Viewing cable 03ABUJA650

03ABUJA6502003-04-07 23:07:00 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 000650 
DECL: 3/30/08 
Classified by Ambassador Howard F. Jeter for reason 1.5 (b). 
¶1. (C) Begin Summary: During a March 10 meeting with 
numerous opposition political party leaders, 
Ambassador implored the group to do their utmost to 
conduct fair and credible elections in April, to 
eschew violence, and not to condemn and compromise the 
process before it is started.  He cautioned that West 
Africa was already suffering an overdose of turmoil; a 
downward slide in Nigeria would only compound the 
region's troubles.  The opposition party leaders 
complained that INEC was simply an instrumentality of 
the governing People's Democratic Party.  (The PDP was 
invited to the meeting but did not show.) They 
denigrated INEC's elections preparation, particularly 
its handling of voter's registration.  The politicians 
claimed that INEC was working to ensure that President 
Obasanjo was reelected.  Although avowing peaceful 
intentions, the party leaders warned of unrest should 
the President be returned through an electoral process 
that, for them, has the appearance of an increasingly 
stacked deck.  End Summary. 
INEC Cannot be Trusted 
¶2. (SBU) Due to a gale of criticism by political 
parties about the electoral process, the Ambassador 
called a March 10 meeting of all political parties to 
hear their views and to let them know USG expectations 
regarding the electoral process.  Although invited, 
the ruling PDP did not attend. 
¶3. (SBU)  Ambassador Jeter emphasized that Nigeria was 
entering an historic period, not only for itself but 
the entire sub-region.  With Cote d'Ivoire teetering 
on the brink of a possible civil war and Liberia an 
area of chronic turmoil, West Africa was awash in 
instability, he stressed.  While Nigeria is the giant 
and leader in West Africa, a poor election here would 
finish the region in the eyes of the world; therefore 
these elections were not only important to Nigeria but 
to West Africa and indeed the entire African 
continent.  Unfortunately, the Ambassador stated, 
things were not proceeding smoothly.  The political 
violence being committed by all sides was a huge 
problem; moreover, INEC's poor performance also was a 
major concern.  Furthermore, too many politicians had 
made the leap from criticism of INEC'S poor 
performance to accusing it of rigging.  Politicians 
might gain points among their partisans with the 
accusations but they were also laying the groundwork 
to have the elections seen as null and void even 
before they were held.  This was dangerous, the 
Ambassador said.  Not only could it delegitimize the 
process and ultimately the elections, it could foment 
post-election unrest and violence. 
¶4.  (SBU) The Ambassador called on all the parties to 
work toward free, fair and credible elections.  After 
making this appeal, Ambassador Jeter and the USAID 
Director then provided a brief overview of USG 
electoral assistance. 
Voter's Registration - A Chimera 
¶5.  (SBU)  After thanking the Ambassador for hosting 
the meeting, ANPP National Chairman Don Etiebet stated 
that he "shared" the Ambassador's concerns.  Then, in 
effect, he did what the Ambassador cautioned against. 
Etiebet claimed the elections would not be "credible, 
free or fair."  He declared that INEC was the agent of 
the government and PDP.  The Obasanjo Administration, 
he claimed, was determined to win by any means despite 
its patent unpopularity.  The government was petrified 
by a free and fair election because it would lose 
handsomely; therefore, the Government and PDP would 
resort to election trickery, violence and intimidation 
to mask their shortcomings.  Unfortunately, the very 
agencies--the Police and State Security Service--that 
could prevent foul play, are as deeply in the PDP 
pocket as INEC, Etiebet contended. 
¶6.  (SBU) Etiebet went on to claim that ANPP 
campaigning has been thwarted by PDP governors.  The 
governors claim to be the "commander-in-chief" of 
their state with the army, police and SSS at their 
disposal.  They wield power but not popularity.  If 
they are reelected by a fraudulent process, the people 
will denounce it.  Etiebet asserted the elections in 
1999 were "child's play" compared to the next four 
weeks.  While bereft of specific recommendations, he 
asked that, in addition to election monitoring, the 
international community become more involved now or 
else be faced with doing "peace keeping" later. 
¶7.  (SBU)  Etiebet and a few other opposition leaders 
encouraged the USG to voice our concerns about the 
election publicly.  While the government would 
chastise the United States for interfering in 
Nigeria's internal affairs, statements of 
international concern could have a positive effect and 
would be supported across the political spectrum. 
¶8.  (SBU)  Regarding security for the electoral 
process, Ambassador Jeter mentioned he had recently 
met Police Service Commission Chairman Okeke.  At that 
meeting Okeke stated his willingness to meet political 
party officials to discuss the role of the police and 
to underscore the police's neutrality.  (Comment: That 
meeting has since taken place under INEC's auspices. 
The Police Services Commission plans to field its own 
"monitors" to observe and regulate police behavior 
during the elections.  End comment.) 
