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Cablegate: Longtime Nigeria Observer On Kano's Socio-Economic

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

171630Z Oct 05




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) Embassy officers met Sept. 1 with Professor Paul
Lubeck, who recently visited Kano State. Lubeck formerly
lived in Kano and has visited Nigeria for more than 40
years. Lubeck's observations about Kano were:

- anti-Americanism there is at its highest point in more
than 40 years;

- the United States has hurt itself badly among northerners
with the perception that it is not opposed to President
Obasanjo's apparent quest for a third term;

- because most northerners perceive federal politics and
their own influence as meaningless, they feel "isolated,
rejected, and marginalized";

- there likely will be trouble in the north if Obasanjo
seeks another term; and

- Shari'a has improved law and order and is economically
redistributive to the poor, but Kano lacks the leadership to
restore it to economic prosperity. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Ambassador Campbell and embassy officers met on
September 1, 2005, in Abuja with Professor Paul Lubeck at
the conclusion of Lubeck's research project in Kano. Lubeck
is a professor of sociology at the University of California,
Santa Cruz; he formerly lived in Kano, and has been visiting
Nigeria for more than 40 years. In his current research,
Lubeck focuses on the relationship between globalization and
the Islamic revival in urban-industrial contexts. Lubeck
offered the following observations on his visit to Kano.

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Northern Nigerians' Views of the United States
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3. (SBU) Anti-Americanism in Kano is higher than at any time
in Lubeck's more than 40 years of visits to Nigeria. Much
of this unpopularity results from the U.S. policy on Iraq
and the United States' perceived support for President
Obasanjo in the 2003 election and since. Northerners see
the United States as being "enormously influential" over
Obasanjo, and are unhappy with the United States over the
perception that it is not opposed to Obasanjo's pursuing a
third term as president.

4. (U) Kano is the focal point in Nigeria for citizens who
feel neglected and who oppose the Obasanjo government.
Additionally, most northerners perceive federal politics and
their own influence as virtually meaningless. There is a
"widespread sense of despair" in Kano but also the
acknowledgement that Northern Nigeria offers no alternative
leadership. According to Lubeck, Kano's inhabitants did not
consider the Nigerian military a factor in their political
assessment. While there is nostalgia for the period of
military rule and its resulting stability, the Nigerian
military today is "irrelevant" in the north. Said Lubeck,
"The Army runs itself, and even [federal] ministers know
that they don't matter." Instead, this is a "one-person
government" in the form of Obasanjo, and there are
"selections, not elections." Lubeck predicted there likely
"will be trouble" in the north if Obasanjo pursues a third,
currently unconstitutional, term - even if Obasanjo manages
to make such an act "constitutional" by changing the current
document's two-term presidential limit or by reinterpreting
the Constitution.

5. (SBU) Conspiracy theories are common in the north,
ranging from the United States' perceived unconditional
backing of Obasanjo, to why the Nigerian Government
apparently has no policy for reviving industry in Nigeria,
and especially in Kano. Educated northerners are very aware
of the U.S. military's heightened interest in the Gulf of
Guinea and Nigerian oil, which concerns them greatly and
contributes to a general suspicion of U.S. intentions.
Lubeck recommended the United States should consider no
longer sending U.S. Special Forces to Sokoto for training
and be selective in other parts of the north. "Sokoto is
viewed as a religious city (similar to Mecca)," and the
presence of foreign military forces can be inflammatory, he
said. This attitude can fuel strong anti-American sentiment
there and contributes to the arguments of conspiracy
theorists, however implausible.

6. (U) The closure of the U.S Consulate and U.S. Information
Service office in Kaduna was very harmful to U.S. interests
in northern Nigeria, according to Lubeck. He commented that
U.S. officers posted there had been "enormously influential"
in the region, and they provided an open and welcome face of
America that northerners could easily identify. This lack
of a full-time American presence continues to contribute to
northern feelings of isolation and rejection. Northerners
point to the cost and inconvenience of traveling to the U.S.
Consulate in Lagos for U.S. visas, as well as the "growing"
refusal rate and the added security requirements. (Note:
Embassy Abuja's consular staffing level is expected to
increase sufficiently in the indeterminate future to permit
the embassy to issue nearly all types of U.S. visas. End

Motivations for the Adoption of Shari'a

7. (U) The north's adoption of Shari'a is an idealistic
response to try and heal sectarian conflicts within Nigerian
Islam, and to reestablish law and order. Northerners feel
they tried Western democracy and military rule, both of
which failed, and that at least they know Shari'a. Shari'a
is the "republic of virtue" and the "stoic acceptance of
poverty, but with dignity and social order." Shari'a is in
fact conservative, not radical. Even if Shari'a does not
"succeed," it is about morality and not about delivering a
short-term economic benefit. It is not a rational-actor
model; instead, it is a restorationist, Muslim model which
follows chronologically the British conquest of Nigeria.

