Viewing cable 03ABUJA15
Title: NIGERIAN RULING PARTY CONVENTION SURPRISE

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
03ABUJA152003-01-06 07:45:00 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 04 ABUJA 000015 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
LONDON FOR GURNEY 
PARIS FOR NEARY 
 
 
E.O.12958: DECL: 01/05/07 
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PREL NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIAN RULING PARTY CONVENTION SURPRISE 
 
 
REFS: A. Abuja 0005 
      ¶B. Telcons Andrews/Arietti 4-5 Jan 03 
      ¶C. Abuja 0012 
 
 
CLASSIFIED BY DCM ANDREWS.  REASON: 1.5 (D). 
 
 
¶1.   (C )  Summary:  President Obasanjo's renomination is highly 
probable but not certain. The 3,349 delegates to the ruling 
PDP's national convention began voting around sundown, but 
the process could drag into Monday morning. On convention 
eve, the President's renomination seemed assured (Ref A). 
However, his strategy of alliance with the governors lost 
its legs when most Southeastern and South-South Governors 
turned on him. Other governors joined in. At one point, 16 
of the 21 PDP governors were estimated to have shifted 
allegiance, with former Vice President Alex Ekwueme the 
beneficiary. By Saturday morning most observers gave 
Ekwueme the inside track. That entire day transformed into 
an endless stream of meetings in numerous locations, with 
key players moving about, facilely proposing deals and 
making promises to advance their interests. Alternatively 
cajoling and arm-twisting governors and delegates, Obasanjo 
slowly recovered ground. VP Atiku Abubakar's decision not 
to jump ship stalled the rebellious governors' momentum. 
By Sunday morning, relieved Presidential advisors claimed 
to have the Governors back in line. While Atiku may have 
wanted to abandon Obasanjo, he feared the consequences of 
openly challenging his President. The PDP will emerge from 
this convention even more profoundly divided than it was 
going in. End Summary. 
 
 
¶2.  (C) Going into the convention, Obasanjo believed his 
re-nomination was assured.  Despite a strong challenge by 
former Vice President Alex Ekwueme (Chairman of the PDP 
Board of Trustees and a founding member of the party), 
Obasanjo and his advisors were confident.  Party apparatus 
in ANPP- and AD-controlled states was firmly behind the 
President.  He had met with PDP Governors (who in most 
cases exercise great influence over their delegations) 
December 30 and thought he had their support.  At that 
meeting, Obasanjo distanced himself from reports that he 
wanted to disqualify some Governors from contesting in the 
general elections despite their having "won" (ref C) 
renomination. Obasanjo promised that his "incumbents pact" 
with the Governors remained solid. However, the harmony of 
that meeting began to dissipate when, soon after returning 
home, the governors started receiving reports from inside 
the Presidency that Obasanjo had lied to secure their 
support: he still intended to push the PDP to jettison some 
governors after he secured the nomination. Faced with 
Obasanjo's presumed insincerity, South-South governors met 
Thursday night, deciding the best way to protect their 
seats was to attack Obasanjo's. 
 
 
¶3.  (C) The South-South Governors' anger was also stoked by 
Obasanjo's failure to sign the amended oil dichotomy bill 
(septel), the hot button issue in their region. Two of the 
leaders of this gubernatorial insurrection were Delta's 
James Ibori and Edo's Lucky Igbinedion. Ironically, when 
they had thought Obasanjo would sign the bill, this same 
duo had proposed during a PDP National Executive Committee 
(NEC) meeting in November that Obasanjo be renominated "by 
consensus" by the NEC. 
 
 
¶4. (C) It was not hard to entice other governors onto the 
anti-Obasanjo wagon. Southeastern Governors had their own 
grievances.  Moreover, there was the long-standing 
agitation for an Igbo candidate. With former Vice-President 
Ekwueme now the main challenger, these Igbo Governors were 
under pressure at home to support this ethnic favorite son. 
A special assistant to Abia State Governor Kalu told us 
that Kalu's presidential aspirations for 2007 made him 
ambivalent about fellow Igbo Ekwueme taking the 2003 PDP 
nomination. Ekwueme's ascendance would virtually dash any 
hope of Kalu gaining the Presidency as the rotation would 
not return to the Southeast for over twenty years. However, 
after having been the most vocal advocate for an Igbo 
president, Kalu's greatest fear was being branded a crass 
hypocrite if he failed to back Ekwueme. By the time the 
convention began on Saturday morning, several northern 
Governors, including Adamawa's Boni Haruna, Vice President 
Atiku's acolyte, had joined the rebel camp. 
 
