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2002-07-30 18:55:00
Embassy Abuja
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ABUJA 002262 



E.O.12958: DECL: 07/29/12

Classified by Ambassador Howard F. Jeter. Reason 1.5
(B) AND (D).

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ABUJA 002262



E.O.12958: DECL: 07/29/12

Classified by Ambassador Howard F. Jeter. Reason 1.5
(B) AND (D).

1. Summary: (C) During a July 5 meeting with
Ambassador Jeter, Lagos State Governor Bola Tinubu
stated that President Obasanjo was in deep trouble
politically. Reelection hinged on a deal with Tinubu's
Alliance for Democracy (AD). However, Tinubu claimed
Obasanjo was still trying to assert PDP supremacy in
the Southwest and was hurting his position within the
PDP itself by allowing his relationship with VP Atiku
to drift. Regarding 2003 presidential and
gubernatorial races, Tinubu claimed the AD would hold
the Southwest while gaining strong support in populous
states like Kaduna, Plateau and Benue. Closer to home,
Tinubu felt he would win reelection handily. End


2. (C) Surveying the political landscape, Tinubu saw
Obasanjo wandering into a dense thicket yet failing to
appreciate the depth of his electoral troubles. For
example, the Governor declared Obasanjo was unpopular
in Lagos despite his Yoruba bloodlines. When the
President visited the city to deliver the University
of Lagos graduation address, Tinubu was in meetings
until after 4 a.m. to convince student leaders to
shelve a mass protest against Obasanjo. Tinubu
remembered the students were vitriolic; only his
appeal not to embarrass Lagos and the university
finally won the day. The student's dislike for the
President, he added, was echoed throughout Lagos. Few
people have a good word for Obasanjo.

3. (C) Attributing Obasanjo's woes to his inability to
listen to independent advice and his lack of
interpersonal skills, Tinubu portrayed the President
as a myopic bull in a crowded china shop. Despite
Obasanjo's flaws as a politician and their memberships
in different parties, Tinubu said they remained
personal friends. Also, despite Obasanjo's ebbing
popularity, Tinubu acknowledged the AD had not shut
the door on cooperating with him.

4. (C) Before the AD could cooperate, Obasanjo would
have to call off the PDP dogs in Southwest. Tinubu
thought Obasanjo knew the Southwest was vital to his
reelection. However, Obasanjo's personal pride was
obscuring the best tack for securing the region's
support. Instead, of attempting a frontal assault to
wrest the Southwest from the AD, Obasanjo should seek
an AD-PDP alliance. Obasanjo's reliance on PDP
National Deputy Chairman for the Southwest Bode George
was unfortunate. George was telling Obasanjo the PDP
could win by playing hardball. Tinubu scoffed that
George was highly unpopular, particularly since many
suspected his involvement in Justice Minister Bola
Ige's assassination. The more prominent George and his
confrontational tactics became, the less Obasanjo had
a chance of carrying the Southwest as a bloc.

5. (C) Tinubu continued that AD governors would not
help extend Obasanjo's tenancy in Aso Rock while PDP
challengers were trying to oust them from the various
gubernatorial mansions. The AD was so entrenched that
the PDP would not win many converts in the region
despite the party's aggressive approach. "The AD could
run a dog for election in Lagos and still win!" Tinubu
hyperbolized. Conversely, lack of AD support could
cause an otherwise credible candidate to lose in the
region. Thus, while the PDP might win a few local
government seats, Obasanjo and the PDP were
essentially barking up the wrong tree by trying to
oust the AD from its Southwest stronghold.

6. (C) Reviewing the state of play in Nigeria's other
geopolitical zones, Tinubu explained why Obasanjo
needed an AD alliance. The Northwest and Southeast
opposed the President. The Supreme Court decision on
oil resource allocation also has pitted the littoral
states of the South-South against the Administration,
particularly since the decision resulted from a case
instigated by the Federal Government. Unless Obasanjo
cut a resource allocation deal with those states, he
would lose them; moreover, Obasanjo is in trouble with
the populous Tiv of the Middle Belt due to last
October's massacre of civilians in Benue State. On the
positive side, Obasanjo only can count on the
Northeast because Vice President Atiku is from Adamawa
and on predominately Christian areas in the upper
reaches of the Middle Belt.


7. (C) For reelection, Tinubu said Obasanjo must
secure the Southwest as well as regain support in the
Middle Belt and South-South. A deal with the AD would
give Obasanjo the first (the Southwest) and place him
in position to secure the second and third objectives.
Attempting to show how the AD could help Obasanjo,
Tinubu stated his party has made headway at the local
and gubernatorial level beyond the immediate
Southwest. He claimed well-known businessman Great
Ogboru could snatch Edo State from the PDP incumbent
Lucky Igbenidion. Also many Yoruba were decamping
from the APP (now ANPP) and the PDP in predominantly-
Yoruba Kwara State, due primarily to the squabble over
the enthronement of a Yoruba Oba to counter the
existence of the Emir of Ilorin. (The Emir belongs to
the Hausa-Fulani hierarchy; many Kwara Yoruba resent a
Hausa-Fulani being the preeminent local traditional
ruler in a majority Yoruba area.) Beyond gaining
ground in Kwara and Edo, two states on Yoruba-land's
periphery, Tinubu contended the AD had made advances
in Plateau State where its popular candidate David
Sango was in position to topple the embattled Joshua
Dariye. Tinubu also listed Borno and Nassarawa as
states that could fall to the AD. He felt that AD
support in Kaduna was growing, and AD support could
ensure that pivotal state, in some ways a microcosm of
Nigeria itself, remained in Obasanjo's camp.

