and
could further fragment Ijaw politics in Rivers State.



10. (C) Sekibo's archrival is Chief Rufus Ada George--also
from Okrika. George was Rivers Governor between 1990 and


1992. George is a prominent chieftain within the All
Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) and many identify him as having
helped launch Dokubu Asari's NDPVF as a counterweight to the
NDVG. Some contacts speculate that if IBB is in the market
for an Ijaw vice presidential running mate, he will seriously
consider his "former man" George.



11. (C) The executive director of Finance and Administration
for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Timi
Alaibe, occupies an enviable seat. Alaibe lost the 2003
Bayelsa gubernatorial race. Alaibe reportedly is tied to
numerous armed gangs and cults in Bayelsa. Alaibe will run
for governor again in 2007 and may win this time. However, he
will have rough sledding if Alamieyeseigha does not endorse
him. Alamieyseigha is no fan of Alaibe and he would probably
prefer his deputy, Jonathan Goodluck, succceed him. However,
the need to win the favor of players who will help him in his
vice presidential quest, may force Alamieyeseigha away from
anointing Goodluck. In any event, Bayelsa will continue to
have an Ijaw governor. If the Ijaws do not get the VP slot,
that individual may remain the highest-level elected Ijaw
elected politician.



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


SECOND TIER - POLITICAL LIGHTS


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





12. (SBU/NF) Other influential Ijaw political figures
include: Prince Uche Secondus, Chairman of the PDP in Rivers
State; Chief Albert Horsfall, founding Director General of
both the Nigeria Intelligence Agency and the State Security
Service (SSS); and Chief Lulu Briggs, who unsuccessfully
contested the 2003 gubernatorial elections in Rivers, but
remains active in politics. Sekibo, Secondus, Horsfall, and
Briggs are members of Odili's kitchen cabinet and buy,
coerce, or otherwise help manipulate Ijaw "support" for
Odili, an Igbo. The Ijaw technocrat roster includes
Presidential Adviser for Petroleum Matters, Dr. Dakuro and
the Federal Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Isoun,
neither of whom are politically ambitious.



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


MILITIA GROUPS -- THE CNN CALIBER


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





13. (SBU/NF) The three major militias operating in the
Niger Delta are Dokkubo Asari's Niger Delta People's
Volunteer Force (NDPVF), Ateke Tom's Niger Delta Vigilante
Group (NDVG), and Oboko Bello's Federal Niger Delta Ijaw
Community (FINDIC). Contacts tell us there are dozens of
smaller, localized armed Ijaw coalitions, whose members
periodically contract to work for these larger militias.
Neither the large nor small militias have strong command
structures and members may only drift together for specific
actions. Regarding the smaller formations, many do not even
have a moniker. However, fealty to these local, smaller
groups is much more robust than to the larger militias (Ref
B). Moreover, these smaller groups are often very
well-armed, having fewer members to dissipate finite
resources.



14. (SBU/NF) Dokubo Asari and Ateke Tom became household
names in Nigeria in the fall of 2004 after fighting between
their rival miitias crippled the capital of Rivers State,
Port Harcourt. Dozens were killed and hundreds displaced.
Numerous threats were made against oil installations, causing
some disruptions in operations and temporary evacuations of
staff. In the end, the presidency invited the two groups for
disucssions in Abuja. A peace agreement, which called for
demobilization, an arms buy-back program, and social
reintegrationi programs, was the end-product of these talks
(refs A and B).



15. (S/NF) Asari now is under pressure from his own militia
members and from the larger Ijaw community who applauded his
firebrand ideology and brazen tactics. Many perceive him as
having "sold-out" during his meetings with the presidency.
Most ordinary Ijaw citizens do not believe the "peace
agreement" advanced their fundamental issues. In addition,
Asari's lieutenants are bitter because they say the never saw
the financial proceeds from the disarming/demobilizing
program. In May, a group of disenchanted members announced
they were leaving NDPVF to create their own organization.
(Comment: RAO sources say Rivers Governor Odili has
recruited one of these splinter leaders as a counterweight to
Asari. The source claims the governor is currently arming
this new group. See TD 31412070505 for more details.) Ateke
Tom, who unlike Asairi, remained largely under the control of
his political progenitors, has kept a relatively low profile
since fall 2004. However, this group remains well armed and
poised to intervene in the upcoming 2007 elections.



