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Cablegate: Nigeria: Presidential Delegation at The

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 001137

SIPDIS


CAIRO FOR POL - MAXSTADT
STATE PASS TO DEPT OF EDUCATION FOR SECRETARY PAIGE


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM OVIP NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: PRESIDENTIAL DELEGATION AT THE
INAUGURATION

1. (U) SUMMARY: Against the backdrop of significant
opposition criticism of the April 19 elections and vague
threats of &mass action8 against the new Administration,
President Obasanjo held a triumphal inaugural on May 29.
Security was tight but the events of inauguration week were
well organized and peaceful. Because of the bruised feelings
of the opposition, this inauguration fell short of the near
universal euphoria experienced in 1999. Yet, overall it was
celebratory. The official USG delegation led by Secretary of
Education Rod Paige was well received by the GON. The
delegation attended all key events including the inaugural
ceremony and subsequent gala dinner. The delegation also met
President Obasanjo the day after his inauguration. END
SUMMARY.


--------------------------------
RIGHT ON TIME FOR THE MAIN EVENT
--------------------------------


2. (SBU) After stormy weather delayed the Presidential
delegation,s arrival in Abuja by a day, the delegation
arrived the morning of May 29, just in time to motorcade from
the airport to Eagle Square to witness the actual
inauguration ceremony. Basically an asphalt lot with
bleachers on three sides, Eagle Square was well decorated and
colorful. Over 28 Africa Heads of State (including
Cameroonian President Paul Biya, who entered the square to
loud applause), the U.K. Deputy Prime Minister, other
high-level official delegations, the People,s Democratic
Party national and state hierarchies, famous personalities
and numerous strap-hangers. On the other end of the social
spectrum, and on the other side of the Eagle Square fence,
were literally thousands of Nigerian onlookers who were
curious but uninvited guests. Interspersed among the invited
guests were some of Abuja,s most accomplished touts and
pickpockets, wanting to put their agile hands into the
pockets of some of Nigeria,s wealthiest as they passed
through the main pedestrian entrance.


3. (U) The inaugural ceremony lasted approximately two hours.
The Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, was sworn in first.
This had a bit of a comic element as Vice President Atiku
pointedly corrected the Chief Justice after the latter
inverted the Vice President,s name when administering the
oath.


4. (U) Chief Justice Uwais had no trouble with President
Obasanjo,s name. After being sworn in, Obasanjo delivered
his inaugural address. Due to a poor sound system, the
address was inaudible to most of the attendees. The event
took place with no demonstrations or violence of any kind.
After the swearing-in, Secretary Paige and his delegation
lunched with the Archbishop of Abuja, Dr. John Onaiyekan, who
led a discussion of the HIV/AIDS problem in Nigeria. Joining
the Archbishop, representatives of Catholic Relief Services
briefed the delegation about their HIV/AIDS program and
USAID-sponsored operations.


5. (U) The evening featured the Inaugural Gala and Banquet,
with cultural dances, music, a sampling of Nigerian cuisine,
and lots of comic relief. During and after the meal,
numerous prominent Nigerians (including former Head of State
Shagari) and several Heads of State gave toasts in honor of
President Obasanjo. Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Joachim
Chissano of Mozambique paid tribute to Obasanjo and
emphasized the importance of Nigeria to Africa,s political
future and economic development.


---------------------
MEETING WITH OBASANJO
---------------------


6. (U) Obasanjo,s schedule was hectic throughout the
inaugural week. Not only did it include inaugural events and
planning, Obasanjo also hosted a NEPAD Summit and bilateral
meetings with many visiting Heads of State. Nevertheless, he
made it a point to carve out time in his schedule to meet
Secretary Paige and the delegation. That meeting came on

SIPDIS
Friday, the morning after the inauguration. Originally,
Secretary Paige was to meet President Obasanjo after the

SIPDIS
President,s daily 6 a.m. prayer session. Because this was
the first morning prayer after the inauguration, it lasted
longer than expected. In the end, the delegation was asked
to join the President and his inner circle in prayer, where
requests for divine guidance and blessings for the two
countries and their people featured prominantly. After the
meeting, the delegation exchanged courtesies and gifts with
the President, then departed for the airport and the long
flight home.


-------
COMMENT
-------


7. (SBU) Despite the criticism of the elections and the
threats to disrupt the inauguration, inaugural week passed
without incident. Security was heavy and there were no
protests or violence. Also Obasanjo made an astute political
move. Holding the NEPAD Summit ensured the attendance of
over a score of African Heads of State. This not only added
legitimacy to the inauguration, it also may have lessened the
inclination to protest, given the overwhelming security
presence to shelter the visiting Heads of State.


8. (U) The American official delegation and the unofficial
Congressional Black Caucus delegation were well received.
The warm reception denoted the continued goodwill in Nigeria
for America and the determination of the new Obasanjo
Administration to strengthen the bilateral relationship.
JETER

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