Cablegate: Fmr Biafran President General Ojukwu Meets with Cg

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



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Consul General and POLOFF (notetaker) met
with former Biafran President General Chief Chukwuemeka
Odumegwu Ojukwu and his assistant Prince Bob J. Onyema on 10
November. Ojukwu has plans to travel to the US at the end of
November. Ojukwu discussed court cases contesting the
results of the 2003 national election; the All Progressive
Grand Alliance (APGA) party's consultations with the All
Nigeria's People's Party (ANPP) and the 2007 presidential
election; national reforms and economic development; Biafran
independence groups; and politics of the South-South and


2. (SBU) "I oppose the presidency of Obasanjo, that is what I
do generally," was his opening greeting to the CG when asked
of his current activities. Ojukwu speculated on pending
court cases contesting gubernatorial elections, believing
that the results could be overturned in APGA's favor in two
states in the South-East and one in the South-South. He
commented that Governor Muhammadu Buhari's contest of the
2003 presidential election "will take a long time" because
there is "no capable judge or one who has the courage to
pronounce" a decision against Obasanjo. Ojukwu prophesied a
two-year court battle, resulting in no "dramatic change."
Ojukwu concluded by saying that the President's People's
Democratic Party (PDP) "didn't do very well; they won, but
they didn't do very well."


3. (SBU) Ojukwu turned his attention to the 2007 presidential
election. He does not believe that Buhari and the ANPP will
win the national election, but believes the party will
consolidate its position in the North. A "viable alliance"
between the north's ANPP and the east's APGA might improve
ANPP's chances and he stated that APGA is already "seeing
what we can do." Although Ojukwu said there are many things
that the ANPP and APGA agree upon -- such as stamping out
corruption -- he foresaw stumbling blocks in regards to
economic development, and appointments based on quotas
instead of merit. Furthermore, Ojukwu does not believe there
can be any compromise on Shari'a between the devoutly
Catholic Igbos and northern Muslims and he questioned why
Nigeria should be a member of the Organization of Islamic
Countries (OIC). On the economic front, Ojukwu said that the
continued marginalization and slow to non-existent economic
development in the Niger Delta and South-East would not be
alleviated by the ANPP. However, Ojukwu views the
consultation between the ANPP and APGA positively and
believes that continuous dialogue will improve conditions in
the long run, despite their disagreements.


4. (SBU) Other OPEC countries, Ojukwu explained, use oil
revenues to build roads, but in Nigeria "we use oil to feed
people - a policy that needs to be changed." He argued that
Arab nations do not need oil for foodstuffs because their
populations are small. Then he blamed the oil producing Arab
states for making "corruption a way of life," presumably
making a parallel to the chronic state of corruption in
Nigeria, especially in regards to oil revenues. The CG asked
if the need for oil was exacerbated ecause Nigerians have
left their former economic activities, such as agriculture,
for jobs in the oil sector. Ojukwu insisted that this
development occurred before the oil boom, stating that
Malaysia once used Nigeria as a model for its palm oil
industry, of which Nigeria was a major exporter. Now Nigeria
imports palm oil from Malaysia. The CG pointed to the vast
plantations in Malaysia and questioned why Nigeria could not
do the same. Ojukwu likened the disparity to the lack of
national identity in Nigeria. Malaysia has "a polity with a
sense of nationhood that we don't have," Ojukwu continued to
explain. Everything in Nigeria is destroyed, because
Nigerians first think of their ethnicity and not of their
country no matter how large or small the event is. "Until we
can find that polity, we will not progress. We need a
national conference to redesign Nigeria for Nigerians as
opposed to a patchwork of Nigeria to suit British commercial
interests. We were handed Nigeria in that form and we are
too shy to do something fundamentally different."

5. (SBU) Ojukwu showed great optimism for Nigeria, believing
it could become "the biggest and most dynamic country in
black Africa, but first it must become a cohesive nation. No
one can do it for us, but ourselves." He stressed the need
for constitutional reform and decentralization, saying "it
should be written into the constitution that there must be a
constitutional review every five years. If we don't, we are
mortgaging the future of the next generation based on the
ignorance of the previous one." However, Ojukwu expressed
sadness in the fact that any cause he were to champion would
be colored by the Biafran War and perceived as a means to
lead Biafrans again. Nevertheless, Ojukwu concluded, "I am
still alive. I am still Nigerian and I will continue to make


