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|Tags:||PGOV PINR PINS NI|
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ABUJA 001276 SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/07/2011 TAGS: PGOV, PINR, PINS, NI SUBJECT: RULING PARTY EXPELS DISSIDENT POLITICIANS REF: A. A) ABUJA 0733 B. B) ABUJA 0553 Summary ------- 1. (U) The ruling People,s Democratic Party (PDP) on May 31 expelled five dissident members of its Board of Trustees, and three elected party officers, for "anti-party activities." Membership in or open support for newly founded political "formations" formed the dissidents' offense. The rise of these proto-political parties, and flirtation with them by members of all three registered political parties, represents the lingering resentments of those left out of the political spoils system, and the long-standing divisions within Nigeria's "big tent" parties. Whether these new formations win formal recognition from election authorities will determine not only their own viability, but that of the three existing parties as well. End Summary. Dissidents Expelled ------------------- 2. (U) On May 31, the PDP,s National Executive Committee (NEC), sitting in Abuja, expelled five members of its Board of Trustees, and three elected party officers. Sunday Awoniyi, Bamanga Tukur, Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke, Asheik Jarma and Chief Don Etiebet, all senior politicians with national recognition, and members of the PDP Board of Governors (essentially the founding fathers of the party), had stood accused of "anti-party activities" in a disciplinary report assembled earlier by the Deputy National Chairman, Iro Dan Musa. The three party officials, National Publicity Secretary Emmanuel Ibeshi, his deputy Gbenga Olawepo, and SIPDIS Vice Chairman (South-South) Marshall Harry, also faced "anti-party" charges not linked to the five senior politicians. In a later press conference, Chairman Gemade, in announcing the expulsions, also "cautioned" prominent northerner Abubakar Rimi and unnamed others for their "open criticism" of the party. 3. (U) The expulsions come after the rise of several new political &formations,8 (so termed as they lack, and so far have not sought, official recognition from the Independent National Electoral Commission as political parties). The NEC focused in particular on the New Frontiers group, "coordinated" by Awoniyi and formally led by Ume-Ezeoke, to which Jarma and Tukur had either formally pledged allegiance or made statements and appearances on behalf of. Etiebet was similarly linked to the National Solidarity Association (NSA). These two formations draw support from prominent politicians and retired military officers from across the nation, but essentially have their bases in the north. Each has ties, at least by association, with former military Head of State, General Ibrahim Babangida (ret.). Many of the announced members, particularly in the NSA, worked under Babangida as either military governors or civilian officials. A third new association, the Fourth Dimension Nigeria (FDN), a collection of Abacha-era officers and politicians, has so far gained much less attention. These are the best known, but not the only, political associations. Pushed Before They Jumped? -------------------------- 4. (U) The expulsions appear to be a preemptive strike at PDP dissidents long critical of party chairman Barnabas Gemade, and long suspected of plans to split the PDP and seek political "relevance" in new parties composed of elements of the three existing parties. The expulsions came at a time of multiplying meetings, pronouncements and consultations involving the new formations. Reaction by those expelled ranged from bitter to disingenuous. Don Etiebet said in comments to newsmen that he had been left with "no choice" but to seek another party after unfair and illegal actions directed at his home state PDP organization by the national party leadership. Sunday Awoniyi, long at odds with Gemade after losing a bruising struggle for the PDP Chairmanship in November 1999, pronounced himself "free at last, free at last," from "an assembly of sinners." 5. (C) For Awoniyi in particular the expulsions in fact come as no great surprise. In conversation with Poloff the week before the expulsion, he termed New Frontiers a "faction within the PDP," but only until INEC draft legislation on political party registration became enacted into law by the National Assembly (the House of Representatives is now debating the draft act). "Then," said Awoniyi, "we move." Awoniyi, one of the principal organizers of the Arewa Consultative Forum, the leading Northern civic association of traditional leaders, academics and politicians, said he hoped to "take many people with us." Awoniyi confirmed that New Frontiers had been speaking to "elements" of the Alliance for Democracy AD) and the Yoruba cultural group Afenifere, "the younger, more progressive people," he said, as well as political leaders in the Igbo Southeast (a geo-political region of some weakness for the PDP of late). He also noted that the NSA had originally been "part" of New Frontiers, but, anxious to exist independently of the PDP, "broke away from us." (Awoniyi has long counseled the wisdom of remaining within existing political structures, and avoidance of premature launching of political groupings devoid of an existing electoral base or reliable resources). Reached by Poloff June 2, Awoniyi, while noting the "illegality" of his dismissal, said he would accept it. 6. (C) Abubakar Rimi, former Governor of Kano State and leading northern progressive, meeting with Poloff the morning after the expulsions, expressed astonishment at press reports of his own "cautioning," and scoffed at the supposed "unanimous" vote to expel the eight men. Showing Poloff his own copy of the disciplinary report he received at the NEC meeting (the report made no mention of Rimi), he said in the voice vote he had voted "no" emphatically, and "was not the only one." Rimi in recent weeks has loudly criticized PDP leadership generally and President Obasanjo particularly. Rimi repeated those criticisms to Poloff: "Obasanjo is deceptive" and "lies to everyone." Rimi claimed that "no one said one word about me at the meeting." Rimi agreed that many of those found in the new formations were politicians "who were never given a place, never rewarded for their service to Obasanjo." Said Rimi, "We, who founded the PDP, who elected him, we have been ignored." Rimi admitted that many Northerners remained loyal to the PDP, such as Finance Minister Adamu Ciroma, or Special Advisor Aminu Wali, "as am I," he was careful to state, but "that doesn't mean we like the direction of the government." Employment for the Idle Rich or Stalking Horses? --------------------------------------------- --- 7. (C) The NSA, and, to some degree, New Frontiers, appear to be collections of retired Big Men, with time on their hands and no great welcome awaiting them within the established parties. In discussions over the last several weeks with various senior politicians, a typical reaction to their formation was that of a founder and senior member of the All People's Party (APP), now serving in the PDP government. "Look," he told Poloff, "these men don't want to be fighting for contracts. They want to be giving them out. The only way to do that is to try to get elected. Or sponsor someone who is." Colonel (ret.) Yohanna Madaki, a military governor under IBB, now serving as the new head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, had a slightly different take. He characterized many of the NSA members, particularly the retired military men, as wealthy, but politically irrelevant. "They stole lots of money, and they all have big houses in Kaduna or Abuja. But they could not win an election to their own local government councils." However, with their enormous resources, "they could be very helpful to someone who could." 