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Cablegate: Nigeria: Partial Text of 6/2/02 Gen Malu Interview

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 001727

SIPDIS


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: PARTIAL TEXT OF 6/2/02 GEN MALU INTERVIEW


1. Para 2 contains an excerpt from a June 2, 2002 interview
given by dismissed Chief of Army Staff Samuel Victor Leo
Malu to "This Day" newspaper. His May 27 testimony before
the Commission investigating last October's violence in Benue
(to which Malu family members and property fell victim) had
placed the outspoken Malu in the public eye once more and the
interview in "ThisDay" sought to capitalize on his currency.
A friend to controversy and ally of unfounded statements,
Malu makes good copy for Nigeria's sensationalist press.
Malu claims Obasanjo fired him because he opposed Operation
Focus Relief (OFR) while Obasanjo favored the program to
curry favor with the USG. Malu also alleges OFR was a USG
pretext to collect intelligence about the Nigeria military.
In another gross misrepresentation, Malu claimed Ambassador
Jeter wrote a report that stated Nigeria's peacekeeping
performance in Liberia was better than what U.S. units could
have done. While his rancor was directed mostly at Obasanjo,
Malu tried to cause us collateral damage, still holding a
grudge at our perceived role in his removal. Most
knowledgeable Nigerians realize they must take Malu's
statements with a grain of salt. For example, because of the
ample media coverage given OFR, Malu's statement that OFR's
purpose has never been divulged, rings patently untrue.
However, Nigerians who dislike the U.S. will choose to
believe Malu , not because he is right but because they want
to.
2.


Q: Now can you situate this incident with your relationship
with President Obasanjo when you were chief of army staff?


A: Yes, I opposed President Obasanjo on a lot of issues,
and this was not because I was being rude. The man is my
commander in chief. I was the professional head of the army
and had to advise him on matters relating to the army. He
can claim to have been a General and I do not grudge him
about it. But when you look at the whole thing, Obasanjo
served for eighteen years and got to the rank of General, I
served thirty three years and got to the same rank. If you
know the history of my army commands you will know that I did
not get the rank as some kind of favor. So if at that stage,
I could not advise on the service that I was heading, then he
needed to find a stooge. I could not just go and say "yes
sir" to everything because he was my commander in chief. I
should have an imput particularly with things that border on
the country's security especially with the coming of the
Americans. Till today, President Obasanjo has not explained
what those people came to do. But I will tell you that they
came to gather intelligence that they could not get through
the years especially during the period of the late General
Abacha. They could have got some through sattelite but not
much.


They needed to know how a third world country with all such
sanctions on it by then succeeded in peace keeping operations
where the superpower Americans can not. And they came, we
gave them this information. Nobody is afraid America will
attack us, they will not do that. But in international
relations, you do not have permanent friends but permanent
interests. America can use a country like Republic of Benin
to embarrass us so badly when it pleases them. Because this
man believes it was America that gave him the presidency, he
decides everything should be given to them.


In the case of peace keeping operations in Liberia, the
present American Ambassador to Nigeria, Howard Jeter, was in
Liberia by then as their representative to the Liberian
crisis. If you see the report he wrote to the American
government and advised them that if they wanted to assist a
few third world countries with regional bodies like ECOMOG,
they should not bother about giving them troops, but should
give them logistics and they will excel as we did in Liberia.
He even went further to say that what we did in Liberia was
beyond anybody's comprehension and that he does not think
American Army would have done that. Because he saw what we
did. We opened roads, and were working with machetes,
cutlasses. Roads that had not been used in eight years, so
that electioneering and free movements could be achieved. My
soldiers became like labourers. But as a mission we tasked
ourselves and we had to do it. That is why, if I go to
Liberia now, they treat me like a head of state, it is not as
if they like me. I used to use the most foul language on
them. They hated my guts, but they respected me.

3. Comment. The report by Ambassador Jeter that Malu refers
to possibly was one written several years ago for a
presentation Ambassador Jeter made at a conference on
regional peacekeeping. The report commended ECOMOG for its
efforts and recognized its valuable contribution to the peace
process in Liberia. However, the report also mentioned
ECOMOG shortcomings and that the international community had
to provide assistance so that ECOMOG could adequately
implement its mandate. What the report did not do was state
that the Nigerian army's peacekeeping capabilities were
superior to the U.S army's. That claim can be solely
attributed to the butcher of Odi's inflated ego and gross
disregard for the truth.


4. The following contains some commentary from the
accompanying front page article.

Olusegun Obasanjo removed him from office last year mainly to
curry favor from the United States. He fell out of favor
from the President following his (Malu's) persistent
opposition to the presence of the United States military team
that was drafted to Nigeria for what he called unexplained
reasons.


"Till today, President Obasanjo has not explained what those
people came to do. But I will tell you that they came to
gather intelligence that they could not get through the years
especially during the period of the late General Sani Abacha.
They needed to know how a third world with all such
sanctions on it by then succeeded in peace keeping operations
where the superpower Americans can not. "And they came, we
gave them this information. Nobody is afraid America will
attack us, they will not do that.


Advancing more arguments to support his opposition of the
presence of the United States Military on the country, he
said: "America can use a country like Republic of Benin to
embarrass us so badly when it pleases them. Because this man
believes it was America that gave him the presidency, he
decides everything should be given to them."

ANDREWS

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