8. (U) Shari'a is a political system and a class system. It
also is economically redistributive in nature and because of
this is highly popular with the poor of Kano. No one in
Kano is opposed to Shari'a, but no one knows exactly what it
is, either. Lubeck described it as a Rorschach test, within
which each adherent sees the characteristics and benefits of
Shari'a in his or her own way.

9. (U) Despite Kano State's adoption of Shari'a, there is no
support for the Nigerian Taliban in Kano in any
institutional way, and the common people consider members of
that organization to be "criminals." Probably because of
their commercial interests and prosperity, Kano's Lebanese
are "modernizers," and excepting the United States' position
on Iraq, they are pro-American. Kano's Lebanese also fear
the rise of more fundamentalist elements. Religion - of all
types - is now the "growth industry" of Nigeria, Lubeck

10. (U) Shari'a is producing some degree of law and order
following the Judiciary's collapse after Nigeria's civil war
and its oil boom. Crime is vastly lower in Kano than in
Nigeria's south; according to Lubeck, Kano is safe even
throughout the night. Kano's hizbah, or Islamic police, are
not concentrating on regulating social behavior but instead
are mainly occupied with directing traffic, in an employment
initiative of the governor of Kano State.

Economic and Social Conditions in Kano

11. (U) Kano's Muslim brotherhoods are very strong in the
commercial sector. These associations provide trust and
rituals, which make possible loans and credit - in a society
in which there is no possibility of legal recourse. The
problem is Nigerians' lack of access to credit, in a country
where commercial interest rates range from 20 to 30 percent.
These Muslim brotherhoods therefore aid long-distance credit
as well as trade, and act as a form of privatization in
providing services no longer supplied by a failing state.

12. (U) Lubeck says the north should be concentrating on
producing food but instead is trying to control national oil
rents. Some Lebanese have left Kano because of the
prevailing poor economic conditions there. Commerce in Kano
has been harmed severely by the fact that people are too
poor to buy most kinds of products. As a result, northern
Nigeria is now using only 20 percent of its industrial
capacity, as compared to 1985. New construction is evident
in Kano, but there is no other evidence of wealth or of
benefits from Nigeria's very substantial oil revenues.
Because of the complete breakdown of the government's
ability to provide services, electricity in Kano has now
been privatized - but very inefficiently - in the form of
power produced by generators. According to Lubeck, if
things worked as they should, Kano would act as the Chicago
of this part of West Africa, rather than being economically
devastated. With new and visionary leadership, Kano has the
potential to regain its place as the import-export waypoint
of the pan-Sahel region - but this leadership is lacking,
and there are no potential leaders waiting on the sidelines.

13. (U) Fertility in Kano is very high, in part because the
term "family planning" fails on its face. Instead, it must
be renamed "reproductive health" if it is to succeed.
Improved health care has led to a "soaring" population -
despite a likely concurrent increase in the infant mortality
rate. As a result, Kano City's population could now be as
high as 4 million. Lubeck noted that people in Kano are
embarrassed by the outbreak of polio in Nigeria's north.
There is also, however, popular resentment over the very
public efforts of the World Health Organization and the U.S.
Agency for International Development to devote resources to
eradicate polio, rather than combat the more widespread
problems of malnutrition and malaria.


14. (SBU) Embassy Abuja generally agrees with Professor
Lubeck's observations about Kano and Nigeria's north.
Northerners clearly feel estranged from Nigeria's political
process, and they perceive U.S. policy as being almost
completely in line with the Christian-dominated Obasanjo
government. Unlike the South-South's objections to the
Obasanjo government, which focus much more on questions of
oil-revenue distribution, the north's alienation is cultural
and deep-rooted. As the leader of the north, Kano will be
the likely location of any violent Nigerian expression of
dissatisfaction with the Obasanjo administration or his
increasingly credited pursuit of a third presidential term.


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