Viewing cable 02ABUJA1232

02ABUJA12322002-04-19 13:56:00 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 001232 
E.O.12958: DECL: 4/19/07 
1.5 (B) AND (D). 
¶1. (C) Summary. The States' decision to hold local 
government elections May 18 has sparked controversy 
and additional lawsuits which apparently the Supreme 
Court will have to resolve (paras 2-4).  Canadian PM 
Chretien visited Abuja for talks centering on NEPAD 
and the G-8 with Obasanjo and several other African 
Heads of States (paras 5-6). Former Head of State 
Buhari and current Speaker of the House Na' Abba may 
be weighing their presidential prospects (paras 7-10). 
Works Minister Anenih reportedly cut an "incumbents 
deal" with PDP State Governors whereby the Governors 
and President Obasanjo will support each other's 
reelection (para 11).  Obasanjo's critics in the 
National Assembly held sessions on the President's 
alleged transgressions of the constitution (para 12). 
Current rumors have Obasanjo making his reelection 
announcement over the weekend (para 13).  Return of 
IDPs to Taraba and Nasarawa States is not going 
smoothly (para 14). 
¶2. (U) In the wake of the March 28 Supreme Court 
ruling prohibiting the National Assembly from shifting 
local government elections from 2002 to 2003, the 
States' decision to hold those elections May 18 has 
sparked a hornet's nest of political activity.  This 
tight schedule will not provide sufficient time for 
registration of new voters and new political parties 
for the local contests.  After convening a special 
joint session, the National Assembly filed suit in the 
Supreme Court to bar elections on that date.  The 
Assembly is arguing that, without updating the voter's 
list and allowing for new parties to register, holding 
elections in May will unconstitutionally 
disenfranchise the millions of new voters who reached 
voting age since the 1999 contests.  The Assembly 
further contends the election effectively will 
undermine freedom of association if new political 
parties are not allowed to participate. Also, ten 
young adults obtained an injunction against the 
election in the Federal Court of Appeals on the 
grounds that their right to vote will be abrogated if 
they are not allowed to register and vote in the 
¶3. (U) The political parties have also gotten into the 
act.  The PDP, the party with the most resources and 
already in control of most local government areas, is 
relatively more prepared and better situated than the 
APP and AD. Predictably, the PDP announced that the 
early date suited it just fine.  However, both APP and 
AD have complained about the date, threatening to file 
suit themselves. While the parties continue to 
complain, Embassy contacts indicate the parties are 
scrabbling to prepare, in case the May 18 date holds. 
Of course, the currently unregistered parties threaten 
court action to postpone the election unless they can 
be registered. (Note: The Independent Electoral 
Commission (INEC) has announced that it will 
promulgate procedures for party registration very 
soon. INEC has also stated that parties hoping to 
register should file a letter of intent to register 
with INEC. If the procedures facilitate some sort of 
"fast track" registration, the new parties may get a 
break. Conversely, if the guidelines are onerous, the 
new parties will probably file suit as well. End 
¶4. (C) For the second time this year, the Supreme 
Court apparently will be asked to clarify and 
hopefully bring a semblance of order and pragmatism to 
what has become a confused, and, in part, 
contradictory web of electoral laws and procedures. 
Because all political stakeholders continue to be 
fixated on their own limited self-interests, there is 
insufficient time to have the type of prolonged 
negotiations needed to script a political compromise 
among the numerous state, local and national actors 
that have roles in this drama. The Supreme Court seems 
uniquely placed, the only institution that objectively 
can weigh both the law and equities of the political 
stakeholders to fashion a remedy reconciling two 
constitutional imperatives: 1.) The deadline on the 
tenure of local governments and 2.) The right of 
citizens to participate in the electoral process, 
either as voters or officer seekers. 
¶5. (C) Canadian PM Chretien visited Nigeria from April 
4-7.  According to the Canadian High Commission in 
Abuja, the meetings between Chretien and Obasanjo went 
well.  Their discussions focused on NEPAD, with 
Chretien using his visit to publicly and privately 
emphasize human rights, rule of law and good 
governance as the keys to the kingdom of private 
investment and development. Build NEPAD on these 
fundamentals and investors will come, Obasanjo was 
told.  Obasanjo agreed, in part, recounted the 
Canadian diplomat but also repined that the West 
needed to be a bit more generous with the carrots and 
a little less eager to wield its economic sticks. 
Both Obasanjo and Chretien echoed these themes during 
a lunch with the Presidents of Sierra Leone, Benin, 
Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana.  During the visit, Obasanjo 
thanked the Prime Minister for supporting the "wait 
and see" position on Zimbabwean elections adopted at 
the Commonwealth Summit in Australia. 
¶6. (C) The Canadian High Commission believed a 
personal bond had developed between the two leaders 
prior to the visit, given their many phone calls to 
each other about Zimbabwe before and after the 
Commonwealth Summit.  This explained the agreement to 
have a 45-minute one-on-one between Obasanjo and 
Chretien only.  A call on Mohammed Ibn Chambas, the 
Executive Secretary of ECOWAS and his staff was 
disappointing, we were told. The ECOWAS crew missed an 
opportunity to woo the Canadian leader by failing to 
lay out for him a glimpse of their vision for the 
organization. Instead, they presented the Prime 
Minister a laundry list of assistance requests without 
offering a compelling reason why Canada should 
consider the request. 
