US embassy cable - 01ABUJA1276

RULING PARTY EXPELS DISSIDENT POLITICIANS

Identifier: 01ABUJA1276
Wikileaks: View 01ABUJA1276 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Abuja
Created: 2001-06-07 08:32:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PGOV PINR PINS NI
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
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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