6. (SBU) When asked about Biafran independence groups, Ojukwu
said that they represent mostly youths exercising freedom of
expression. He did not believe that they can succeed in the
short-run and was not alarmed by their assertions. He did,
however, describe this movement as a reflection of the
frustrations of the people in the region, highlighting the
economic deprivation and unemployment that plagues the nation
and the Igbos of the East. "Even in democratic practice, we
should learn to tolerate things unpleasant," Ojukwu opined.
He recounted that in a meeting with President Obasanjo,
Ojukwu could not denounce these groups as "they are Igbos and
have some justifications." He advised the President to
listen to them and find ways to alleviate their problems.
"It is a cry; and as a President you should do something to
help them." In the east, the most dangerous development is
hunger. Ojukwu observed that distended stomachs were
becoming a common sight in the East and he worried that when
properly enraged, these people may make the troubles in the
Delta seem minor by comparison.


7. (SBU) The Federal Government has long ignored the plights
of Delta and Rivers States, Ojukwu explained. He stressed
the irony that the region that produces the nation's wealth
does not reflect it and the people of the region "are doing
nothing, not even agriculture." He understood their
frustration and expressed compassion for their condition.
"No amount of troops will quell the political effort," he
said in reference to the Nigerian military's Operation
Restore Hope in Delta State. "The side I find troublesome is
the blackmailing of oil companies. I don't support that
transaction. They should blackmail their own government" to
do something about their problems rather than the companies
that were easy targets. Furthermore, Ojukwu regretted the
practice because "success triggers" the trend. There needs
to be a long-term solution from the GON.


8. (SBU) Ojukwu ended his discussion by focusing on the state
politics of Anambra and the need for decentralization.
(Background: Governor Chris Ngige, was kidnapped by the man
who financed and rigged his election for not following
through on back room promises some of which were made while
the aspiring governor was naked. The bizarre incident caused
a state constitutional crisis and political brawl that
attracted national attention.) Embattled Governor Ngige
apparently sought assistance from Ojukwu who chuckled when
describing how he has been hiding so that no one will try to
hand the troubles of Anambra over to him. He described the
situation in Anambra as tragic and shared the CG's amazement
at how Anambra's crooked politicians brazenly operate with
impunity. "I told Ngige, as long as I have a picture of you
naked, you're not fit to be a governor."

9. (SBU) Anambra, in Ojukwu's opinion, reflects a core
problem in Nigerian politics -- too much power rested in the
Federal Government. Ojukwu heavily advocated
decentralization, saying that states only exist when based on
constitutions that derive power from within the state, not
from a "proclamation from the center." He identified a first
step as giving powers to the already existing zonal
structures, or regional groupings of states. In reflection,
Ojukwu tied decentralization to his own political ghost of
Biafra, believing that the GON's biggest but erroneous fear
is that decentralization would reopen these old national
wounds. "That was not the reason for the war," he
pronounced. Ojukwu concluded that when politicians and
individuals accept responsibility and address problems that
need to be addressed, "Nigeria will stand as a beacon to the
rest of Africa. I want to tell the people who are living
here now that we haven't arrived there yet, but we will."


10. (SBU) Ojukwu was born November 4, 1933 in Zungeru, Niger
State. He received his primary and secondary education in
Nigeria and a B.A. and M.A. in the United Kingdom, studying
history at Epsom College, Lincoln College, and the University
of Oxford and concluded his education in 1962. He also
received military training from the Eaton Hall Office Cadet
School and Joint Services Staff College in the UK. Ojukwu
enlisted in the Nigerian Army in 1957 and was based in the
North, rising to the rank of Colonel in 1962. From 1966 to
1967, Ojukwu was appointed Military Governor of the defunct
Eastern Region. In May 1967 he was proclaimed Head of State
and Commander-In-Chief of the "Republic of Biafra" and was
dismissed from the Nigerian Army in July of that year. In
1968 he was made General of the Biafran Army and held that
position throughout the Biafran Civil War of 1967-1970. In
January 1970 he was granted political asylum in Cote d'Ivoire
and did not return to Nigeria until his pardon on June 18,
1982. He holds the traditional titles of Ikemba Nnewi and
Eze Igbo, is married, and maintains his address at 29 Queens
Drive, Ikoyi, Lagos. He has another residence in Enugu
State. He will travel on 29 November to Maryland with his
wife where he receives regular medical treatment for his
eyes. He said that when in the US, he doesn't go out much
and he is looking forward to staying in his hotel and reading
his books. Ojukwu does not often like to travel saying, "I
have a thing about traveling out of Nigeria. Ever since I
returned from exile, I never felt comfortable leaving." His
wife, however, is a frequent traveler and often buys products
for her beauty shop in Nigeria.

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