wikileaks ico  Home papers ico  Cables mirror and Afghan War Diary privacy policy Privacy
Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
03ABUJA746
2003-04-24 17:00:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Abuja
Cable title:  

NIGERIA: OVERVIEW OF THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

Tags:  PGOV PINS KDEM PREL NI US EU XA 
pdf how-to read a cable
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 000746 

SIPDIS


E.O. 12958: DECL: 22April2013
TAGS: PGOV PINS KDEM PREL NI US EU XA
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: OVERVIEW OF THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

Classified by Ambassador Howard F. Jeter. Reasons 1.5 (b)
and (d).




1. (C) Summary: The Independent National Electoral
Commission has declared the ruling PDP the major victor in
the April 19 and April 12 elections. However, echoing
reports of several observers, President Obasanjo's
political opponents allege massive irregularities. The GON
is striking back with criticism of some observers and the
international media. The battle over the legitimacy of the
elections is thus engaged. As part of this post-elections
competition, Nigerians on both sides of the win/lose divide
will selectively quote the verdicts of international and
domestic observer missions, citing the passages supporting
their varying contentions. Four major international
observer missions have published interim reports. All cite
serious flaws in the elections, with the IRI submission
being the mildest and the EU the toughest of the bunch.
Two domestic groups (TMG and JDPC) were sharply critical on
some points but laudatory on others. Many Nigerians await
our response. We must proceed with great caution, since
what we say could tip the balance here toward acquiescence
or confrontation.




2. (C) Summary continued: While the elections transpired
peacefully, the political climate remains tense; violence
and unrest could still spring forth if care is not taken
and responsible leadership is not exercised. Any USG
statement must be based on the understanding that
democratization is a process requiring stability and that
our interest in democratization extends beyond these two
election dates. We do not want to unwittingly precipitate
instability that would undermine democracy, a very harsh
statement intended to defend democracy could have the
counter productive impact of undercutting democracy by
encouraging unrest. Thus, we should recognize both the
positives and the negatives of the electoral process,
drawing attention to the many material flaws and troubling
irregularities that sullied the elections in many
jurisdictions while complimenting the Nigerian people for
their patience. We should avoid a general conclusion
whether the elections were or were not credible. End
Summary.




--------------------------


WHAT IS AT STAKE


--------------------------






3. (C) The key objectives of democratization and stability
are at stake in Nigeria. The April 12 and 19 elections
were a historic moment for the country. In the past,
civilian-run elections had been the parent of instability.
April's polls presented the chance to break the cycle of
failed elections and successful military coups that have
dogged Nigeria's civilian regimes. Yet, no matter how much
we wanted the elections to go well, we also realized the
process would be more coarse than refined. There would be
blemishes because politics in Nigeria remained a
tumultuous, often dirty, winner-take-all game, often
involving livelihoods and even great wealth. We all hoped
that the conduct of this election would be a sufficient
break from the past to allow Nigeria to leap this hurdle
and begin to build a self-sustaining democracy. The
elections of the past two weeks have not dashed that hope,
but they have made it more difficult.




--------------------------


VIEW FROM THE POSITIVE SIDE


--------------------------






4. (C) Some positive developments have emerged from this
series of elections. First and foremost, the Nigerian
public did its job. Voters came out in respectable numbers;
they stood in line, sometimes waiting patiently for hours
for INEC to get its act together. They voted peacefully
and went home orderly to await the results. Registration
of more political parties opened the political space
reducing tension by letting more people and parties enter
the political arena. Creation of the computerized voters
registers provide a base for an expected continuous
registration process that will serve the nation well in
2007 and future elections. In many parts of the country,
INEC's logistical preparations on April 19 were a cut
better than its dismal April 12 performance. Throughout,
the Nigerian judiciary did a good job. There was never a
fear that the military would intervene in any way.




--------------------------

-
UNFORTUNATELY, MISCONDUCT WAS NOT HARD TO FIND


--------------------------

-




5. (C) However, the elections also had an underbelly. INEC
failed to sufficiently break with Nigeria's history and
business-as-usual in the areas that have traditionally been
the weakest links in Nigerian elections -- the vote
tabulation and collation processes. In many locations,
tabulation sheets were doctored to produce false returns.
In some areas, ballot boxes with valid ballots were removed
and replaced with fake votes. In other places, polling
stations were moved to locations undisclosed to the general
public so that an incumbent's partisans could have free
rein at that location. Some times, no polling stations
were opened at all but returns were reported from these
nonexistent stations. Emboffs have repeatedly encountered
PDP supporters who lament that the rigging was so excessive
and obvious, it had tainted their electoral successes.