¶9.  (SBU)  The UNPP Chairman launched a broadside at 
INEC, claiming it had fumbled voters registration.  He 
stated that INEC claims of having posted the voters 
list in most states were fabricated, and that lists 
were published in only a small fraction of local 
government areas.  Even there, INEC had problems.  The 
UNPP Chairman cited an example of people in a local 
government in Borno State checking the list only to 
find that the roster belonged to an area in Plateau 
State.  He claimed to have searched for a published 
list in his ward but could not find one.  With one 
month to the election, he lamented the fact that, as a 
national official of a political party, he was unsure 
if he had been officially registered.  The irony of 
this statement was not lost on the meeting's other 
participants who echoed similar concerns. 
¶10.  (SBU) The NDP Chairman announced that his party 
had sued INEC for non-compliance with the Electoral 
Act.  He claimed that INEC was required to publish the 
voters list prior to announcing the election date; 
moreover, the list should have been published at least 
sixty days prior to the election.  To date, only three 
states had completed and published their lists, he 
claimed.  Because of the failure of INEC to timely 
post the list, holding elections in April would be 
illegal.  This was the issue on which the NDP had 
taken INEC to court 
¶11.  (SBU) The APGA representative observed that the 
PDP rarely attended INEC meeting with other political 
parties.  The PDP's absence led to the suspicion that 
INEC was the guarantor of the PDP's interest; thus, 
the PDP did not have to attend the meetings. 
(Comment: In a subsequent meeting with the Ambassador, 
the INEC Chairman refuted this allegation, claiming 
that INEC calls frequent meetings with political 
parties, but most fail to attend.  We believe the 
Chairman is telling the truth.  End comment.)  He also 
questioned the transparency of the selection process 
of local polling agents by INEC, complaining that 
opposition parties had no input into the selection 
system or eligibility criteria.  The Resident INEC 
Commissioner in a state unilaterally selected the 
staff; in turn, that Commission was appointed by the 
President.  There was no check against the 
Commissioner hiring a PDP loyalist.  The selection 
process was too subject to arbitrariness to produce a 
good crop of polling officials.  The ANPP Chairman 
interjected that the real skullduggery would be at the 
local level, particularly in remote areas.  What 
happens outside the spotlight, in the small hamlets 
across the country, will determine the election; 
deploying observers to Lagos, Abuja and Kano, in his 
opinion, will not give one an accurate account. 
¶12.  (SBU)  The Peoples Salvation Party Chairman 
accused INEC of even changing parties' candidate list. 
For reasons clear only to INEC, he said, names 
announced by the Commission as the final party 
candidates were not always those submitted by, in many 
instances, the parties.  The UNPP Chairman warned that 
INEC planned to use polling stations on election day 
different than the venues used for voters 
registration.  This would confuse voters and allow for 
rigging at the new, unknown sites.  To prevent this, 
he demanded that INEC quickly publish a list of 
polling stations and their locations.  Thereafter, any 
station not on the list, would be illegal and ballots 
allegedly cast should not be recognized.  (Comment: 
INEC has performed poorly in many areas.  In all 
fairness, however, INEC has repeatedly announced that 
the sites used for voters registration will be the 
same locations used on election day. End Comment.) 
¶13.  (SBU) The Movement for Democracy and Justice 
(MDJ) Chairman focused on the lack of voter education 
as a major flaw.  He stated this task should be the 
joint responsibility of INEC and the parties. 
Elaborating, he claimed that the parties could not 
develop their election day deployment strategies 
because INEC had not divulged the polling stations. 
He feared a repeat of 1999 where many polling stations 
in his state were designated at the last minute.  He 
also said the political parties needed to be better 
educated about the role of the police, presiding 
polling officers and other poll officials at the 
voting stations.  This knowledge was needed so that 
political party agents could be informed observers but 
also avoid running afoul of the police or polling 
agents.  (In the past, political party agents were 
often falsely arrested and detained until after the 
voting.)  The MDJ Chieftain commented that the failure 
of INEC to inform parties about the process for filing 
complaints and objections on election day also was a 
major flaw. 
¶14.  (SBU) The MDJ Chairman further warned that 
declaration of results could be a problem.  In 
Nigeria, the media has a vital role to play but major 
media houses were being financially influenced by the 
Government.  If the media prematurely declared a 
result, this would be taken as a fait accompli by the 
people; the other parties would be hard pressed to 
overcome the perception created, even if inaccurate. 
However, neither INEC nor the Ministry of Information 
had informed the parties about the process for 
disseminating the results, the Chairman declared. 
¶15.  (SBU)  The Justice Party Chairman chimed in that 
vote tabulation was fertile ground for fraud.  He 
suggested the political parties should be allowed to 
monitor vote tabulation at every level from the local 
polling station through the ward to the local 
government headquarters, to the state and then the 
national compilation.  "If the political parties are 
kept in the dark, that will be bad," he proclaimed. 
