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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08ABUJA1062 2008-06-09 10:56:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Abuja
Cable title:  

NIGERIA: YAR'ADUA DOES "MEDIA CHAT"

Tags:   PGOV PINR ENRG NI 
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1. (U) SUMMARY. On May 29, President Yar'Adua conducted a
live television "media chat" to mark the one year anniversary
of his administration as well as to celebrate Nigeria's
Democracy Day (a national holiday commemorating the country's
return to democracy on May 29, 1999 after 16 years of
military rule.) During the press roundtable, Yar'Adua spoke
frankly about his health, his views on former President
Obasanjo's tenure, and the power sector. The President also
intimated that personnel and structural changes would likely
take place within his administration fairly soon. In what
appears to be his attempt to publicly respond, through the
media, to the growing impatience from the public about his
slow pace of deliverables, Yar'Adua promised citizens
"exciting times" ahead, including electoral reform and a
legacy of respect for the rule of law. END SUMMARY

YAR'ADUA'S HEALTH


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




2. (U) In a press conference televised live on May 29,
President Yar'Adua expressed surprise at the rampant rumors
that followed his April 2008 trip to Germany for medical
attention (ref B). He explained that his Special Advisor on
Communication, Olusegun Adeniyi, issued a statement prior to
his departure detailing his ailment, but the public failed to
believe it. Yar'Adua explained that he suffered from malaria
for four days and his physicians attempted to treat it using
a drug called "Metakelfin." (Note: According to information
available on the internet, "Metakelfin" is a one-dose
anti-malarial treatment manufactured by a company called
"Pharmacia." It is supposed to work within three days. End
Note.) However, his symptoms continued, the President said,
so he was attended to by a new doctor who administered a
second (unnamed) medication to which he experienced an
allergic reaction. The allergy was apparently severe enough
to make his face swell up, prompting him to depart for
Germany. During the telecast, Yar'Adua also admitted to
having kidney problems, but did not elaborate on the exact
nature of those problems.

FORMER PRESIDENT OBASANJO


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




3. (U) Responding to questions about the on-going National
Assembly investigations of various activities under the
administration of former President Obasanjo, President
Yar'Adua defended his predecessor, stating that President
Obasanjo "did his best, whether people like it or not."
Yar'Adua did, however, support the National Assembly's power
to hold hearings on Obasanjo's past policies and said that he
is waiting for the outcome and their full report. The
president said the details of the report will determine the
next line of action. Contrary to his public interview,
President Yar'Adua told the Ambassador in April that he was
working hard to dismantle some of Obasanjo's policies and
contracts, as in his view, they fell outside of due process
and rule of law (ref C).

POWER SECTOR CRISIS


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




4. (U) In response to questions about Nigeria's power supply,
President Yar'Adua explained that declaring a state of
emergency in the power sector would require a great deal of
planning and consultation before it could be implemented.
"We need to have a national plan that includes emergency
legislation for the sector," the President stated, so that in
the end, Nigeria would be able to provide sufficient power to
the entire country. The President predicted that Nigeria
will generate 6,000 megawatts of electricity by the end of
2009 and that it would only be possible for the GON to reach
its goal of generating 10,000 megawatts by 2011. Yar'Adua
added, however, that "people also have to change the way they
think about the sector, including their responsibility in
paying their bills."

ABUJA 00001062 002.2 OF 002



CABINET RESHUFFLE


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




5. (C) During the press forum, Yar'Adua mentioned there is a
strong possibility that a cabinet "shake-up" is imminent.
However, during a May 29 meeting with the Ambassador, Foreign
Minister Ojo Maduekwe, said that President Yar'Adua is not
planning a large-scale cabinet reshuffle, but will instead
make strategic moves/replacements of a handful of ministers
in the coming months. The Foreign Minister added that the
President's goal was to have more of his own people around
him who were not reporting his every movement to former
President Obasanjo. (Note: Since the Yar'Adua interview, he
has removed two former Obasanjo loyalists from his immediate
personal staff (septel). End Note.)

LOOKING AHEAD


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




6. (U) Although a newly released poll showed Yar'Adua's
approval rating at 48%, a drop from the 70-plus percent
reported at his administration's 100 day mark (ref D), the
President promised that "exciting times await Nigerians." He
described his perceived slow pace of reform as "a process of
learning," and added that one of Nigeria's greatest problems
was the lack of respect for the rule of law and lack of
proper planning. He urged the citizens to be patient, as it
takes time to develop "good plans that will translate to
actual achievements." Confident that the Electoral Reform
Committee will complete its assignment by the end of this
year and develop comprehensive electoral reforms, Yar'Adua
stated his determination to leave a legacy of a credible
electoral process and rule of law.

GETTING THE MESSAGE?


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




7. (C) COMMENT: Though in the past he has not done live
media interviews, President Yar'Adua's recent round of media
interviews (with both domestic and international press) seems
to demonstrate his understanding that Nigerians are losing
patience with his slow pace of reforms and deliverables. It
appears the President may be getting the message that he must
begin to show results if he is to maintain the support and
goodwill of the public. Addressing his perceived "slowness"
and making more promises during recent interviews, might have
bought him some additional time; but he must quickly start
delivering to the Nigerian people some tangible improvements
that affect their everyday lives before his support base
(both elite and public) begins to erode permanently. END
COMMENT.
SANDERS