6. (C) Many of these infidelities were material to the
electoral outcome. For both the April 12 and 19 elections
in Edo state, Mission and other observers saw vote counts
at numerous individual polling stations indicating
significant support for the ANPP. However, the incumbent
PDP governor won handily in that state despite the fact
that he is widely unpopular. The high voter turnouts and
margins of victory for Obasanjo and the incumbent PDP
governors reported by INEC in perhaps half the states
diverge significantly from the reports of our and other
observers. Their observations suggested much more
competitive races involving lower voter turnouts.




7. (C) In many states in the South, the PDP achieved
grossly lopsided margins where the voting for the ANPP and
other opposition parties was so low that the outcome defied
reasonable explanation given our knowledge of the political
terrain of those areas. For example, the Igbo-dominated
APGA made a very strong showing at the April 12 polls in
the Southeastern region; at least, APGA's gubernatorial
candidates should have provided very strong competition in
Anambra and Enugu. However, out of 56 National Assembly
seats (House and Senate) in those five states, APGA gained
just one House seat (plus another in Bayelsa), but no
Senate seats or governorships. Extrapolating from what we
saw of APGA's strength at various polling areas, the party
should have captured between 20-30 Assembly seats.




8. (C) In the North, manipulation was more subtle but
still widespread. For example, turning a few votes in
selected wards resulted in a PDP sweep of the 12 Assembly
seats in Bauchi in spite of Emboff's observed support for
the ANPP in many districts. Extrapolating from what we saw
of ANPP's strength at the polling areas we observed, ANPP
should have won one hundred or more of the northern
Assembly seats instead of the 79 that they obtained. PDP
probably was not alone in its efforts to influence the
elections' outcome. Underage voting, while evident
throughout the nation, was common in the North. The ANPP
likely took advantage of this practice to pad its already
large margin. Other malevolent actions by the opposition
also no doubt took place; however, not on the scale of the
observed PDP controlled areas.




--------------------------



--------------------------


THE POTENTIAL PROBLEMS WITH THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION


--------------------------



--------------------------






9. (C) Notwithstanding frequent invocations of God, none of
Nigeria's political parties is staffed by angels or saints.
All parties took advantage of the process where they could.
However, the PDP was the dominant transgressor, simply
because it controlled more states and the important INEC
appointments in all jurisdictions. In the South, the
general result of the misconduct was to skew voting in many
states to inflate probable PDP majorities or pluralities
into gross landslides. In this sense, the experience of
the 1999 elections was repeated. Some of the northern
states experienced a more subtle chicanery, different from
the military-administered 1999 elections. In these states,
the aim might not have been to manufacture PDP victories.
Such victories in many northern jurisdictions would have
been outlandish. Instead, the tallies were likely massaged
to assure Obasanjo gained 25 percent of the vote in as many
places as possible. (NOTE: To win the election, a candidate
needed at least a plurality as well as 25 per cent of the
vote in 25 jurisdictions (36 states plus the FCT). END
NOTE.)




10. (C) We believe that INEC's results for the presidential
race are biased and skewed. However, we cannot say with
exactitude what the real outcome was. Obasanjo might have
actually won a first round victory, albeit by a decidedly
slimmer margin. However, given our observations of both
the elections and the political scene over time, as well as
analysis of the INEC results and observer mission reports,
it is more likely that both Obasanjo and Buhari due to
impuissance in the North and South, respectively, failed to
clear the 25 per cent threshold in the requisite number of
states. If so, a run-off election, not an Obasanjo first
round victory, should have been the accurate, just outcome
of April 19.




--------------------------


AN OBSERVATION ABOUT THE OBSERVER MISSIONS


--------------------------






11. (U) Because there were marked differences in numbers of
observers and the geographic coverage of the missions,
differences were expected in the statements made by the
international observer groups. However, there is also a
common thread to all the statements thus far. All the
interim reports state that the elections were very bad in
some states, needed sometimes significant improvement in
others, and were relatively good in a few. Two domestic
observer groups (TMG and JDPC) were laudatory on some
points and sharply critical on others.




12. (C) In many states of the South-South and Southeast, as
well as Katsina and Kaduna, the elections were tainted by
flaws so serious that results from these areas are presumed
to be grossly inaccurate. Second, in some states,
especially in the Northeast and North Central zones, there
were significant irregularities that would call into
question the voting percentages if not the actual victory.
This is where the 25 percent threshold might be material.
Third, in the FCT, the states in the Southwest and most of
the Northwest, the process was relatively efficient and
transparent, although some complaints about vote tampering
in these areas have been made. For example, in Lagos
State, the PDP credibly accuses the AD of not permitting
their agents to participate in the collation process.