 
¶5. (C) Although the governors had decided to oppose the 
President, they had not by early Saturday morning decided 
whom to back. Some of them wanted to put two of their own 
number against the incumbents (an idea they had reportedly 
considered prior to the December 30 meeting). This concept 
never took hold because of disagreement over composition of 
the ticket. Also, it was clear that a role had to be found 
for Ekwueme. The governors then asked the VP to contest 
against Obasanjo, according to Atiku's special advisor. 
The Advisor said Atiku offered to take the governors' 
advice but only if they publicly and unequivocally called 
for Atiku's candidacy before he left the President. The 
advisor claimed the Governors' rejection of Obasanjo was 
driven by the President's unpopularity. They feared he 
would not only would lose his general election but would 
take them down with him. As of late Saturday, however, the 
advisor thought the governors would back Ekwueme and that 
he would win the nomination; to restore some party unity in 
the wake of a divisive fight, Ekwueme would name Atiku as 
the Vice-Presidential candidate and Atiku would accept. 
 
 
--------------------- 
OBASANJO BATTLES BACK 
--------------------- 
 
 
¶6. (C) Jarred by the prospect of humiliating defeat, 
Obasanjo began to act more like a politician than a 
potentate on Saturday. With Atiku in tow, he made the 
rounds to visit state delegations and even to confer with 
influential individual delegates. For instance, to the 
important South-South delegates, he promised to reverse his 
stance and sign the oil dichotomy bill next week. He also 
moved decisively to reconcile with the governors, lunching 
with them as a group, later visiting individually with 
several. There were plausible but unconfirmed reports of 
money changing hands. Obasanjo and his minions also used 
strong-arm tactics. Part of his not-so-gentle suasion with 
the governors was the threat to dedicate the powers of his 
office to scuttle the reelection of those who did not 
support him. 
 
 
¶7.  (C) Obasanjo even swallowed his pride by asking to meet 
the leadership of the National Assembly, the den of some of 
his staunchest opponents. Reportedly, Assembly members were 
told the President would open the pork barrel by releasing 
funds for "constituency projects" in exchange for support. 
By Sunday morning, Obasanjo's overtures seemed to have some 
effect. Key Obasanjo allies were smiling, confident most 
governors had returned to the fold. 
 
 
------------------------ 
EKWUEME TRIES TO HOLD ON 
------------------------- 
 
 
¶8.  (C) Having lost at the last minute to Obasanjo at the 
in 1999 convention, Ekwueme was doing his best to repay 
Obasanjo in the same coin. Ekwueme actively lobbied 
Governors and delegations. He also engaged the other 
presidential contestants, Barnabas Gemade and Abubakar 
Rimi, reportedly offering each the Vice-Presidency in 
exchange for their support. (Rimi probably controls about 
200 votes; Gemade might have 50.). However, Ekwueme's most 
serious attentions were directed toward Vice President 
Atiku, whose influence over the party faithful could swing 
several hundred delegates and sway the thinking of the 
governors. Ekwueme made several attempts to meet Atiku, who 
demurred, fearing Obasanjo's reaction to such a meeting at 
such a tense moment. Working through intermediaries, 
Ekwueme offered the second slot on his ticket to Atiku. 
Media reports allege that Ekwueme offered, should they win 
the general election, to resign as President in 2006 so 
that Atiku could run as an incumbent in 2007. However, an 
Ekwueme insider denied his candidate made such a desperate 
proposal. He stated the proposal surfaced from Atiku' side; 
but to protect their boss's flank from Obasanjo's anger, 
Atiku's men attributed the idea to Ekwueme. 
 
 
---------------------------- 
ALL ROADS LEAD BACK TO ATIKU 
---------------------------- 
 
 
¶9. (C) Because of his influence over individual delegates 
and governors in his PDM faction of the party, Atiku may 
determine the final direction the convention's wind blows. 
In some ways, his is an enviable position; but from another 
angle, it is akin to walking a minefield. The pressure on 
him not to make a misstep is intense. The ambitious yet 
cautious Atiku would like the presidential nomination. 
However, Atiku dare not challenge Obasanjo directly, 
knowing Obasanjo would use the tools of the Presidency to 
destroy Atiku for what Obasanjo would see as a monumental 
betrayal. Both prior to the convention and into the early 
hours of its second day, Atiku obviously was groping for 
some device or pretext that would enable him to separate 
from Obasanjo without being accused of having scuttled the 
President's re-nomination. 
 
 
¶10. (C) The Governor's eleventh hour insurgency momentarily 
must have seen like the answer.  Publicly, Atiku announced 
he stood with Obasanjo but his assistants were busy talking 
to the President's opponents. Moreover, the Atiku's public 
statement of loyalty was less than ringing, and observers 
knew that Adamawa Governor Haruna would never have joined 
the rebellion without his mentor's approval.  However, what 
first seemed like a gift became a millstone around the 
Vice-Presidential neck. Obasanjo put Atiku on the spot by 
making sure that Atiku joined his efforts to regain 
gubernatorial support. The more Atiku was seen helping 
Obasanjo, the more Atiku's potential supporters in the 
anti-Obasanjo camp pressured him. Some of his followers 
threatened to abandon him unless he joined Ekwueme or 
challenged Obasanjo outright. 
 