16. (C) FINDIC, based in Delta state, is lead by Oboko
Bello, who acts as spokesperson and political figurehead and
Government Ekpomupolo (widely referred to by his first name),
who serves as military leader. While FINDIC appears to
concentrate more on oil bunkering than do the NDPVF and NDVG,
this is not their only focus. The group is also involved in
the inter-ethnic-Ijaw/Itsekeri-disputes in Warri. FINDIC
spouts the strongest version of Ijaw nationalism and the
perceived right to resource control.



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


THE SAMALLER MILITIAS/GANGS


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





17. (SBU/NF) The dozens of smaller armed groups dispersed
throughout Delta, Rivers and Bayelsa states represent
amorphous collections of individuals who band together for
specific actions, such as robbing or extorting money from oil
and oil service companies. These groups may be associated
with a particular traditional religious rite or practice.
Politicians also may finance them, again for specific
purposes, e.g. political intimidation in a local council
election. Contacts report the groups are astonishingly
well-armed, some with weaponry that rivals or surpasses that
of the major militias. Recent examples of actions carried
out by these sorts of groups include the February 2005 Odioma
incident in Bayelsa state, where Teme cult members allegedly
killed 12 members of a delegation, including four local
council members, who were attempting to resolve a dispute
concerning which local community should receive benefits from
Shell Petroleum Development corporation (SPDC) as the
designated "host-community." (Ref D).



18. (SBU/NF) Thus far these localized groups have tended to
act independently. Part of Asari's success last year was in
managing to recruit members from a variety of these small
dispersed groups. In the words of one Ijaw contact, Asari was
the first to "mobilize violence across creek boundaries, and
state lines." The contact added this effort was made not
because "Asari was so smart," but rather because he had no
choice. "He was outflanked in Rivers State by Ateke Tom, the
Nigerian Military Join Task Force (JTF) was breathing down
his neck, having been sicced on him by his former patrons,
Asari was, thus, compelled to be innovative." The gambit
paid off, at least in the short term. Asari's rank swelled
and though his affiliates continued to bear first allegiance
to their local groupings, they did also support Asari.



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


IJAW CIVIL SOCIETY


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





19. (SBU) The INC and IYC are the most prominent Ijaw Civil
Society associations and even militia leaders such as Asari
identify them as the legitimate " voice" for the Ijaw people.
The INC was founded in 1992 with Chief Joshua Fumudoh of
Delta state as its first president. Fumodoh is widely
credited with helping formulate a cohesive Ijaw platform.
Fumudoh is currently as federally nominated delegate at the
National Political Reform Conference (NPRC), which disaffect
Ijaw youth say is appropriate commentary on how mainstream
the INC has become. The INC's current president Kemsi Okoko
of Bayelsa Sate is also a delegate to the confab. Ijaws give
the INC an "A" in articulating Ijaw interests. However,
many, particularly the youth, give the organization an "F" in
achieving meaningful results. Part of the problem, according
to the youths, is that the INC is only willing to use
constitutionially-sanctioned methods to advance the Ijaw
platform. The other part of the problem is that many INC
leaders have been co-opted by the Nigerian political
establishment. Aside from its president Okoko, other
influential leaders within the INC include F. J. Williams
(Ondo), Joseph Evah (Delta) and Graham Douglas (Rivers).



