Viewing cable 01ABUJA2878
Title: 2001 PDP CONVENTION: THE THRILL WAS GONE

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
01ABUJA28782001-11-14 14:56:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Abuja
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 002878 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
AF/W FOR PARKS, EPSTEIN 
LONDON FOR GURNEY 
PARIS FOR NEARY 
 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 1.6X6 
TAGS: PGOV PINR KDEM NI
SUBJECT: 2001 PDP CONVENTION: THE THRILL WAS GONE 
 
REF: A. (A) ABUJA 2832 
     ¶B. (B) LAGOS 2815 
 
 
Classified by CDA Timothy Andrews for reasons 1.6X6. 
 
 
¶1. (C)  Summary: The 2001 Convention of the Peoples' 
Democratic Party (PDP) elected an unopposed slate of national 
party leaders November 10. Yielding an outwardly harmonious 
convention, there was little sign of the wrangling and 
division that characterized the preceding four weeks of party 
congresses (Ref A).  National Chairman Barnabas Gemade and 
Party Secretary Okwesilieze Nwodo, succumbing to a 
combination of pressure and promised emoluments, stepped down 
prior to the Convention.  Conflicts in a dozen states at the 
ward, local government and state party congresses did not 
prevent the National Convention from moving forward. 
However, some egos were bruised, and certain questions remain 
open.   Resolving these problems will be high on the agenda 
of Audu Ogbeh, the new Party Chairman, and Prince Vincent Eze 
Ogbulafor, National Secretary.  Pre-convention internecine 
friction had contributed to a rise in the overall political 
temperature here.  The atmosphere has now cooled somewhat 
thanks the orderly convention.  Still, Ogbeh, faces a hard 
task. Ogbeh must rejuvenate a Party weakened by power plays 
and the President,s often heavy-handed.  His first steps, 
nullification of Party expulsions, may set a positive initial 
direction.  Background on the PDP's first three years will be 
provided Septel.  End Summary. 
 
 
----------- 
ATMOSPHERE 
----------- 
 
 
¶2. (U)  The 2001 PDP Convention was a festive occasion, 
resembling more a reception for three thousand than a 
political convention.  Apart from a dour one-sentence 
welcoming comment from outgoing National Chairman Barnabas 
Gemade, speakers were upbeat and inspirational--the crowd 
clearly thrilled to participate in the first PDP National 
Convention since November 1999.  Obasanjo and Speaker Ghali 
Na'abba both appealed for Party unity, looked forward to 
another successful 18 months of PDP leadership, and predicted 
strong gains for the Party at all levels of government during 
the 2003 election cycle.  Outside the venue, the throng of 
thousands of Nigerians clamoring around the chain-link fence 
was striking.  They seemed to want at least to be physically 
near the often remote elites who are responsible for leading 
Nigeria, and who have disappointed them so often in the past. 
 On more than one occasion, police were seen beating young 
men trying to sneak into the venue or who were accused of 
being on eof the ubiquitous pickpockets trying to steal from 
the more affluent participants as they entered the 
conventions jam packed main gate.  Meanwhile, away from the 
actual convention site, functionaries from the state and 
local levels crowded ministers' residences and the liaison 
offices of many states added to the celebrant atmosphere, 
many of the functionaries spent a lot of time consuming vast 
quantities of food and drink and leaving wrecked automobiles 
scattered about the city. 
 
 
----------------- 
Changing Partners 
----------------- 
 
 
¶3. (C)  Observers within and outside the Party were perplexed 
by Gemade and Nwodo's stubborn bid to retain their positions 
in the face of Presidential opposition.  (Gemade was 
installed during the 1999 Party Convention in Jos only at the 
President,s behest, and due to the deep pockets of his 
political backers in the Party.)  PDP contacts told us that 
both Gemade and Nwodo were promised ministerial positions to 
end their reelection bids.  That they held on until nearly 
the eleventh hour caused many to suspect that their bid to 
remain was a desperate gambit to compel the President to 
"sweeten" their severance packages.  Party insiders told us 
that support for Gemade primarily came from PDP state 
governors who, either due to non-performance or conflicts 
with local power brokers, were unlikely to regain the party 
nomination.  Senator Aniete Okon told Poloff, "Those guys 
know that with Gemade, they can buy the nomination; with 
Ogbeh, they can't." 
 
 
¶4. (SBU)  While it is typical for politicians here to engage 
in brinkmanship before resolving a conflict, both the 
President and Party officials considered Gemade's 
rebelliousness to have been out-of-bounds, even by Nigerian 
standards.  Given other current events -- the violence in 
Benue state, and the dispute over electoral reform -- the PDP 
leadership squabble was untimely, increasing political 
tension at a moment when it was already high. In an attempt 
to save his position, Gemade called an October 30 meeting of 
the PDP National Executive Council and declared that the 
Convention and Party congresses were suspended, and that 
Minister of Works and Housing Anenih was expelled (Comment: 
This was ironic. It was Anenih, by doling out cash during the 
1999 convention, who did the leg work that got Gemade his 
job.  End comment.) 
 
