Cablegate: President Yar'adua's First Appointments

DE RUEHUJA #1153/01 1581309
P 071309Z JUN 07




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: President Yar'Adua's First Appointments

ABUJA 00001153 001.2 OF 002

1. Summary: President Yar'Adua made some of the first official
appointments to his government on May 30. He announced that
Ambassador Babagana Kingibe is the new Secretary to the Government
of the Federation (SGF), while Major-General Abdullahi Mohammed
retains the post of Chief of Staff and Major-General Abdullahi
Mukhtar will continue to serve as the National Security Advisor
(NSA). Finally, Mike Mbama Okiro became Acting Inspector General of
Police on June 1. There is an ongoing process to vet candidates for
other top staff positions and Ministerial seats. However,
Ministerial candidates are not likely to be named until later this
month and candidates need to be confirmed by the Nigerian Senate,
which is in recess until the last week of June. End Summary.

Kingibe is SGF

2. Babagana Kingibe has taken over for Chief Ufot Ekaete as the
Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), a key position

in the presidency which is roughly equivalent to the American
President's Chief of Staff. The SGF coordinates cabinet meetings
and provides policy direction to political appointees and agencies
under the presidency. He is usually a trusted associate of the
president and is therefore influential to key decisions and policy
outcomes. The SGF is often a serving or retired career civil
servant with wide-range of experience in public service. Nigerians
at times read the mood of the government through SGF. As SGF,
Babagana Kingibe should help President Yar'Adua understand the
intrigues and workings of government at the federal level. He will
need to serve as a bridge between the North and the South having
been a high level politician with a network of contacts across

3. Babagana Kingibe, administrator, broadcaster, lecturer, career
diplomat and politician, was the vice-presidential running mate to
the late Chief Moshood Abiola in the annulled 1993 presidential
election. He was a political ally of the late General Shehu
Yar'Adua, senior brother of President Yar'Adua and founder of
Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), the most influential political
association in Nigeria. Kingibe was a member of the PDM's
think-tank. He studied at the University of Sussex, England and the
BBC Training School in London. He taught Political Science at the
Ahmadu Bello University Zaria between 1969 and 1970. As a
broadcaster, Kingibe worked as head of Current Affairs and Features
Department at the Northern Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation, now
Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria. He was Nigerian Ambassador to
Greece with concurrent accreditation to Cyprus from 1981-84 and
Pakistan from 1984-87. He was secretary of Constituent Assembly

4. Kingibe, aged 62, until recently the African Union (AU) Special
Representative for Darfur, is a consummate politician who had also
served as national chairman of defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP)
1992-93. He is very familiar with the workings of government and had
served as Minister for Foreign Affairs; Internal Affairs; Power and

Continuity for NSA, COS

5. President Umar Yar'Adua retained Generals Abdullahi Mohammed as
Chief of Staff and Abdullahi Sarki Mukhtar as National Security
Adviser. These two retired generals held the same portfolios in the
Obasanjo administration. Their retention is supposed to help
Yar'Adua keep tabs on the military since he does not belong to that
constituency. Thus apart from continuity of policies, their staying
behind may ward off any possible attempts to seize power by
ambitious military officers.

6. General Mukhtar was born in 1949 and hails from Kano. He joined
the army in 1968 and retired in 1999. While in the Nigerian army,
he served as the military governor of Katsina and Kaduna States. He
was appointed NSA last year following the exit of General Aliyu
Mohammed. Prior to this, Mukhtar served as Nigeria's ambassador to

7. Retired General Mohammed has been in the presidential villa
since the emergence of General Abdulsalami Abubakar as Nigerian
leader in 1998. A former Director of Military Intelligence,
Mohammed was instrumental to the successful coup d'etat against
General Yakubu Gowon in 1975 that ushered in Murtala/Obasanjo
regime. He was appointed military governor of Benue State as a
reward for his pivotal role in the coup. Mohammed was a key figure

ABUJA 00001153 002.2 OF 002

throughout the lifetime of the first and second coming of the
Obasanjo administration.

Police Shake-Up

8. The Presidency announced on May 30 that former Inspector General
of Police (IGP) Sunday Ehindero was to hand over power to his most
senior deputy at a ceremony June 1. Nigerian press reported widely
that Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Ogbonnaya Onovo, who headed the
Administration and Finance Department, was the most senior and would
take charge. However, plans changed by June 1, and Ehindero handed
over power to DIG Mike Mbama Okiro instead. There has been a great
deal of speculation about the sudden about face, including
accusations that there may have been some scandal connected to
Onovo's tenure at the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA)
in 1998. Igbo organizations and prominent human rights lawyer Gani
Fawehinimi have accused Yar'Adua of passing over Onovo because he is
Igbo. Critics claim that Igbos have been deliberated excluded from
serving as IGP since independence.

9. Mike Mbama Okiro was born July 24, 1949 in Egbema, an area that
was then the East Central State. (His home has since been part of
Imo, and is currently in Rivers due to boundary changes.) He is an
ethnic Igbo. He holds a B.A. from the University of Ibadan, and MPA
from University of Lagos, and a law degree from University of Jos.
He has been in the Nigerian Police Force since 1977 and was praised
for his work as Lagos State Police Commissioner for fighting crime
and keeping "area boys" and the Oodua People's Congress under

10. In his first public statement June 5, IGP Okiro told the press
that he is eliminating police road blocks with immediate effect,
saying that the road blocks were "a bastion of corruption and other
vices associated with the police." He pledged to reform the police
to improve service delivery, increase respect for human rights, and
fight corruption. He announced the creation of 12 anti-corruption
teams in the six geopolitical zones, which will be equipped with
hotline numbers to receive complaints from the public.

Federal Character

11. Section 14, subsection 3 of the 1999 Nigerian constitution says
that "the composition of the Government of the Federation or any of
its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in
such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the
need to promote national unity." In practice, this constitutional
clause has been implemented as a kind of affirmative action program,
whereby where all states and ethnic groups must be represented in
federal appointments. In ministerial appointments, each state must
have at least one indigene serving as a Minister. In order to help
achieve this state by state balance, the PDP instructed all state
chapters and governors of the party to submit names of 3 party
members from their state for consideration as Ministers.

12. President Yar'Adua has followed the path of federal character
in his recent appointments. Kingibe is Kanuri from the Northeast,
Mukhtar is Hausa/Fulani from Northwest, Mohammed belongs to Yoruba
ethnic group from Northcentral, while Okiro is an ethnic Igbo who
hails from Rivers State. Other subsequent Villa staff appointments
may follow the same pattern.


13. There is a great deal of lobbying and jostling for positions
occurring in Abuja this month, but meanwhile many Ministries and
government offices remain empty and adrift. We do not expect formal
announcement of Ministerial candidates until the end of June, and
those nominees will need to be screened by the Nigerian Senate when
it reconvenes during the final week of June. Observers will be
watching to see whether many players are retained from the Obasanjo
government as sign of Yar'Adua's perceived loyalty or independence.
End comment.


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