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Cablegate: Nigeria: President's Chief of Staff Resigns

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RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHUJA #1063 1611129
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 091129Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY ABUJA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3053
INFO RUEHOS/AMCONSUL LAGOS 9390
RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE

UNCLAS ABUJA 001063

SIPDIS

STATE FOR AF/W
DOE FOR GEORGE PERSON

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: PRESIDENT'S CHIEF OF STAFF RESIGNS

THIS MESSAGE IS SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. NOT FOR INTERNET
DISTRIBUTION.

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Within days of the one year anniversary of
President Yar'Adua's inauguration, the resignations of two of his
key staff members, Chief of Staff General Abdullahi Mohammed and
Principal Secretary to the President Steve Oransanye, were
announced. Both men also served under former President Obasanjo and
are closely allied to him. Their exit is expected to curb Obasanjo's
influence within the current administration, particularly inside the
President's office, commonly referred to as "the Villa." Despite
the changes, former President Obasanjo still maintains considerable
influence and has key contacts in all branches of government. No
information has been released on who may be appointed to fill the
now vacant positions. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) The presidency announced May 29 the retirement of the
Nigerian presidency's longest serving Chief of Staff, General
Abdullahi Mohammed. Mohammed served three Nigerian presidents
(Abdulsalami Abubakar, Olusegun Obasanjo and Umaru Musa Yar'adua);
however, his influence reached its peak during the eight-year
Obasanjo administration. According to Presidential Spokesman Segun
Adeniyi, Mohammed voluntary retired; however, observers believe his
departure may be part of a larger effort to remove Obasanjo
loyalists from President Yar'Adua's cabinet and immediate staff.
Mohammed is widely regarded as a close friend and political ally of
former President Obasanjo.

3. (U) Biographical Note: General Abdullahi Mohammed emerged on the
Nigerian political scene in 1975 as one of the key players during
the bloodless coup that saw the ouster of General Yakubu Gown and
marked the emergence of the Murtala Mohammed / Olusegun Obasanjo
regime. He has also served as director of military intelligence and
Director of the National Security Organization (NSO) now renamed
State Security Service (SSS). He retired from government in 1979
along with Obasanjo but was recalled from retirement in 1998 by
General Abubakar after his appointment as military president
following the death of late General Sani Abacha. End Note.

4. (SBU) On June 1, the resignation of Principal Secretary to the
President Steve Oransanye (another close Obasanjo associate) was
announced. Oransanye joined Obasanjo's administration in 1999 and
was a key member of the Obasanjo "kitchen cabinet." President
Yar'Adua's office has not released any information on who may be
appointed to fill the now vacant positions.

5. (SBU) COMMENT: While the exit of Mohammed and Oransanye is
expected to curb some of former President Obasanjo's influence
within the current administration and within the President's
personal staff, a fair number of Obasanjo loyalists remain both in
the Cabinet and the GON more broadly. Obasanjo remains, according
to many, the wealthiest man in Nigeria and maintains considerable
influence in Nigeria despite these important personnel changes at
the Villa. END COMMENT.

SANDERS

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