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Cablegate: Lagos Large, Peaceful "Save Nigeria" Rally

VZCZCXRO5339
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHOS #0027 0221442
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 221442Z JAN 10
FM AMCONSUL LAGOS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1181
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE

UNCLAS LAGOS 000027

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR AF/FO, AF/W, AF/RSA, DRL, INR/AA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM SOCI NI
SUBJECT: LAGOS LARGE, PEACEFUL "SAVE NIGERIA" RALLY

REF: ABUJA 37

-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) A large and peaceful "Save Nigeria" rally assembled
January 21 near the Lagos State governor's complex in Ikeja.
Prominent Nigerian human rights activists, religious leaders,
and government officials addressed the crowd on the troubling
state of Nigerian domestic politics and the "political
vacuum" created by the prolonged absence of President
Yar'Adua. The rally ended peacefully with singing and
dancing by the approximately 3,000 people in attendance
(though some crowd estimates were higher). Also noteworthy
was a heavy albeit disciplined police presence; it appears
that the rally was coordinated closely with the Lagos State
government. END SUMMARY.

-------------------------------
MESSAGES TO THE MANNERED MASSES
-------------------------------

2. (SBU) The January 21 "Save Nigeria" rally in Lagos was
scheduled to feature prominent leaders/speakers, including
Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, civil rights attorney Femi
Falana, and Pastor Tunde Bakare. However, Soyinka, who had
led a similar rally in Abuja January 12 (reftel), was unable
to attend. Instead, organizers read aloud Soyinka's message,
which "regretted that the people's fundamental right to
choose their leaders had been thwarted with arrogance and
disdain." Soyinka declared that Nigerians "now have the
choice to cast off that yoke and reclaim their sovereignty."

3. (SBU) Pastor Bakare, head of the Latter Rain Church,
urged Nigerians to resist any attempt by the ruling People's
Democratic Party (PDP) to create "a political vacuum" in
Abuja due to President Yar'Adua's absence. He also called on
the Senate to pass a vote of no confidence on Yar'Adua for
abandoning his presidential responsibilities and failing to
relinquish his duties to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan.

4. (SBU) Pastor Bakare went on to criticize "the PDP's
unwillingness to submit to the will of the people." He said,
"If it is so hard for these elected officials to hand over
power within the same party, how can they be sure that they
will hand over power to an opposition party if they lose an
election?" Bakare concluded by giving a letter to Lagos
State Governor Fashola to take to the Governors' Forum on
behalf of the civil society community, respectfully
requesting a change in GON leadership.

5. (SBU) Governor Fashola accepted the note and commended
those present for their peaceful manner and lawful
demonstration. Commenting on the current state of Nigerian
politics, Fashola observed that "those who exercise public
authority should know they are doing it for one purpose -- to
serve the people. If for any reason an elected official is
unable to do this, he should quit." Fashola ended his
remarks by encouraging the crowd "not to give in to political
violence."

-------
COMMENT
-------

6. (SBU) The peaceful rally of 3,000 or more ended on a
positive note, with activists singing and dancing upon
dispersal. A large but disciplined police presence certainly
helped to maintain order, but the active participation of and
coordination with Governor Fashola and his staff was key to
keeping the marchers on message and peaceful. Given the
strength of the political opposition in the south, it is not
surprising that the Lagos march was bigger and more animated
than the earlier march in Abuja. END COMMENT.

7. (U) ConGen Lagos coordinated this telegram with Embassy
Abuja.
BLAIR

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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