Cablegate: Nigeria: Political Murders or Murdered Politicians?
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 LAGOS 000568
LONDON FOR GURNEY, PARIS FOR NEARY
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV KDEM ASEC PTER NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: POLITICAL MURDERS OR MURDERED POLITICIANS?
REF: LAGOS 545 AND PREVIOUS
1. (U) The spate of high profile attacks and killings of
prominent Nigerian politicians and public figures has again
caused many to question the strength, and even the future, of
democratic governance in Nigeria. In the last three weeks, at
least ten prominent Nigerians have been brutally attacked.
Several have died in the attacks, while a few managed to escape.
The boisterous and raucous Nigerian press is full of speculation
that the killings and attacks are somehow politically motivated.
One of the papers reported that there had been 32 "political
killings" since 1999. Another printed a list of fifty-five
supposedly politically connected murders and attacks in the 1999-
2004 period - including a couple beheaded by an angry "lover" and
incidents involving "students" stabbed in fights. Less than half
of the list has any connection to politics or politicians.
Nevertheless, the number of attacks recently cannot be ignored
although the jury is still out on what this all means.
2. (U) The first weekend in March, all the newspapers carried
front-page pictures of the body of Chief Aminasoari Dikibo lying
in a pool of blood on the back seat of his car. According to
witnesses, Dikibo, a National Vice Chairman (South-south region)
of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was being driven to Abuja
for a meeting when his car was ambushed and he was killed with a
single bullet to the head. President Olusegun Obasanjo quickly
(too quickly, according to some) labeled the incident an
attempted robbery, and the police rounded up the usual five
suspects. In only one instance in the growing number of high
profile murders in the last five years, the case of the murder of
Attorney General Bola Ige, has anyone been charged or brought to
trial. In the last two years, the victims in southern Nigeria
include not only Ige, but also Rivers State opposition politician
Marshall Harry and PDP leader Andrew Ogun. On the gubernatorial
front, Lagos State Governor Bola Tinubu's convoy was attacked in
Anambra State; the Benue State governor's convoy was attacked a
few days earlier. Currently, Abia State Governor Orji Kalu is
accusing a top PDP operative of threatening to kill him. Last
week saw an attack on Lagos' Third Mainland Bridge against the
Chief of Naval Staff's convoy and three luxury buses were struck
on the same bridge a few days later.
Attack on Tinubu's convoy
3. (U) According to news reports, on March 6, gunmen attacked
Tinubu's armed, twelve-car convoy on its way back to Lagos from
Anambra State. Witnesses (and even the Governor himself)
initially told the press that the attack was an attempted
robbery. Governor Tinubu was not in any of the vehicles when the
attack occurred, but one policeman attached to Tinubu's entourage
was seriously wounded. There are unconfirmed reports that
several attackers were killed.
4. (U) There are conflicting views on whether the attack was, in
fact, politically motivated. Some pundits allege that the attack
could be the handiwork of such prominent personalities as Chief
Chris Uba, a major acto in the crisis that followed the botched
kidnapping of Anambra State Governor, Dr. Chris Ngige. Uba is
said to be deeply angered by Tinubu's support for his political
rival, Ngige, and could have seen Tinubu's unexpected presence in
Anambra as an opportunity to teach the insubordinate governor a
lesson by example.
5. (U) Another suspect is everyone's favorite bad boy and
candidate for villain, former Military President, Ibrahim
Babangida (IBB). IBB is rumored to be very uncomfortable with
Tinubu's growing popularity in the southwest and is said to be
having difficulty accepting Tinubu's emergence as the most
popular Yoruba politician. IBB's presidential ambitions are no
secret, and he has been working since the last elections to win
the south for himself in 2007.
6. (U) Whether any of these theories proves true or not, it is
clear that any successful attempt on Governor Tinubu's life would
have had serious consequences for Nigeria. Members of Tinubu's
Cabinet and the Lagos State Police Commissioner told CG that
there would almost certainly have been spontaneous attacks by the
Yorubas in Lagos and other parts of the southwest against
perceived Igbo and Hausa enemies. Such attacks could have
attracted retaliatory killings of Yoruba in other parts of
Nigeria. Gangs of unemployed and restless youths would have
joined in the fray to release pent up frustrations, and the
criminal element would have certainly taken advantage of the
breakdown in civil order.
7. (SBU) Sources close to the Governor have told CG that the
attack on Tinubu was much more serious and organized than has
been reported, while the Deputy Governor's Special Assistant told
PolSpec that the attack happened exactly as reported in the
papers. Despite our inquiries, so far no one has answered the
good investigator's question: "Who would benefit if Tinubu were
suddenly removed?" Although his death could cause civil disorder
and ethnic clashes for a period, there is not one "suspect" who
clearly wants to step into the vacuum such an event would leave.
8. (SBU) Comment: In addition to the violence against Governor
Tinubu and other prominent Nigerians, the southern states have
recently seen an upswing of crime against ordinary people, both
Nigerian and foreign, residents as well as diplomats (reftel).
To date, there is no discernible line connecting the dots to a
particular culprit or condition that explains these events - be
they political or criminal. Nor can we tell whether this spate
of violence constitutes a spike or a trend. The killings and
other criminal activities cut across all racial, ethnic,
geographic, economic and political groups. Post continues to
monitor the situation closely and will report further