8. (C) The collaboration between the Yoruba and Tiv
which dates back to Olufemi Awolowo and Joseph Tarka,
respectively, meant a deal with the AD would help
Obasanjo regain some Tiv support notwithstanding last
October's massacre of civilians. By making inroads in
the states mentioned above, the AD could help Obasanjo
take the Middle Belt as well as the Southwest.

9. (C) However, Tinubu stressed AD cooperation would
not come cheaply. The AD would require important
Cabinet and sub-Cabinet posts. Moreover, Obasanjo must
stop behaving autocratically. He would have to show he
was "willing to get out of his ivory tower and listen
sometimes." With such a deal Obasanjo could spend his
time globetrotting and acting like an "international
statesman while letting others run things," Tinubu
said half-jokingly. He added that any deal on oil
revenue allocation with the South-South must include
both Ondo and Lagos because these AD-controlled States
had off-shore oil reserves, albeit much smaller than
those of the Delta states.

10. (C) Tinubu questioned whether Obasanjo had the
sagacity to cut a deal with the AD. Obasanjo was ill
served by his top campaign advisors, the Governor
maintained. For reasons that remain unclear, Obasanjo
reposed great confidence in Works and Housing Minister
Tony Anenih, the de facto campaign manager. Having
Anenih as a key advisor was like inviting "an
unfriendly cobra into the bedroom." The Governor
recounted how Anenih as Chairman of the SDP, after
receiving a pay-off from Head of State Babangida,
supported the annulment of the 1993 election even
though the SDP's Moshood Abiola had won. Anenih was
now advising Obasanjo that he could deliver most of
the Governors if the President let him apply the
screws to the state executives. However, the
assumption that support of the Governors, especially
coerced support, would carry a state's electorate was
a tenuous leap in logic. For instance, Tinubu
forecasted Katsina Governor Yar a'dua (PDP) would be
reelected by a handsome margin but Obasanjo would be
rejected in Katsina. Kano Governor Kwankwaso might eke
by, but Obasanjo's chances in Kano were dismal. Tinubu
expressed the same reservations about Kebbi State and
purported Obasanjo supporter Governor Aliero.


11. (C) Tinubu claimed Anenih's efforts to hitch
Obasanjo to the coattails of the governors while
ignoring Vice President Atiku was bad strategy since
Atiku was more popular with party faithful than
Obasanjo. Tinubu mischievously hoped Obasanjo would
ditch Atiku. This move would place the President under
heavy attack at the PDP convention. Given his flinty
disposition, the President would just say, "To hell
with it and all of you," then stomp back to his
"chicken farm in Ogun State where he belongs." An
incumbent President failing to win his party's
nomination would be a good tonic for Nigerian
democracy, Tinubu thought.

12. (C) Because of his control of the PDP grassroots
machine, Atiku was Obasanjo's greatest asset within
the PDP, according to Tinubu. The Governor previously
had advised Obasanjo that Atiku was loyal and that he
should maintain a close relationship with his Vice
President. However, attentive to the whispers of
Anenih and NSA Aliyu Mohammed, Obasanjo had allowed
his relationship with Atiku to atrophy. Now, Obasanjo
was treating the individual he needed most like an
unwanted stepchild. Ditch Atiku, lose the nomination,
Tinubu iterated.

13. (C) Closer to home, Tinubu was confident he would
win reelection in Lagos State despite the defection
and open hostility of his Deputy Governor. He believed
his performance has been sufficiently credible and
that AD would remain preeminent in Lagos State. He
predicted Deputy Governor Bucknor would decamp to the
ANPP, a party where she had her political home before,
to run against him. He discounted her threat and felt
the PDP opposition would also be minimal; no eminent
Lagosian wanted to contest against the AD in what
would be a very steep uphill battle.


14. (C) While his view probably overestimated AD
strength in the Southwest and its inroads in other
parts of the country, Tinubu offered a rational,
insightful analysis of presidential electoral
politics. Like Tinubu, we believe significant
opposition awaits Obasanjo in the Southeast and
Northwest. The Middle Belt and South-South will be the
decisive battlegrounds but only if Obasanjo first has
the Southwest in his grasp. Unlike 1999, it is
difficult to imagine a scenario where Obasanjo is
reelected without carrying his home region. While
Obasanjo needs the Southwest, some Yoruba politicians
seem to be drawing the pragmatic conclusion that they
also need him. They may need to hitch themselves to
him to prevent the Southwest from being shut out of
national politics by the potential North-Southeastern
axis that might emerge from among the other opposition
parties. In Nigerian politics, blood still appears to
be thicker than water it seems. Thus, a flawed
Obasanjo may be better than no Yoruba at all. This is
the unspoken subtext of Tinubu's exposition. In short,
Obasanjo and the Yoruba-dominated AD are natural
allies in an electoral milieu heavily influenced by
ethnic, regional and historical factors.