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Cablegate: Mission Uses Interest in U.S. Elections to Promote Its

VZCZCXRO2632
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHUJA #2253/01 3221038
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 171038Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY ABUJA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4466
INFO RUEHOS/AMCONSUL LAGOS PRIORITY 0270
RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHYD/AMEMBASSY YAOUNDE 0492
RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 002253

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12598: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PINR KDEM KPAO NI
SUBJECT: MISSION USES INTEREST IN U.S. ELECTIONS TO PROMOTE ITS
POLICIES

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED - NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION OUTSIDE USG

1. (SBU) Summary. The U.S. Mission took advantage of the extremely
high interest among Nigerians in the 2008 U.S. Presidential
Elections to promote its policies as outlined in the joint
U.S.-Nigeria Framework for Partnership. In several speaking
engagements the Ambassador highlighted the Mission's policy thrust
centered on four democratic pillars of governing justly and
democratically, investing in people, promoting economic growth and
trade, and ensuring peace and security. She emphasized the
importance of anti-corruption efforts, transparent elections and a
truly independent electoral commission, press freedom, an active
civil society, quality health care and education, and peace and
security in the country and region with an emphasis on the Niger
Delta. The Mission also partnered with the American private sector,
civil society and the media to carry out all-night election watch
events in Lagos and Abuja with an estimated 1,500 people in
attendance. These events received significant live press coverage
in several of Nigeria's leading broadcast media, and extensive print
media articles in all regions of the country. The Ambassador also
participated in live television talk shows, and engaged
policy-focused civil society groups to promote U.S. policy and
encourage the people and government of Nigeria to move toward the
transparent, corruption-free democracy they envision for their
country. She also added significant emphasis on press freedom given
the GON's recent missteps in cracking down on press/blog entities.
End summary.

Policy Message: What Democracies Do for their People
--------------------------------------------- -------

2. (SBU) In a series of policy speeches, the Ambassador focused on
what democracies must do for their people. On September 23, at a
Fulbright Alumni Association conference at the University of Lagos,
she emphasized that good democracies provide their people with
access to quality education and health care. She highlighted several
examples of Nigerian and American scholars who have used USG-funded
exchange programs to strengthen democracy in Nigeria. She also
underscored the importance of fair and transparent elections, and
called for an electoral commission that is "truly independent,"
which generated a stir and debate throughout Nigeria, as evidenced
in various media, about the lack of capacity and political influence
of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

3. (SBU) On October 17, speaking to nearly 1,000 students,
community leaders and professors at the American University of
Nigeria in Yola, Adamawa State, which is affiliated with the
American University in Washington, DC, the Ambassador emphasized the
importance of strong institutions and smooth transitions as
cornerstones of a democracy. She highlighted several USG programs
aimed at helping Nigeria achieve its democracy goals as outlined in
the shared USG-GON Framework for Partnership and its four democratic
pillars of governing justly and democratically, investing in people,
economic growth and trade, and peace and security. While Nigeria
was awaiting the Supreme Court decision on its own elections, the
Ambassador underscored the importance of anti-corruption efforts and
good governance. She challenged the audience, many of which will be
future leaders of the country, to take an active role in shaping the
government by participating in elections and holding the GON
accountable for its actions. Others in the Mission, such as the
DCM, Consul General, Pol Counselor, and Vice Consul also
participated in a series of elections events passing these same
messages on democracy, freedom of speech, and fair elections to
civil society and student audiences in states throughout the North
and South.

Election Activities
----------------------------------------

5. (U) On November 4, the Ambassador delivered policy speeches at
all-night election watch celebrations in Abuja and Lagos, stressing
the importance of transparent elections, freedom of the press, and
freedom of assembly. Between the two locations an estimated 1,500
government, business and community leaders, civil society groups,
students, Amcits, and other interested community members
participated in the variety of election-related activities offered.
Participants monitored the U.S. Election throughout the night via
live broadcasts of CNN, Al Jazeera and BBC. An Intellectual
Property room educated attendees about the U.S. election process and
the candidates. Participants watched and discussed the U.S.
presidential debates, and media partners used a "man on the street"
format to interview people on their views of the U.S. Elections,
which were broadcast live. Civil society partners conducted and

ABUJA 00002253 002 OF 002


monitored mock elections for non-U.S. citizens and many participants
chose to have their photos taken with life-size cutouts of both
candidates. More than 100 people in each location stayed through
the night until results were announced around 5:00 a.m. local time.


6. (U) In addition to the all-night election watch events, the
Mission used several other opportunities to promote its policy
thrust in Nigeria. On October 23, the Ambassador engaged civil
society leaders in a round-table discussion on the role of women in
politics. On November 5 she hosted a select group of government,
business, and community leaders at her residence for a post-election
celebration where she spoke about U.S. policies and tasked the
audience with creating a democracy that works for the people of
Nigeria. She also appeared on live television talk shows in Abuja
and Lagos emphasizing the Mission's policy framework for Nigeria.
Other Mission staff presented on democracy and elections at Kaduna
State University, Ahmadu Bello University, and at the American
Corner in Bauchi State.


Public-Private Partnerships
---------------------------

4. (SBU) As part of its public-private partnership initiative, the
Mission partnered with several U.S. companies for financial and
in-kind support of its all-night election watch activities. The
Mission also engaged with strategic, policy-focused non-governmental
partners in each location to assist with the elections process and
build internal capacity by walking side-by-side with the Mission
through a fair and transparent election process, including
monitoring a mock election. The Mission selected key broadcast and
print media partners for each event. In Lagos, this included
Guardian Newspaper, Ray Power Radio, and Channels TV, which was
recently shut down by the GON for its controversial reporting on the
Yar'Adua Administration and the president's failing health. In
Abuja, media partners included the Nigerian Television Authority,
Freedom Radio, a popular station in Northern Nigeria, and Leadership
Newspaper, which had been critical of USG policies in the past.

Press Coverage of Policy Thrust
--------------------------------

7. (SBU) Given the interest in the U.S. Elections in Nigeria,
Mission activities received substantial press coverage over the past
two months. The Ambassador's op-ed on democracy and U.S. policy in
Nigeria was printed on Election Day in the leading Nigerian
newspapers. Speeches and remarks were printed almost verbatim in
several print media, and radio and television stations played
footage of many of the election-related activities. The Mission's
partnership with the recently shut-down Channels TV in Lagos and the
Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) in Abuja provided substantial
airtime of the all-night election events on both stations. The high
level of print and broadcast media coverage of the many Mission
election activities allowed our policy messages to repetitiously
reach a broad audience throughout the country.

SANDERS

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