C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 LAGOS 000369 SIPDIS CAIRO FOR POL – MAXSTADT E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/20/2013 TAGS: PGOV, PINS, PINR, ETRD, NI SUBJECT: LAGOS STATE GOVERNOR'S VIEWS ON IRAQ, NATIONAL ELECTIONS, AND AGOA Classified By: ACG ROBYN HINSON-JONES FOR REASON 1.5 (D)
1. (C) Begin summary. Lagos State Governor Tinubu told ConGen and DAS Bridgewater February 16 that he has asked the Lagos State Assembly to issue a resolution declaring that no new construction be permitted along "Embassy Row" on Victoria Island. Tinubu assured ConGen that he will do all he can to ensure protection of consular and diplomatic personnel in Lagos. He shared our view that the dispute with Iraq relates to weapons of mass destruction, not Islam, and he is confident that most of his co-religionists share this view. Tinubu pledged to work closely with the legislators who will be elected or re-elected to the National Assembly to secure passage of a customs bill, inaction on which has prevented Nigeria from benefiting from AGOA. Tinubu disclosed antipathy for President Obasanjo, but praised Vice President Atiku Abubakar, whom he has known for many years. End summary.
2. (C) During a luncheon for visiting DAS Pamela Bridgewater February 16, Lagos State Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu assured the DAS and accompanying ConGen that his office will do all it can to ensure protection of the Consulate in the event of war with Iraq. Tinubu added that he has asked the Lagos State Assembly to issue a resolution declaring that no new construction be permitted along "Embassy Row" on Victoria Island. With a view to the longer term, he will seek the Assembly's approval to designate the Walter Carrington Crescent a diplomatic zone. Such action would help ensure the safety and security of diplomatic missions remaining in Lagos.
3. (C) Tinubu expressed concern about Al Queda's nominal designation of Nigeria among the countries that need to be liberated from the grasp of American imperialism. Tinubu asserted that the vast majority of his fellow Muslims are neither sympathetic to Baghdad nor extremist Muslims. Nigeria's moderate Muslims have great sympathy for the United States, he said, and they know that the issue between Iraq and the United Nations relates to weapons of mass destruction, not Islam. The Governor said Al Queda's message was meant for agitators who might jeopardize Nigeria's unity and development.
4. (C) Regarding security in Nigeria, Tinubu said he expects that even if war breaks out few people will be incited to hold pro-Iraq or anti-US demonstrations in the southern states, particularly Osun, Oyo and Lagos. He said the politicians do not want international politics to detract from their mobilization efforts for the spring elections. Tinubu (himself a Muslim) has been meeting with Muslim leaders who will not support anti-US activities. He promised that any agitators would be "checkmated". The situation is different in northern Nigeria, he said, where it is politically expedient for moderate politicians to support Sharia. He expects violent demonstrations specifically in Kano, Kaduna and Jos.
5. (C) Tinubu senses that the United States has not maintained the momentum in its positive engagement of Islam that it had shown shortly after September 11, 2001. Lately, US media outlets have not shown enough concern for Muslims in the coverage of the impending conflict with Iraq. US coverage of the issue has been too intellectual when it is very emotional in the Muslim world. This fact has given Iraq a propaganda edge over the US. Tinubu perceives that the USG has not done a very good job explaining its cause to the Muslim world either. Most Muslims, he said, believe President Bush is "simply finishing his father's business." Even Tinubu, a staunch US supporter, doubts the validity of the US argument.
6. (C) Turning to the presidential contest, Tinubu disclosed that he does not like President Obasanjo because he contributed to the end of democracy in Nigeria during his tenure as a military president and is now benefiting from that history. That said, Tinubu admitted that he and his party, the Alliance for Democracy, must support Obasanjo. Southwest Nigeria is Yoruba land and the President is Yoruba. Tinubu"s party had no choice since it has not fielded a presidential candidate. Moreover, Obasanjo is the only candidate who stands a chance of blocking his rival, General Muhammadu Buhari, whose ethnocentrism would jeopardize Nigeria"s national unity. Buhari and his ilk are agents of destabilization who would be far worse than Obasanjo. Tinubu and many other governors are therefore implementing a strategy to re-elect Obasanjo, partly in an effort to prevent Sharia from spreading. Tinubu predicted that the President will follow his own course, if re-elected, since he will not need as many friends the second time around.
7. (C) Tinubu praised Vice President Atiku Abubakar, whom he has known for many years. Tinubu warned that former military strongman Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida and National Security Advisor Aliyu Mohamed will try to discredit Atiku. That effort will fail, Tinubu predicted, because Atiku has the support of the governors and the National Assembly. Elaborating on his knowledge of the VP, Tinubu said he has known and understood the VP even before his entry into politics. Atiku is a detribalized politician who knows where he is going and how to build bridges to get there. Tinubu expects Atiku will play a larger role in the next presidential administration, especially in economic affairs, while Obasasanjo will concentrate on external relations. Atiku may also assume responsibility for other domestic portfolios in the next administration.
8. (C) Tinubu bemoaned the fact that Nigeria is not benefiting from the textile provisions of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, and claimed partial responsibility for this situation. He said he had not pressed his fellow governors to exert pressure on the national legislators for enactment of a customs bill mandating country-of-origin certification of inputs that might go into Nigerian textile exports to the United States. Since Lagos State manufacturers could benefit substantially from the AGOA textile provisions, Tinubu plans to press for quick passage of the customs bill. He believes the next legislature will passed it soon after it convenes in late spring 2003.
9. (C) Bio comment. Tinubu is direct, articulate, and a sharp analyst who understands accommodation. He acknowledges the imperative of political compromise in the game for power, even with political actors whom he might be inclined to denigrate. Tinubu credits his going into politics to Atiku's personal encouragement. Tinubu's admiration of Atiku suggests that the Governor could be persuaded to play a national role in an Atiku administration if the VP were elected president four years hence.
10. (U) DAS Bridgewater did not clear this cable before her departure from post. HINSON-JONES