16  (SBU)  Ambassador commented that the USG was doing 
what it could to enhance the integrity and speed of 
the tabulation process.  He mentioned IRI's training 
of polling agents, the provision of tamper evident 
envelopes and ballot box seals by IFES for the safe 
transport of ballots and tabulations and the provision 
of a satellite phone system to call in results from 
approximately 150 of Nigeria's most isolated areas. 
He also mentioned the IRI and NDI observer teams, and 
the significant USG investment made in local 
monitoring groups. 
¶17.  (SBU) The Head of the New Democrats (ND) 
complained that the campaign playing field was 
massively skewed.  Mass media was in the hands of 
government, and PDP campaign activities were being 
aired liberally.  In contrast, the PDP was paying the 
media houses to black-out other campaigns; opposition 
parties received only minimal coverage, which gave the 
false impression of inactivity and weakness.  He 
claimed that the parties needed funding to counter the 
PDP tactics.  However, the PRP representative 
counseled that the opposition parties should not be 
quick in their indictment of the ruling PDP.   "If 
some of us were in power, we would be doing the same 
thing," he admitted.  Instead of complaining about the 
PDP's media advantages, he suggested the other parties 
explore creative, low cost ways to get their message 
out.  He asserted that TV and newspapers reached only 
a small percentage of the population in any event, and 
suggested the parties focus more on radio and poster 
¶18.  (SBU)  The National Secretary of Nigerian Action 
Party (NAP) said he was frightened by the prospect of 
more political violence.  Violence was widespread and, 
in many instances, the perpetrators were well-known. 
However, these notorious criminals were allowed to 
roam about with impunity.  Because of the violence and 
INEC's logistical shortfalls, he claimed the election 
seemed artificial and imposed on the Nigerian public, 
with a predetermined outcome seemingly at hand.  The 
government controlled both the mechanics and the 
economics of the running an election and with that 
advantage, it sought to unduly guide the outcome. 
¶19.  (SBU) The Chairman and Presidential candidate for 
the African Renaissance Party argued that the election 
was beyond repair.  He called for an interim 
government with the sole mandate to prepare for 
elections within six months.  (Comment: At this 
meeting, few people endorsed his idea.  However, at a 
late March meeting of opposition parties, 15 backed 
the interim government idea.  This is symptomatic of 
growing unease and disaffection with the elections. 
End Comment.) 
¶20.  (SBU) Pointing to the high level of violence, 
Ambassador Jeter asked if "the prize (winning the 
election) was worth the cost?"  He encouraged the 
parties to endorse the Code of Conduct.  He reminded 
them that they all needed to behave with tolerance and 
understanding.  Election rigging by anyone was 
inexcusable.  However, the parties needed to recognize 
that INEC started late and lacked resources; its 
management of this massive logistical affair would be 
less than ideal.  They should not expect perfection 
but they should work to make the process credible, 
albeit awkwardly wrought.  He added that this election 
was also laying the groundwork for a more orderly 
process in the future; precedents were being 
established that would not have to be debated or 
litigated in 2007.  In essence, what was taking place 
now was part of Nigeria's transition to democracy. 
¶21.  (SBU)  While the attempt to computerize voters 
registration was causing heartburn now, it would pay 
dividends in 2007 and beyond, the Ambassador said. 
Unfortunately, the computerization effort started late 
and that had been a source of many problems in the 
process.  Also, the decision to allow over 30 
political parties complicated logistics and threw off 
the electoral schedule because the decision came late 
in the sequence of electoral events.  However, it 
opened up the political space.  In future elections, 
both voters and prospective office-holders would have 
a wider choice regarding where to place their 
allegiance.  The Ambassador said that there had been 
lots of litigation, and ultimately that litigation 
would pay off.  (Comment: By March 31, all parties, 
except the NDP and the largest two, the PDP and ANPP, 
had signed the Code of Conduct.  PDP and ANPP have 
said they endorsed the Code but they were feuding over 
which party should sign first. End Comment.) 
¶22.  (SBU) In concluding the meeting, Ambassador Jeter 
mentioned that he would suggest to INEC Chairman that 
INEC convene a meeting of party Chairmen and officials 
from the GON security agencies to discuss ways to 
tackle violence and upgrade electoral security. 
(Note: This was done.  End Note) 
¶23.  (C) Comment: Turn-out was excellent and the 
meeting with the parties was most useful.  We were 
able to hear their concerns and grievances while also 
expressing our expectations regarding the elections. 
As the election moves even closer, anxiety is mounting 
and the rhetoric becoming sharper.  As we have been 
doing already, we will use these final days before the 
elections to continue to rush INEC.  While it cannot 
do much to redress the lapses with voter's 
registration, many of INEC's previous sins will be 
forgiven to the extent that the Commission can 
credibly carry out its duties on election day and 
tabulate the votes without cries of foul. 
Additionally, we also plan to meet the Chairman of the 
ANPP and PDP this week to urge them to sign the Code 
of Conduct before the National Assembly elections on 
April 12.