20. (SBU) The IYC was founded in 1998 by Felix Tudelo of
Delta State. Oyinifie Jonjo of Bayelsa is the current
president, but Tudelo remains influential within the group.
IYC members insist the organization is not a youth-wing of
the INC. Rather, it was formed because Ijaws believed more
confrontational tactics were needed than those employed by
the INC. The IYC, they say, was conceived to be more
"action-oriented." Members say, unlike the INC, they are
prepared to insist oil companies invest more in the community
development and to use the companies as a lever with the
federal government to advance the broader objective of
resource control. Like any organization, IYC has its hawks
and doves--with the hawks preferring violence as a
methodology and the doves advocating civil disobedience.



21. (SBU) Asari, a former treasurer and current member of
the IYC, is among the hawks. From the organization's
inception, he advocated "armed rebellion." Though now a
convert to Islam, IYC members tell us Asari has not
relinquished his penchant for quoting the Bible in explaining
why change needs to come through force. Asari and other
militia/gang leaders are intermittent participants in IYC
actives, showing up for the headline events such as national
conferences, but not much involved in the day-to-day running
of the organizations.



22. (SBU/NF) To the disappointment of many Ijaw youths, the
IYC has not fared much better than the INC in moving forward
the Ijaw agenda. The IYC leadership is fractured and
co-opted. Its leadership spends much of its time lambasting
the INC as opposed to developing appropriate political
strategies. This lack of a viable civil soci ety alternative
is a long-term feeder into the militias.



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



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


TRADITIONAL RULERS -- LONG ON CEREMONY SHORT ON POWER


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



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





23. (SBU) Traditional Ijaw rulers have lost much of their
relevance. They are looked to for ceremonial functions or for
moral suasion. However, for the most part government actors,
oil companies, and increasingly radicalized Ijaw youth, no
longer treat seriously with traditional rulers. Moreover
stripped of their former official governmental stipend, many
rulers have been co-opted by the various political figures on
whom they depend for their livelihoods.



24. (SBU) That said, some traditional rulers are hanging on
to the last vestiges of influence/relevance and speak out for
Ijaw interests and occasionally help resolve disputes between
rival communities, gangs and militias. The list includes:

Chief EK Clarke of Warri, Delta State. Chief Clarke is a
former federal Minister of Education. While he once may have
harbored ambitions to return to political office, failing
health has kept the septuagenarian sidelined recently.

King Alfred Diete-Spiff of Brass, Bayelsa. The king now in
his mid-60s, became the first military governor of Rivers
State at the young age of 27. He is thus a blend of military
and traditional background. He has many peers in the
government and is a delegate on the on-going National
Political Reform Conference (NPRC) in Abuja.

King William Dappa-Pepple of Bonny Island. The king's
influence is largely due to the billions of dollars of
investment located in natural gas projects situated on the
island.



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


COMMENT


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





25. (C) Ijaws, like most Nigerians, want to be on the side
of the winner. If mainstream Ijaw politicians are seen as
successfully advancing their core interests, many Ijaws will
support non-violent political strategies. However, many
Ijaws, particularly the youth, continue to feel marginalized
and believe the current national structure of mainstream
plutocracy runs adverse to their interests. Against this
backdrop, many Ijaws feel that more militant, even radical,
approaches are necessary to win the political and economic
concessions they seek. The lack of effective Ijaw civil
society organizations is troublesome. If such organizations
were to become more effective and the doves within them are
strengthened, Ijaws would perhaps be able to advance their
interests within a nonviolent context. In their absence,
aggrieved Ijaws look for other avenues to redress, such as
the militias.



26. (C) USG interests are threatened if the miitias with
their inchoate yet violent brand of ethnic nationalism become
seen as the best vehicle through which to channel Ijaw
aspiration and grievance. Projection of USG long-term
interests in the Delta region hinges on keeping large swaths
of Ijaw youth from becoming irreversibly disaffected from the
conventional political and economic system. On the political
side, USG support for electoral reform is vital so the
electoral burlesque of 2003 is not repeated in 2007. On the
economic side, labor-intensive development is needed to take
young men out of the creeks and to replace their weapons with
productive work tools.

BROWNE