Highlights : Roof of Abuja Hash
cable 08ABUJA1016, S/NF) NIGERIA: xxxxxxxxxxxx


C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 000202



E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/28/2019

Classified By: Political Counselor Walter Pflaumer for reasons 1.4. (b
& d).

1. (C) SUMMARY. Ambassador met with Kwara State Governor and
President of the Governor's Forum (GF) Bukola Saraki on
January 28. Saraki was his usual self, discussing President
Yar'Adua's health situation and his own attempt to resolve
some of the EFCC's issues by appointing the former NFIU Chief
as Director General of the GF. He also noted that he had
followed through on the framework for stemming polio
outbreaks tha tthe Ambassador had given to him in December
2008 to share with the 36 governors. (NOTE: The Ambassador
had provided the interagency points on what states needed to
do better to address polio in Nigeria.) Saraki continues to
maintain that Yar'Adua does not have lung cancer and noted
that he is less fatigued and breathing better than in
September 2008. Saraki told me Yar'Adua recognizes the need
to take visible action on his seven point agenda in 2009, as
January 2010 will see the beginning of political maneuvering
for the 2011 elections. Saraki put the recent reconciliation
between former President Obasanjo and former VP Atiku in the
context of preparations for the 2011 elections. He again
thanked Ambassador for a presentation on polio sent by the
Mission and noted that the governors agreed to work to
eradicate polio in their respective states under the umbrella
of the "Make Your State Polio Free" campaign. END SUMMARY.

Saraki comments on yar'adua's health
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2. (C) On the President, Saraki began by saying Yar'Adua will
remain in Abuja the week of January 26 and plans to travel to
Katsina and other areas of Nigeria the next week. He holds
to his view (as a medical doctor) that Yar'Adua is
chronically ill, suffering from kidney disease, but maintains
that he knows of no plans to go to Germany for treatment and
does not believe he has lung cancer or is in need of a kidney
transplant at this time. Saraki said Yar'Adua wanted to go
out of Nigeria with his family for vacation, but was
concerned that international travel would be perceived as
another medical trip, so decided to stay in Nigeria to allay
any fears. Regarding Yar'Adua's health in general, Saraki
said that Yar'Adua suffers from less fatigue and shortness of
breath than he had in September 2008, and has not had a major
episode since returning to Nigeria from his September trip to
Saudi Arabia, implying that his medical regime has given him
some relief.

3. (C) NOTE: In a January 27 meeting, Shell Petroleum Vice
President for Africa Anne Pickard noted to Ambassador that xxxxxxxxxxxx
the German construction and transport company
Julius Berger xxxxxxxxxxxx provide transportation to and
from Germany for doctors looking after Yar'Adua, as well as
helps ship medical equipment to Abuja.

Yar'adua realizes need to act in 2009
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4. (C) Saraki asked the Ambassador (given her recent trip
back) how Nigeria is being viewed in the U.S. these days.
Ambassador noted that there was still concern that there was
not more movement on Yar'Adua's 7-point agenda, nor concrete
steps to improve the Niger Delta situation and the lack of
movement on the anti-corruption fight remains at the top of
the list. Saraki said he discussed this with Yar'Adua and
that Yar'Adua realized he needs to move faster and no longer
has the liberty to be as deliberative as his nature might
dictate. Saraki said that he and Yar'Adua are of like minds
in seeing 2009 as a "make or break" year. In January 2010,
political camps within the PDP will already be formulating
their positions on candidates for the 2011 election and it
would be harder for Ministers and others to take any bold
actions as they seek their godfathers for 2011. Ambassador
asked Saraki if he thought the PDP would support Yar'Adua for
another term, if he so desired. Saraki said he did not know,
noting there are already others interested (i.e., Atiku) who
will also be working the party members. Saraki said he did
not know and has not received any signal from Yar'Adua
regarding his plans for 2011.

Abuja 00000202 002 of 002

Saraki on obasanjo-atiku meeting
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5. (C) Saraki maintained that former President Obasanjo and
former VP Atiku were having a "lovefest" in order to prepare
for the 2011 elections. Asked about internal machinations
within the PDP lately, which clearly have the governors on
one side and politicos like Obasanjo and Atiku on the other,
Saraki said this was the case and he expected things to
continue in this vein as people begin to decide who they are
going to back for the 2011 election. Saraki said Atiku would
officially be coming back into the PDP in March 2009.

Gov's forum to put efcc back on track
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6. (C) Saraki said he is trying to work behind the scenes
getting the issues surrounding the Economic and Financial
Crimes Commission "back on track." He maintained this was
the motivation behind hiring former Nigerian Financial
Intelligence Unit (NFIU) Director Ashishano Bayo Okauru as
Director General of the Governor's Forum (announced publicly
on January 27). Saraki said Okauru is not/not being pursued
on corruption nor national security grounds and neither is
there an arrest pending on him. According to Saraki, Okauru
has worked out his "resignation issues." (COMMENT: Given
previous EFCC focus on the Saraki family, we are skeptical of
the Governor's comments as he has a vested in terest in the
EFCC taking its spotlight off his family. END COMMENT.)

State-level polio eradication campaigns
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7. (C) Saraki said the governors were appreciative of the
polio presentation the Ambassador sent to the Governors'
Forum in December, noting the attendance of Ministry of
Health officials at the forum. The governors agreed to a
campaign to make their states polio-free and report on polio
issues at each GF meeting. Further developments will be
reported septel.

8. (C) COMMENT: Although Saraki is very plugged in with
President Yar'Adua and holds a lot of political sway with
many governors, particuarly in the north, we always need to
weigh his motives with the information he provides in
one-on-one meetings. He certainly sees himself as a
potential political candidate at sometime and sees Yar'Adua
as one of his best vehicles to get there. On the other hand,
he clearly has fears about the Obasanjo-Atiku reunion as they
would be a more difficult faction of the PDP to control.

9. (U) This cable was coordinated with Consulate Lagos.