 
¶5.  (C/NF) The following day, President Obasanjo called a 
meeting of the Party Caucus--PDP governors, National Assembly 
leaders, Party elders and key officials from the Executive. 
Neither Gemade nor Nwodo were present.  The October 31 
session undid Gemade,s handiwork by moving to lift the court 
injunction against Party congresses, reinstate Anenih, and 
deciding to go ahead with the Party Convention as scheduled. 
Gemade feebly contested the authority of the Caucus to make 
those decisions, but the battle was over.  President Obasanjo 
charged Deputy Senate President Ibrahim Mantu, a Middle Belt 
politician from Plateau state to "settle" Gemade, so that the 
convention would run smoothly.  Mantu told the Charge that he 
had reiterated to Gemade the President's offer of a cabinet 
position in exchange for the PDP leadership, but added that 
he would wait until after the Convention to strongly advise 
Gemade not to accept.  Gemade, Mantu noted, had proven 
untrustworth and would not be tolerated as a colleague in the 
cabinet. 
 
 
----------------------- 
A NEW HAND AT THE WHEEL 
----------------------- 
 
 
¶6. (C)  Retired from active political life since being 
Communications Minister under Shagari, New PDP chair Audu 
Ogbeh is respected, unlike his more slippery predecessor. 
During separate conversations with the Ambassador and the DCM 
prior to his gaining the chairmanship, Ogbeh spoke frankly 
about Nigeria,s political and economic health.  He 
castigated Nigerian elites for being self-serving and for 
abandoning their mostly rural fellow citizens to poverty and 
malaise.  He placed primary responsibility for the parlous 
economy on the elites -- both military and civilian -- who 
have ruled the country over the past 30 years, and drew an 
unequivocal connection between widespread poverty and the 
ethnic and religious strife that has become far too common 
during the Fourth Republic. 
 
 
¶7. (C)  If he lives up to his reputation, Ogbeh will be much 
better for the party than Gemade.  There are signs he already 
is.  His first step as Party Chairman was to nullify all 
previous expulsions from the Party in an attempt to instill 
unity in the PDP as it gears up for elections.  Ogbeh will be 
a key player in resolving intra-party disputes between PDP 
office holders in different branches of government and 
between rival state Party factions.  To do so effectively, he 
must not adopt Gemade's role as the President's spokesperson 
to the Party.  Yet, it is unclear how Obasanjo, who is 
accustomed to having orders followed, will respond if Ogbeh 
begins to act independently.  However, that Obasanjo wanted 
Ogbeh indicates recognition of the drawbacks of Gemade and 
those like him.  Ogbeh (like Gemade from Benue State) is 
affable, low-key and appears capable of building consensus 
and brokering compromises among competing interests. 
 
 
-------------------------------------- 
CONVENTION DAY: A FEW DISCORDANT NOTES 
-------------------------------------- 
 
 
¶8. (U)  Among Ogbeh's first challenges will be resolving 
disputes in the twelve states that failed to complete 
elections of state PDP executive committees because of 
irregularities at the ward, local government or state Party 
level(s).  Some state Governors nullified outright the 
results of ward congresses, like Plateau Governor Dariye and 
Abia Governor Orji Kalu (Ref. B).  Others obeyed the 
Gemade-orchestrated court order barring local government 
congresses, and therefore were unable to conclude their 
state-level congress and elect delegates for the Convention. 
This unresolved factionalism produced the only bit of discord 
during a National Convention otherwise characterized by an 
almost festive parade of dignitaries pressing the flesh. 
 
 
¶9. (U) At the Anambra State bleacher section, all seats were 
occupied by supporters of Chief Emeka Offor, the former 
patron but current adversary of Governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju. 
Since Anambra did not complete the selection of delegates, 
Offor's supporters--including Anambra's entire National 
Assembly delegation-- refused to permit Mbadinuju or his 
delegation to sit.  A standoff (or more accuratly , a sit 
still, ensued.)  Both groups tried to out-chant the other. 
Offor's contingent was larger and louder, although he was 
installed in a seat by Mobile Police, Mbadinuju eventually 
abandoned his State's delegation, chased away by cries, in 
Igbo, of "Thief!"  Other states facing bitter conflicts 
between incumbent governors and other party figures include 
Plateau, Cross River, and Abia.  Several sources stated that 
President Obasanjo wants all South-South governors replaced, 
regardless of their party affiliation, because of their 
insistence on being paid the full constitutional derivation 
of 13 percent. 
 
 
¶10. (C)  Comment:  The Convention was an anticlimax to 
several weeks of intramural tug of war in the party.  While 
the PDP is far from fixed, at least it is still running. 
President Obasanjo accomplished his mission ) an uneventful 
convention, and the selection of Chairman and national 
executive slate he wanted.  The convention, although orderly, 
was neither very transparent nor democratic.  Selection of 
party leaders was orchestrated from afar and not determined 
by an open process.  This tack kept the convention from 
denigrating into an unruly affair, and as such, it,s 
probably a net positive.  However, underlying problems and 
concerns about how the party is run and the relationship of 
the party leadership to the presidential remain.  It is now 
up to the President and new party hierarchy to continue to 
mend today's wounds and, perhaps, shift the party to a more 
transparent and democratic tomorrow. Septel offers an 
overview of the evolution of the PDP over the past three 
years that places current events in context. 
Andrews