This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
140759Z Sep 05
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 LAGOS 001422
STATE FOR AF/W STATE FOR INR/AA
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/31/2015 TAGS: PREL PGOV NI SUBJECT: LAGOS STATE GOVERNOR DISCUSSES HIS OPTIONS FOR 2007
REF: ABUJA 1635
Classified By: Consul General Brian L. Browne for Reason 1.4 (D)
------- SUMMARY -------
1. (S) Summary: In an August 27 conversation with the Consul General, Lagos State Governor Bola Tinubu stressed he was hedging his bets and political ambition on the 2007 election by no longer placing sole reliance on riding the coattails of Vice President Atiku. Tinubu sensed Atiku's stock was declining and could descend further. He thinks Atiku will leave the PDP and thus weaken the party. Tinubu vaticinated that National Security Advisor Aliyu Gusau, a Babangida loyalist who has amassed sensitive, damning information on many of the players, could emerge as a key broker and perhaps darkhorse in the PDP presidential scramble. Consequently, Tinubu has held meetings with 2003 presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari and former head of state Babangida. While Tinubu wants to be somebody's vice presidential candidate, he also eyes a Senatorial seat as a possible alternative. Tinubu no longer sees Atiku as a likely winner of the PDP presidential nomination. End summary.
OPTION ONE: VP CANDIDATE FOR ATIKU
2. (C) During a relaxed August 27 evening meeting with Consul General, Lagos State Governor Tinubu provided his analysis of the current electoral topography, particularly in the rival People's Democratic Party. Although now in different political parties, Governor Tinubu and Vice President Atiku have a close relationship dating back to the early nineties; their friendship is one that defies party lines and perhaps political logic. Whispered in the backrooms as well as aired in the public domain by less discreet tongues has been the possibility of an Atiku-Tinubu ticket under the banner of a new "progressive" party. In the past, Tinubu has talked with verve to us about this option. At this last meeting, however, he was more cautious. Tinubu was noticeably less sanguine about Atiku's presidential chances.
3. (S) Atiku's position within the PDP has weakened considerably, Tinubu assessed. Atiku has lost his grip on the National Executive Committee as President Obasanjo has successfully ensconced loyalists there. Obasanjo is also applying heavy pressure through the EFCC on Atiku's other main intra-party allies, the PDP state governors. Tinubu felt that many of these governors would wilt under the pressure and make amends with the President, thus further undermining Atiku's position within the party.
4. (C) Tinubu maintained it would take a political miracle for Atiku to gain the PDP presidential nomination. Alternatively, if Atiku left the party, his exit would be precipitated by a defeat for the party nomination. Defection born of defeat would not auger well for the fate of the new party Atiku would form, Tinubu forecasted. Nonetheless, in the next breath, Tinubu voiced eagerness at joining Atiku in a different party in order to fight the Obasanjo machine.
5. (C) Tinubu observed Obasanjo was almost as neuralgic about former head of state Babangida becoming the PDP nominee as about Atiku's possible ascension. Given this feuding triangle, Tinubu thought each man would do his best to play the other two against themselves. This three-way tug of war might not produce anything but a political stalemate requiring a compromise candidate. Enter NSA Aliyu Mohammed Gusau. Tinubu commented that Gusau has strong ambition but is careful not to encroach on turf staked out by Babangida, Gusau's mentor. However, Babangida would give Gusau a nod if Babangida himself was foreclosed. Babangida would rather see a loyal surrogate than an Obasanjo proxy win the prize.
6. (S) Additionally, Gusau, as NSA, purportedly has dossiers embarrassing to both Obasanjo and Atiku, Tinubu maintained. At the right time, Gusau could brandish these files to douse Obasanjo's and Atiku's ardor while promoting either Babangida's or his own ambitions. The benefit that Gusau would serve to the likes of Babangida, Obasanjo and Atiku is that, among the major players, he knows how to keep secrets and he would be least likely to publicly air the other's dirty linen.
OPTION TWO: VP CANDIDATE FOR BUHARI
7. (C) In light of Atiku's mire, Tinubu has begun to hedge by holding discussions with Muhammadu Buhari of the All Nigeria Peoples' Party (ANPP) about the VP slot on a Buhari ticket. Buhari finished second to Obasanjo in the highly controversial 2003 elections. What was not controverted by most objective analysts was that Buhari won a sizable majority of the Northern vote. If he is to run again, he needs a southern VP candidate who can command a large voting bloc. Assuming he continued to control the North in 2007, all Buhari needs to take the election is to win one of the three Southern zones, Tinubu calculated. Tinubu said his command of the AD in the southwest and his close connections with four of the six South South governors (Ibori of Delta, Igbinedion of Edo, Attah of Akwa Ibom, and Alamieyeseigha of Bayelsa) makes him an attractive partner to Buhari. The drawback to teaming either with Atiku or Buhari is that this would produce an all-Muslim presidential ticket.
8. (C) While Tinubu did not see this as a big problem with Atiku (due to Atiku's noted religious laxity and his pro-Western outlook), it would be a heavy cross to bear for a Buhari-Tinubu ticket because of the perception in many southern Nigerian minds that Buhari is a religious zealot. Because of this factor, Tinubu asserted he had begun to shift his focus, which had been exclusively on the vice presidency, to see the Senate as a nice place to land upon exiting the governor's mansion.
PLAN B: SENATE PRESIDENT
9. (C) Tinubu said he is seriously considering the Senate in
2007. This would be an easier campaign and, given his political hold in Lagos, one more likely achieved than a run at becoming the nation's number two citizen. If he selected this route, he would support either Buhari or Atiku with the understanding that if either won, Tinubu would be appointed Senate President - the number three citizen in Nigeria. Moreover, he also believes he could influence the selection of either Atiku's or Buhari's running mate.
THE AD, LAGOS AND SOUTHWEST
10. (C) Closer to home, Tinubu stated he was under intense pressure from the half-dozen AD candidates to anoint a successor in Lagos State. He said he would resist the pressure and hold an impartial primary - whoever won would get his blessing. The Governor revealed, however, that local electoral politics was making a casualty of orderly governance in the state. State commissioners with gubernatorial ambitions had their knives drawn at each other and were rapidly factionalizing the party and government. Tinubu said he might be faced, for the sake of his and the Lagos State government's sanity, to demand all potential candidates resign their government positions. Despite this turmoil, Tinubu expressed confidence the AD would recapture the Lagos gubernatorial seat. He also predicted that the AD would have a good chance in the other Southwestern states, particularly Ondo and Osun, where the one-term PDP governors have distinguished themselves by their ineptitude.
11. (C) Comment: Reading the writing on the wall and getting a good sense of it's likely conclusion, Tinubu is exploring options other than his old friend Atiku. Although Tinubu expressed confidence and felt himself to be in a strong position to influence national politics, reality might be a lot less generous. Currently, the options to realize his vice-presidential ambitions are thin and getting thinner. He maintains a degree of popularity in Lagos State. The strategy to concentrate on running for the Senate for Lagos and on shoring up the AD in the southwest are less expansive than what we have heard from him on prior meetings. They are also much more realistic. End Comment. BROWNE