 
¶11.  (C) Jumping from Obasanjo's ship to Ekwueme's was not 
ultimately very attractive to Atiku. First, there was that 
little problem of Obasanjo feeling betrayed and then acting 
on those feelings; it is generally believed that Obasanjo 
has sufficient evidence of Atiku's corrupt practices to 
ruin the man. Second, Atiku does not fully trust Ekwueme. 
Former Head of State Babangida and probably National 
Security Advisor Aliyu Mohammed, two of Atiku's political 
rivals in the North, are reportedly backing Ekwueme. Atiku 
has to be concerned that, at Babangida's urging, Ekwueme 
might dump him once the PDP nomination was secured. 
 
 
¶12.  (C) When not pounding the turf with Obasanjo, Atiku 
spent the remainder of Saturday with allies and aides 
discussing how to walk his tightrope. By Sunday morning, 
Atiku had apparently decided, for better or worse, that he 
was married to Obasanjo and that Ekwueme was not a 
sufficiently strong suitor to steal him from a jealous 
spouse. 
 
 
----------- 
BUYING TIME 
----------- 
 
 
¶13. (C) Obasanjo used influence over the party machinery, 
especially party Chairman Ogbeh, to buy precious additional 
hours on Saturday. Delegate accreditation was scheduled for 
Saturday afternoon. However, PDP officials in charge of the 
process were Obasanjo loyalists. Sensing the momentum had 
shifted to Ekwueme, they slowed accreditation of delegates. 
While the voting was not set until Sunday in any event, the 
accreditation delay pushed the start of balloting from late 
morning to early evening, giving the Presidency some extra 
time to canvas for support. It also provided the psychic 
benefit of regaining control of what had seemed to be a 
runaway train, denting Ekwueme supporters psychologically. 
Some of them began to lament Obasanjo that had the tools to 
orchestrate his victory regardless of the delegate count. 
 
 
---------------------------- 
THE VOTE AND ITS UNCERTAINTY 
---------------------------- 
 
 
¶14.  (C) With Atiku and most governors back in the fold, it 
appears Obasanjo has regained the momentum and probably the 
lead. However, the vote tonight will be by secret ballot 
(sort of -- delegates will vote individually but must place 
a thumbprint on the ballot). Since their votes cannot be 
definitively attributed without thumbprint analysis, 
delegate behavior will be hard to predict. No one has done 
an accurate poll of the individual delegates. The working 
assumption has been that the delegates will follow their 
governor's lead.  While that may have been true coming into 
the convention, it may not be quite as valid now.  The 
governors' initial defiance opened the way to delegates to 
assert their own independence. With the cork now off, it 
will be hard to put all the delegates back in the bottle. 
Most of the delegates we talked to favored Ekwueme. It is 
uncertain whether the governors can make most of them 
change course at this point.  The delegates have been 
talking to each other, and this has given them a power and 
momentum of their own. Also, we cannot gauge how committed 
the Governors are to their supposed reconciliation with 
Obasanjo. If the reconciliation was just superficial, then 
they might not try hard to instill voting discipline among 
their delegates.  The Obasanjo camp's claim that victory is 
certain is based on the false tally that the pro-Obasanjo 
governors will carry all their delegates. We think the 
actually voting will be more complicated and ambiguous. 
Obasanjo will probably win a first-ballot victory, but the 
overwhelming 75%-plus first-ballot vote of confidence some 
in his camp are predicting may well escape him. 
 
 
¶15.  (C) Gemade and Rimi, while neither has a chance, also 
are wild cards. Between them, they might control up to 300 
delegates. If they get the higher figure and Ekwueme holds 
onto anti-Obasanjo delegates, Obasanjo might even be denied 
a first-round victory. Should that happen, the struggle for 
their second-round support would be intense. 
 
 
------------------ 
A FRACTURED PARTY? 
------------------ 
¶16.  (C) The winner will face a party riven by factionalism 
and the contention of this convention. Large sums are said 
to have been spent to cajole delegates (between 20 and 60 
million USD, according to most estimates), and the loser's 
backers will have to be compensated if they are to return 
to the PDP fold and support the winner in April's general 
election. Also, Obasanjo reportedly made promises (e.g., to 
sign a bill that would give coastal states at least 13% of 
the federal revenue derived from oil wells out to 200 NM) 
to secure support from one part of the country (South- 
South) that will not sit will with those states (all others 
except Ondo and Lagos) whose shares of the future revenue 
pie will thereby be reduced proportionately. Assuming he 
emerges victorious from the convention, Obasanjo will have 
to work furiously to ensure that he can legitimately win at 
least one-third of the popular vote in not less than 25 
states and to prevent mass defections to other parties. 
JETER