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Cablegate: Nigeria - Outreach On Newsweek Story

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

171444Z May 05

UNCLAS ABUJA 000771

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT FOR P, PA AND SA/PPD

E.O. 12958; N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM KISL NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA - OUTREACH ON NEWSWEEK STORY

REF: STATE 90992

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. NOT FOR POSTING ON THE
INTRANET OR INTERNET.

1. (SBU) Post has been pursuing the Newsweek story
since it surfaced in the Nigerian press on May 9. Most
versions, and all in the beginning, were repeats of
foreign media reports of demonstrations/riots in
Afghanistan. The Nigerian Government is aware that the
story could be used to incite violence, and its media
have basically stayed low-key in reporting the Newsweek
allegation only as a cause of the Afghan violence. The
mainstream private print media has followed suit, and
we are now seeing reporting in the same low key on
Newsweek's retraction. Post has disseminated the
Secretary's statement and then the Newsweek retraction

SIPDIS
(reftel) widely among the media.

2. (SBU) In addition to the GON's caution, we were
quite frankly helped by the fact that the large Muslim
community in Nigeria is seized with many other issues
at the moment, issues that have gained more prominence
in Nigeria's media than the Newsweek story. One main
Islamist rabblerouser, for example, apparently has been
distracted by the latest public battle (septel) between
his followers and those of the Sultan of Sokoto,
battles that have killed several Nigerians. The
Nigerian private-sector media has also been engrossed
in reporting efforts by National Assembly legislators
to impeach President Obasanjo, Nigeria's very public
quest for debt relief, and the arrest and trial for
corruption of the Education Minister and Senate
President. There have been no demonstrations regarding
the Newsweek allegation, and no Nigerian official or
Muslim leader has made a public statement about the
Newsweek story or about the demonstrations that
followed elsewhere. No Nigerian official has raised
the issue in private meetings with us either.

3. (U) There will be residual damage from the Newsweek
allegation. It has entered the popular imagination of
Nigerian Muslims. Moreover, it can be used by any
Nigerian politico who wants to gain Muslim support by
dinging us, even far into the future. The one
newspaper that ran Nigerian angles to the Newsweek
story was the Triumph, owned by the opposition-run Kano
State government. Kano's Governor Shekarau, we note,
is the one who prohibited polio immunization in his
state on the grounds it was allegedly a western attempt
to render Muslims infertile -- allegations against the
polio vaccine dredged up from old blogs on U.S.
websites. Kano's vaccination ban re-infected countries
as far afield from Nigeria as Indonesia. Anyone
seeking publicity can dredge up this Newsweek issue
down the road to mobilize a demonstration too, most
likely against the GON as well as against us.

4. (SBU) Although the Triumph has already reported the
Newsweek retraction, our CPAO is meeting with editors
from that paper and others today May 17 to make the
reftel points, and will make the rounds of the
electronic media again tomorrow. Post has a strong
outreach program to Nigeria's 70 million Muslims, and
will continue to emphasize those efforts.
FUREY

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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