Cablegate: Nigeria Elections -- The View From the Queue
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS ABUJA 000727
CAIRO FOR MAXSTADT
TAGS: PGOV KDEM SOCI NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA ELECTIONS -- THE VIEW FROM THE QUEUE
1. Winding down Shehu Shagari Way in Abuja to an AP
station opposite the Hilton is a fuel queue that
varies between 300 and 1700 meters. Motorists favor
this queue because the AP station often has fuel and
because the gentle slope of the final 900 meters means
no need to start engines. On Monday evening, the
queue was just under one kilometer.
2. DCM stopped at every fourth vehicle where the
driver was outside to solicit views on the April 19
elections. Of 43 persons polled, just five preferred
not to comment. The other 38 overwhelmingly commended
the peaceful conduct of voting, in some cases
expressing relief that things had gone as well as they
had. Relatively few (about a dozen) volunteered
unease or unhappiness about electoral malfeasance.
These included the most voluble interlocutors; just
four called the process "bad," however. Only one
person mentioned the name of any of the major
candidates, and that was to call President Obasanjo by
his nickname, Baba. Another said he would have voted
ANPP if Rochas Okorocha had been that party's
candidate, but he had voted PDP since Rochas was not a
3. A plurality of those interviewed offered that God
decided who would govern Nigeria. God did not make
mistakes, and so the person declared the winner was
God's choice. They would now pray that the chosen
leader would do the right thing. A major (if obvious)
concern for those in the queue was that the leader
address fuel shortages.
4. COMMENT: The people in the fuel queue represent a
cross-section of "ordinary Nigerians" living in Abuja.
They do not have access to special fuel supplies and
are not rich enough to hire someone else to stand in
for them (however, a number were drivers for people
wealthy enough to hire them). The almost overwhelming
emphasis on the importance of peaceful elections
(virtually everyone willing to talk mentioned it) was
remarkable, and it suggests that calls for "mass
action" to protest questionable results that heavily
favor the PDP may not resonate to the extent that some
in the opposition would like. The conviction that God
would make the right choice for Nigeria should
surprise no one familiar with the centrality of faith
to Nigerian society. For them, whether the elections
represent the "will of the Nigerian people" matters
little, for the will of God is self-evident.
5. COMMENT CONTINUED: Those most inclined to voice
detailed objections to the conduct or results of the
elections were from the Southeast. Northern Muslims
particularly tended to express faith in God and
submission to His will, though one said several times
that the elections were "bad" but declined to say much
more. Two people from the Southwest expressed at
least a measure of unhappiness with the AD's downfall,
but the rest appeared not to care. END COMMENT.
6. NOTE: The percentage of Muslims among those
sampled may have been reduced somewhat by the timing
of the survey, which took place during a period that
included two prayer times; DCM did not address those
who were praying or preparing to do so.