13. (C) In addition to the presidential poll, gubernatorial
elections took place in all jurisdictions except the FCT.
For many, the stakes involved in these contests were every
bit as high as those of the presidential race. Some of the
regional variation in the quality of elections may have
arisen from the efforts of embattled (primarily PDP)
incumbent governors to assure their re-election by margins
large enough to cow the opposition, a by-product of which
were improbably large margins in the presidential race as
well.




--------------------------


WHAT SHOULD WE NOT SAY


--------------------------






14. (C) The vast differences in the integrity of the
elections in the various states argue for a USG statement
that avoids a blanket conclusion about the credibility of
the elections. A blanket statement could not do justice to
the complexities of this vast electoral undertaking and
could be susceptible to both purposeful and innocent
misinterpretation. A statement acknowledging the material
differences in the conduct of the elections would be more
accurate and less prone to encourage action inimical to the
continued development, democracy, and domestic and regional
stability.




--------------------------


WHAT IS THE OPPOSITION DOING?


--------------------------






15. (C) The opposition parties most important to the post-
election scenario are the ANPP, APGA and AD. Each has its
own axe to grind. The ANPP claims that its presidential
candidate has been shafted by manipulated results. They
claim victory or at least a run-off is in order. APGA
believes it is the strongest party in the Southeast and
that it should receive a commensurate number of National
Assembly seats and governorships. The Yoruba-based AD
thinks it was betrayed by President Obasanjo, its leaders
hoodwinked into believing the PDP would not mount a strong
challenge to AD National Assembly and gubernatorial
incumbents if AD would support Obasanjo for president.
Accordingly, the AD did not contest the Presidency. The
PDP, however, routed the AD in most of the Southwest, with
a brusque Obasanjo telling the incumbent AD governors to
"pack their bags and go."




16. (C) Buhari is trying to gather the opposition parties
into an alliance to contest the results of the elections.
Already he has seized on the tough language in the EU
statement to back his call that people should not recognize
the government that gets inaugurated on May 29. He is
attempting to get the other parties to endorse his tack and
to discuss other joint actions they can take to challenge
the results. As opposition discusses ways to form a common
front against the surging PDP, the ruling party and the GON
seek ways and means to drive a wedge between the groups.
While many in the opposition can probably be sidelined with
money, contracts or offices, it would not be in character
for Buhari to budge.




--------------------------


OUR PUBLIC POSITION


--------------------------






17. (C) Our public position will be viewed against a
backdrop of escalating tension, political dealing and
rising anxiety regarding what we might say. If our
criticism is too blunt, we risk radicalizing those who want
to upend the results. This not only could undermine
internal stability with attendant risks for a less-than-
stable sub-region, it could also jeopardize the survival of
the very democratization process that a harsh statement
would be intended to champion. On the other hand, we
cannot call this election credible. Intelligent, informed
Nigerians know it was riddled with flaws, and increasingly
they mock the outcome in certain areas. While an unduly
positive statement might discourage some from taking
extreme action, it would be inaccurate and undermine our
credibility in the long run. It also would do nothing to
encourage an open, transparent and fair elections-
arbitration process, something the country desperately
needs in order to vent the pressure building in the
political boiler.




18. (SBU) Consequently, our statement should:




-- acknowledge INEC's announcement, an ineluctable reality;


-- applaud the efforts of the average Nigerian voter;


-- point to the obvious and serious flaws and
irregularities;


-- acknowledge the differences in the quality of elections
conducted among the various states;


-- acknowledge the positive aspects of the election;


-- commend leaders who have called on their supporters to
channel their grievances through peaceful means; and


--- call on those who are aggrieved to use the judicial
process.




--------------------------



--------------------------


THE NEED FOR POLITICAL REFORM; WE CAN RAISE IT LATER


--------------------------



--------------------------






19. (C) What the system really needs is a political fix.
The tribunals are intended to handle a few cases of
scattered malfeasance and fraud. This is a much larger,
nigh systemic problem. However, it would be neither
appropriate nor effective for the USG to call for electoral
reform. That would just invite invidious comparisons
(already spewing from the mouths of some GON flacks) with
Florida in 2000. For now, the EU is taking much of the
heat. We do not need to compete with the EU to prove our
democratic credentials.
JETER