President Umar Yar’Adua may have been poisoned, as the North ‘arranged’ Sylva’s judicial ouster as Bayelsa State Governor

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Umaru Yar'Adua
Umaru Yar’Adua

Online whistleblower, WikiLeaks, has released another cable from the American Embassy in Lagos painting a picture that former President Umar Yar’Adua may have been poisoned to worsen his health condition as it also indicated that the removal of former Bayelsa State Governor, Timipre Silva, was orchestrated by powerful figures from Northern Nigeria to weaken President Goodluck Jonathan’s power-base.

 

The cable reads,

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 LAGOS 000153 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DOE FOR GPERSON 
TREASURY FOR DFIELDS, RHALL 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/23/2018 
TAGS: PGOV KDEM NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: IBB CONFIDANT SAYS YAR'ADUA HAS FOOD 
POISONING 
 
Classified By: Consul General Donna Blair for Reasons 1.4 (B,D) 
 
1.  (C) Summary: Professor Ukandi G. Damachi (strictly 
protect throughout), confidant of former military head of 
state Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) told Pol-Econ Chief 
that President Yar'Adua is ill with food poisoning.  The 
remainder of the conversation followed a line of argument we 
have heard from other southern interlocutors: Northern elites 
fear the Presidency will revert to the South, the military is 
restive, vague allusions to some sort of action that will 
involve retired generals or former military heads of state. 
Damachi offered no more proof of his assertions than have 
others.  However, in light of his close relationship with 
IBB, we repeat the conversation here for what it is worth. 
Regarding the President's illness, we note that in Abuja 
circles we have not heard the food poisoning scenario, 
although we have heard the allergic reaction scenario. 
National Security Advisor reported to the Ambassador April 21 
that the President was due back in-country around April 
28-29.  End Summary. 
 
2.  (C) Pol-Econ Chief met on April 23 with Professor Ukandi 
G. Damachi, a confidant of former President Ibrahim Badamasi 
Babangida (IBB) and longstanding contact of the Consulate. 
(Note:  Damachi became a U.S. citizen earlier this year. End 
Note)  Damachi opened the conversation by saying "There are 
lots of problems in Nigeria."  The first problem, he said, is 
the President's illness; "his food was poisoned", Damachi 
alleged.  Asked whether he meant "food poisoning" or that 
someone had deliberately poisoned the President's food, 
Damachi shrugged, replying "The President inherited 
Obasanjo's kitchen staff"; Yar'Adua has now fired them all, 
and the kitchen has been cleaned out following the incident, 
Damachi said.  At the same time, Damachi went on, the 
President did attend functions on both the Saturday and 
Sunday preceding his illness and ate some food at both of 
them.  "What President eats at a function?", Damachi asked 
rhetorically.  The President was so sick that the day he 
signed the budget, he was unable to sign a second piece of 
legislation awaiting his approval, the appointment of the 
current Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes 
Commission (EFCC) as the new Chairman. (Note:  We have not 
heard from other circles recently that Lamorde will move up 
to the position and actually officially take on the title of 
his old boss and mentor Nuhu Ribadu.  End Note)  The 
government is keeping it all very quiet, but the incident 
"reflects very bad security," Damachi stated. 
 
3.  (C) The President's health exacerbates the other 
problems, Damachi went on.  The northern leadership does not 
believe that Yar'Adua's health will allow him to serve out 
his four year term; that would mean that the presidency would 
pass to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan and to the south, 
which is anathema to the North, Damachi said. In fact, the 
underlying reason the tribunal ruled against Bayelsa Governor 
Timipre Silva was to undercut Jonathan's power base, he 
claimed.  It is not yet a question of who will replace 
Yar'Adua, he said; the more important question at the present 
time is how to replace him.  Yar'Adua has been in office for 
a whole year, and "nothing is happening. It may look as 
though things are happening, but it is all theater, before 
the television cameras."  The ongoing probes, such as of the 
electric power generation debacle, suit the North because 
they expose the corruption of the last administration, 
Damachi said. 
 
4.  (C) What happened at the Health Ministry (Note: Former 
President Obasanjo's daughter, Senator Obasanjo-Bello, 
Nigeria's Health Minister, Minister of State and several 
civil servants are under indictment following accusations 
that they received naira 300 million (USD 2.5 million) of 
Ministry funds for personal use. End Note) has happened 
elsewhere, Damachi said, but with different outcomes.  For 
example, the Minister of Defense was approached at Christmas 
time by a group of generals who brought him a gift of naira 
500 million (USD 4.3 million).  The Defense Minister was 
smart, Damachi noted, and went immediately to the President 
to tell him what had happened.  The Defense Minister also 
told the President that the young officers are very critical 
of the generals, who they say are corrupt and use monies 
 
LAGOS 00000153  002 OF 002 
 
 
budgeted for military matters for personal and political use. 
 It was for that reason that earlier this year the President 
ordered long overdue back pay and pensions be paid and 
military salaries raised, Damachi said. 
 
5.  (C)  The decision of the Supreme Court on appeals by All 
Nigeria People's Party candidate Muhammedu Buhari and Action 
Congress candidate former Vice President Atiku Abubakar from 
the tribunal's validation of Yar'Adua's election is going to 
be issued on or about May 29, Damachi said.  If the Supreme 
Court invalidates the tribunal's decision and orders a new 
election, Senate President David Mark will assume the 
Presidency until the election takes place within 90 days. The 
North distrusts Mark, who is a "coup plotter"; as a former 
military signals officer, he is trained to "tell the troops 
what to do", Damachi said.  The North doesn't want Mark in 
power for even a short time, Damachi said. (Note: Senate 
President David Mark also has his problems as his election 
seat was recently overturned in February. End Note) 
 
6.  (C) IBB met recently in Minna, Niger State with "the 
boys" to discuss the situation, Damachi said.  They "planned 
to act in June", Damachi said, but are now taking into 
account the dates of the Supreme Court decision.  Asked to 
elaborate, Damachi said he had queried IBB, who did not 
respond. "I'm glad I will be in China," Damachi chuckled. 
One of his next books will be entitled "Why Democracy is Bad 
for Africa", Damachi volunteered.  He favors benevolent 
dictatorships, along the lines of those in Singapore or 
Malaysia, to bring countries along until they are developed 
sufficiently to make democracy work. 
 
7.  (C) Comment:  We have heard this same general story line: 
Northern elites fearful the Presidency will revert to the 
South, military restive, vague allusions to some sort of 
action that will involve retired generals or former military 
heads of state, from other southern interlocutors.  Damachi 
offered no more proof of his assertions than have others. 
Nonetheless, in light of his close relationship with IBB, we 
repeat the conversation here for what it is worth.  End 
Comment. 
 
8.  (U)  This cable was cleared by the Embassy in Abuja. 
BLAIR

 

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