Cablegate: Visit to Kwara State

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

080646Z Oct 03




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) Summary: Governing Kwara State, like some other
states, is a family affair. Governor Bukola Saraki's father
is the political kingmaker in Kwara, having handpicked the
previous two governors and arranged for his daughter to be
elected to the Senate in the same April elections that sent
his son to the statehouse. Poloff traveled to Kwara in
September to visit the Governor, the Kwara PDP chairman and
other local officials; the meetings were interesting, but
among them only Governor Saraki appeared to have any real
power or knowledge of what is really going on in the state.
Federal (national government) institutions are powerful in
the states' affairs, and state governors played a role in the
nominations for this year's national elections. Governor
Saraki was knowledgeable and interested in Federal politics,
and believes the Presidency in 2007 is VP Atiku's to lose.
End Summary.

Governor Bukola Saraki

2. (SBU) Governor Saraki is in his forties and comes from a
private sector background, having worked in his father's bank
(Societe Generale) for several years. He studied in London
and attained a degree in general practice medicine, the same
degree as his father. He is a Muslim. Prior to his election
as Governor, he had never held political office. His father,
former Senator Olu Saraki, is much better known and is widely
regarded as the political godfather and kingmaker in the
state. Olu Saraki has run for President three times,
handpicked the last two governors of Kwara State, as well as
arranged for his daughter to be elected to the Senate in

100 Days

3. (U) Saraki made sure to demonstrate the steps he has
already taken to improve life in his state. He stated that
there were more than 1000 non-functioning water well
boreholes in the state when he took office, and his
administration has already repaired/refurbished 200 of them.
He also mentioned an ambitious goal of creating 1000 farms in
the state on a sharecropping basis -- the government would
rent out the land in exchange for a cut of the sale of
produce. He claimed to have cleaned up the capital, Ilorin,
and fixed the majority of potholes. The city was indeed
cleaner than it had been during Poloff's March visit, but
potholes were still there in many places.

Future Goals

4. (U) Saraki firmly believes that private investment is the
panacea for all of Nigeria's problems. He raised as an
example the pending importation ban on rice in 2006, stating
that the GON should invite foreign companies to build
factories here in advance of the ban instead of just hoping
domestic industry will take advantage of the opening and
blossom. Saraki bemoaned the fact that Kwara is only 34th
among Nigeria's 36 states in revenue allocation from
Nigeria's Federal Government, and is determined to invite
outside investment directly. A new flourmill of the Dangote
group was one result. In order to keep that investment and
create even more jobs, Saraki has also commissioned the
building of a factory to produce the flour bags, and an
increase in the number of trucks available for hauling the
flour out of state. The Governor also stated that all trucks
driving north from Lagos have to pass through Ilorin, and he
is also looking to increase the number of petrol stations and
the quality of the hotels in order to get drivers to stop and
stay in the city.

Farmers From Zimbabwe and South Africa

5. (U) Contrary to media reports, Kwara State will not be
accepting groups of dispossessed white farmers from Zimbabwe
and South Africa as refugees. Five farmers representing a
larger farming investment group in the two countries visited
Kwara recently in order to assess the investment climate.
Two specialized in cattle rearing, one in chicken farming,
and two in vegetable farming. Saraki discussed their coming
to Kwara to build a chicken and cattle rearing industry.
Kwara State would provide land and tax breaks in exchange for
a plant and technological know-how. According to Saraki,
Kwara receives significantly more rainfall and has a better
overall climate for all types of farming than does South

6. (U) Another focus for Saraki is education. He expressed
dissatisfaction with the local Koranic schools, stating that
they had seriously declined in the past decade and now are
not teaching English, Math and the Sciences at an appropriate
level for their students to succeed. Saraki claimed that
only ten percent of graduating secondary school students in
Ilorin are able to qualify for entrance to the University of
Ilorin. In addition to requiring stricter standards, Saraki
has begun shutting down non-registered "bush" schools around
the state capital.

National Issues

7. (SBU) PolOff also discussed several national issues with
the Governor to get his perspective and gauge the involvement
of a fairly representative governor. On the coup against the
governor of Anambra state, Saraki agreed that the situation
had made all the governors nervous. He was not especially
worried for himself, as he feels he has complete control of
Kwara. Saraki believes that there will be a "test"
constitutional amendment soon on one or another relatively
minor issue so the PDP can judge whether its overwhelming
majority in the National Assembly and among the governors is
capable of gaining more substantial changes to the
constitution. Saraki also believes that the National
Assembly currently has little to no real power to oppose the
President on any issue and that this situation will continue
as long as the current Assembly leadership is in place.

8. (SBU) On the 2007 elections, Saraki believes that the
Presidency is Atiku's to lose. He said Atiku had played the
role of conciliatory mother to Obasanjo's stern
disciplinarian father in relationships with the governors,
and had earned many points around the country. Saraki also
believes that Obasanjo will not support any single candidate
in the 2007 presidential election, even his own PDP's
candidate, but will rather try to remain neutral in order to
create the image of national statesman for himself.

© Scoop Media

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