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¶7. (U) While President Obasanjo reportedly is close to 
divulging his reelection intentions (para 14), another 
former military Head of State whose surname begins 
with a "B" reportedly is on the verge of announcing 
his intentions. The former general is Muhammad Buhari, 
not Ibrahim Babangida. According to a press statement 
by the Director of a group calling itself the 
"Campaign for Buhari 2003," the former leader may 
announce his intention this month to join the APP and 
seek its nomination. Buhari has railed that the 
current Administration's ineptitude is steering the 
country into a deep ditch.  Only a man of outstanding 
caliber can save the nation from this fate, he has 
said. Sound familiar? It should. Similar mots were 
employed when Buhari toppled the elected Shagari 
government in 1983. 
¶8. (U) Meanwhile, another son of the North, House 
Speaker Ghali Na'Abba appears to be positioning 
himself as well.  Members of Na'Abba's clique in the 
House reportedly have started a not so quiet campaign 
in that Chamber to get other members to endorse the 
Speaker to challenge Obasanjo for the PDP mantle. 
Other House members, not so enthralled with the 
Speaker, have complained that Na'Abba is now using his 
position to advance his personal interests and not 
those of the House, let alone the country's. 
¶9. (C) Comment: That Buhari and Na'Abba hail from the 
North demonstrate how much Obasanjo's standing in that 
region has been shaken. While the noise around Buhari 
and Na'Abba shows Obasanjo's weakness, it does not 
mean the duo from Kano will make particularly strong 
candidates. Known for his mailed-fist style of 
leadership as Head of State, Buhari is as a staunch 
religionist who has reportedly said that Nigeria's 
president should be a Muslim. This religious litmus 
test will not sit well with Southerners. Moreover, the 
other "B" Head of State, Babangida, has no love for 
Buhari and would likely work against him. Buhari's 
appeal is probably limited areas in the North but if 
he chooses to run he can hurt Obasanjo in that region. 
¶10. (C) Comment Cont. Although he has gained notoriety 
during the past several months due to his running feud 
with the President on various issues, Na'Abba is still 
considered a relative newcomer and a political 
youngster (he is in his forties). While the Speaker 
harbors ambitions, a serious Na'Abba candidacy seems 
remote. Some observers think Na'Abba is playing 
hardball now in order to soften Obasanjo so that they 
can cut a deal later that would secure the Speakers 
position in the House. However, veteran journalist Ben 
Asante told PolCouns recently that  Na'Abba was being 
encouraged by "Northern elders" to seek every 
opportunity to kick up dust in order to make 
Obasanjo's path to PDP re-nomination less visible. 
Additionally, the reports about these two candidates 
being poised to enter the race may encourage others to 
consider tossing their hats into the ring. This 
dynamic does not bode well for pro-Obasanjo 
strategists who have been working to give their boss, 
at least within his own party, the aura of a consensus 
candidate. End Comment. 
¶11. (U) As part of the attempt to solidify Obasanjo's 
base in the PDP, Obasanjo's men met with the 20 PDP 
governors last week at the home of Works Minister Tony 
Anenih, Obasanjo's chief deal-maker.  According to the 
Guardian, outspoken Abia State Governor Orji Kalu 
emerged from the meeting, claiming an agreement was 
struck whereby the Governors and Obasanjo would 
support each other's reelection bids. 
¶12. (C) Not to be outdone by Anenih, the President's 
opponents in the National Assembly have tried to 
increase the heat on Obasanjo. After the joint session 
on the local elections (para 2), an ad hoc joint 
committee, chaired by APP Senator Lawali Shuaibu, was 
established to investigate alleged violations of the 
Constitution committed by the President. The 
committee's deliberations sparked talk of impeachment. 
Although little will probably come of this, the timing 
of this maneuver probably was not coincidental.  It 
looks like an attempt, at the very least, to 
precipitate a drizzle on the Obasanjo reelection 
parade Anenih is busily organizing. 
¶13. (U) While Americans were preoccupied with their 
tax returns on April 15, Obasanjo was expected to 
announce his intentions on that date. However, the 
deadline passed without a peep from him. Now, the PDP 
is reportedly organizing a rally in Abuja for April 19 
or 20. Current speculation is that Obasanjo will make 
his announcement then. 
¶14. (U) NGOs in Benue have informed us that the return 
of mostly Tiv IDPs to their homes in Taraba and 
Nasarawa states has not gone as hoped. Logistical 
support for their return has been wanting in many 
instances.  More importantly, "peace agreements" with 
the other ethnic groups have not been reached in some 
communities, causing the welcome home to be less than 
warm. Newspapers report several returnees being killed 
in Taraba by ethnic Jukuns. Over 50 families returned 
to Agasha camp in Benue after being turn away from 
their homes in Wukari, Taraba.  (Wukari is the 
cultural home of the Jukun). Hundreds of IDPs returned 
to Daudu and Ukpain refugee camps from their homes in 
Nasarawa after an angry welcome from the other ethnic 
groups there.  Reportedly, seven people were killed in 
the Awe local government area. (Comment: These reports 
are discomforting and will deter others from 
attempting to return home. For this mostly rural 
population, the inability to return home means they 
will miss an important planting cycle, the 
consequences of which will not only be felt now but 
also when these people come up empty-handed at harvest 
time. We will continue to monitor the situation. 
Emboffs plan to visit the area in the near future. 
End Comment.)