Cablegate: Kano State Governor On Polio, Elections

Published: Wed 31 Mar 2004 04:08 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
REF: 03 ABUJA 1955
1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Charge Roberts took advantage of Kano
Governor Ibrahim Shekarau's applying for a U.S. visa to meet
with him on March 30 about the polio vaccination campaign in
Kano. The Charge said to Shekarau that the polio vaccination
campaign is a major concern outside Nigeria, as well as
inside. Shekarau noted that he had been in charge of polio
vaccinations when a civil servant years ago, and he was now
making progress on getting the GON to buy new,
non-contaminated vaccine. "Vaccinations would be morally
wrong unless we convince people" that we have safe vaccine.
Shekarau also told the Charge that his party had won 32 of 37
declared results in Kano's local government elections March
2. (SBU) Shekarau said the issue now is a need to disabuse
the population of wrong ideas. Nigeria's Federal Government
had been wrong in saying the vaccines were not contaminated,
and progress will be made as the Federal Government's
scientists and those he appointed explain that the level of
contaminants is too low to damage the citizens' health.
Shekarau noted that he had appointed a committee of local
scientists who were well known and trusted by the people of
Kano to test the vaccine. When they found the contamination,
he said, he sent a request to the Minister of Health that the
GON either disprove the contamination or stop using the
vaccine. Shekarau claimed the government did neither at
first, but now admitted the contamination and was working
with his scientists to show how the contamination was not a
meaningful amount.
3. (SBU) Shekarau said "We need psychological warfare to
prove to people that the contaminated vaccine will not be
used." The Governor claimed he was making progress getting
the GON to get new vaccine from Indonesia through UNICEF.
Once the old vaccines were thrown away and the new vaccines
made available, he believed the program could move forward.
When the Charge asked if only Indonesian-produced vaccine
would suffice, Shekarau said, "People will not care if the
second dose was made in France, as long as the first dose is
from a safe place." It is a matter of confidence, Shekarau
continued, and justice must be seen to be done.
4. (SBU) DCM interjected that polio is spreading, that it had
gone from 6 states in Nigeria to 24 and to neighboring
countries during the ban on vaccinations. If Kano received
new vaccines from Indonesia, would they use it? Shekarau
said the important thing was that Kano participate in the
process of getting them. His administration was enjoying a
lot of trust from the people, and he had good control over
the community. "But there must be new vaccine in order to
convince the people that the contamination is insignificant;
if you insist it is not there, nobody will believe you."
5. (SBU) The Charge noted that the vaccination ban in Kano is
being perceived as having religious overtones. Shekarau said
the ban has nothing to do with Islam, a religion of
cleanliness and progress. The issue was keeping public
trust. Shekarau explained that he had banned the polio
vaccinations in order to separate that issue from other
vaccinations, to keep public fears of contaminated polio
vaccine from causing the public to stop other kinds of
vaccinations. "Some people say we are against polio
vaccination to make political gains, but I would rather leave
office than make political gains." Shekarau said he was "in
the forefront of a crusade to get religion out of politics."
Good governance was important, but mischievous people used
religion to cover their corrupt practices.
6. (SBU) In response to a question from the DCM, Shekarau
said it would not matter if ANPP presidential candidate
Buhari had campaigned in favor of the vaccinations. Buhari
was beloved in Kano, but his support was based on being
transparent. If Buhari tried to convince people without
giving reasons, he would not succeed. Kano was a politically
sophisticated community, Shekarau continued, where people
asked questions.
7. (SBU) Shekarau stressed not adding to controversy. The
longer you take trying to say the vaccine is not
contaminated, the longer it will take to resolve the problem
-- years, he said. Shekarau said he had tried to keep the
controversy out of the press. He had gone to the science
professionals in his committee because he wanted to be
transparent. His scientists had been careful to stop at
saying the vaccine was contaminated but not explain that the
amounts were insignificant to health, Shekarau insisted, in
order to avoid generating controversy. For similar reasons
he had tried to keep the controversy out of the press.
8. (SBU) COMMENT: Shekarau felt a watershed was reached last
Thursday with the meeting of Kano stakeholders and the
Federal Government when the GON agreed that there was
contamination. There is still disagreement on levels of
significance to do harm. But if the GON provides "fresh"
vaccine, Kano is prepared to use it. He feels this is "lots
of progress." He has talked to the Federal officials who say
they are getting in a new consignment of vaccine from
Indonesia. He wants Kano professionals involved in the
procurement and monitoring process so that people will have
confidence in the new vaccine. It would solve the problem of
credibility. He has been in correspondence with Kofi Annan
and also talked with UN Representative Gambari yesterday by
phone. Shekarau said Gambari gave him assurance that if
Shekarau concludes his plans for Indonesian vaccine, the UN
is prepared to fund. Shekarau claims the people of Kano are
more concerned than anyone that this matter be resolved
because they are the ones living with polio. END COMMENT.
9. (SBU) Shekarau said his administration had won public
trust, and 32 of the 37 Local Government Area (LGA) elections
in his state on March 27. Figures for one more LGA had not
been released, elections had been postponed in three other
LGAs and by-elections would be needed in three more where
there were problems in the election. He had worked hard to
promote attitudinal change, especially to reverse the trend
of governors being seen only as dispensers of contracts. His
(PDP) predecessor had fired teachers to have money for road
contracts; he had hired new teachers. There was a crisis of
confidence across Nigeria and he wanted to get rid of
corruption and change society's orientation.
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