8. (C) Sunday Awoniyi dismissed any suggestion of Babangida's influence over the NSA, saying, "as usual, he supposedly is backing everyone, even us (New Frontiers)." Aminu Wali, generally agreeing that NSA consisted of wealthy men looking for "better ways to get contracts," cautiously allowed that Babangida "might" be behind "some" of the new formations. However, Colonel Madaki, speaking of the NSA's recruiting tactics amongst retired military men, noted that he had been pressed "hard" by many of his fellow retired military governors to join the NSA. Soon after the NSA announced its existence, Madaki said he received a phone call from Babangida in Minna (his home city): "Where are you? We need you," he reported Babangida as telling him. Whether Babangida meant to make use of the new formation for his own electoral plans was not so clear, said Madaki. "He never tells you exactly why he needs you." New Parties to be Allowed? -------------------------- 9. (C) PDP Chairman Gemade and other officials of both the PDP and the two other recognized parties, the APP and the AD, publicly take no position on new political parties, or murmur mild sentiments on the value of "more democracy." In private, they clearly do not want to contend with new rival organizations. INEC, charged under the Constitution with registering political parties and conducting elections, but so far bereft of necessary legislation to do so (as the Constitution also requires), awaits a finished act from the National Assembly. With local government elections penciled in for April of 2002, the act must be in place for INEC to conduct voter registration, register new parties, and receive nominations for office. An additional headache for INEC is the constitutional requirement that state INECs, which do not yet exist, run the actual elections. If the National Assembly delays adoption of the draft act, intentionally or otherwise, new parties might find themselves unregistered, or entering so late in the electoral cycle as to never quite catch up (Ref B). INEC is now using a 1982 act, promulgated under the 1979 Constitution, to conduct by-elections, and could arguably use this to provisionally register new parties, but is reluctant to do so. INEC, formally independent, faces at least the potential for Executive interference in its activities, even with adequate legislation in place (Ref B). No Challenge to Gemade, Please ----------------------------- 10 (C) Pushing Awoniyi out of the PDP, when he has, for now, no place to turn, appears to be no accident. Emmanuel Ibeshi, the dismissed National Publicity Secretary, reached by telephone June 2, told Poloff that the "real" reason for the expulsions was to prevent any interference in PDP convention planning (Ibeshi and the two other party officers, who had fought with Gemade over the proper tenure of party officers (Ref A), appear to have been punished for contesting their earlier suspensions in court). With the PDP scheduled to hold its next election of leadership in November, the absence of Awoniyi and other dissidents means Gemade will likely face no concerted opposition to an extension of his chairmanship. Planning for the convention "begins now" said Ibeshi. 11. (C) Awoniyi on June 2 allowed that he had been expelled before he wished to leave. However, he said he was "quite confident" that the National Assembly would push through the draft INEC legislation. (The House of Representatives in particular is filled with Awoniyi partisans, stemming from Executive/National Assembly disputes of the last two years, for Gemade took the Executive's side in all matters great and small.) While he expressed no interest in contesting party leadership or opposing his dismissal, Awoniyi did say he had advised "many, many" supporters within the party, particularly elected and appointed officials "to stay inside and wait for my call." Comment ------- 12. (C) The expulsion of Awoniyi and the others represents the triumph of a particular faction within the PDP, the PDM, led by Vice President Atiku Abubakar, which played a leading role in Obasanjo's election and which jealously protects both Obasanjo and Abubakar from all comers. In the words of one member of Obasanjo's political kitchen cabinet: "Better to have these men out in the open, and out of the party; they've been playing a double game." Awoniyi, although ethnically a middle-belt Yoruba, is a stalwart northern conservative in outlook and association. His departure means a sizable segment of the northern PDP may soon depart as well. The recent parallel rise of several new, largely Northern political formations also represents the aspirations of sidelined politicians and senior retired military officers whose efforts and experience have not, in their eyes, been addressed or compensated by the existing political parties. It is also an opportunity for the retired military men to test the political climate, and gauge their acceptability both to the political class and the Nigerian man-in-the-street. Ibrahim Babangida appears to be a principal motivator, but as usual he is playing his cards very close to his vest (some APP members, for example, are convinced IBB will ultimately throw in his lot with them). 13. (C) Comment continued. All three existing parties face dissident factions, and all three harbor justifiable fears of internal discord blossoming into outright revolt, to the benefit of their rivals, present and future (the AD already has two distinct wings, one recognized by INEC, and one not). Each party's leadership can summon up elaborate scenarios of their own destruction at the hands of ill-intentioned outsiders, as well as their ultimate triumph through cannibalization of their competitors. If additional political parties are registered under a new INEC act, the internal divisions of these three assemblages of powerful personalities, largely devoid of coherent ideology or program, will only increase. In such a complex political atmosphere, one additional factor will be the common use of cold hard cash by the Presidency, political parties, and other outsiders to influence the National Assembly. End comment. Jeter
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