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01ABUJA1276 2001-06-07 08:32:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Abuja
Cable title:  

RULING PARTY EXPELS DISSIDENT POLITICIANS

Tags:   PGOV PINR PINS NI 
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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