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2005-11-28 15:04:00
Consulate Lagos
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

281504Z Nov 05
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 LAGOS 001801 



E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/22/2015


Classified By: Consul General Brian Browne for reasons 1.4(b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary. Once an ardent supporter of Vice President
Atiku, Abia State Governor Orji Kalu said Vice President
Atiku's chances for capturing the PDP presidential nomination
had diminished substantially. He claimed the President was
ruthlessly choking pro-Atiku governors economically, and
efforts among governors to unify around the VP were now
futile. Forever ambitious, Kalu was sanguine about his
chances for somehow emerging from the turmoil to become the
dark horse. He also said popular frustration with the
country's continuing poverty was on the verge of erupting,
and he did not discount the possibility of civil disturbances
or of a military intervention. End Summary.


VP's Support Base is Eroding


2. (C) Much of this October 29 was vintage Kalu: asperity
in his critique of President Obasanjo and gasconade about his
own nationwide popularity. However one thing was new.
Previously Kalu had been a bit of a stalking-horse for VP
Atiku. Now that Atiku is on the skein, it appears Kalu is
selling off his stocks in Atiku's future. Previously an
outspoken supporter of Vice President Atiku, Kalu downplayed
the VP's chances of succeeding the President. He said that
the President retained hopes of a third term and that
Obasanjo was on a mission to obliterate all opponents to this
goal. Given that Obasanjo's goal allows no space for Atiku
as a running mate let alone a presidential candidate, the
Vice President is clearly Obasanjo's number one target.
Obasanjo will thus venture to great length to weaken Atiku
directly or weaken him indirectly by hog-tying his
supporters. Kalu alleged a conscious campaign to frustrate
the economic interests of governors who had openly supported
the VP. He angrily noted that no pro-Atiku governor had been
allowed to control the recent issuance of membership cards
during the membership registration exercise for the ruling
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in their respective states.
This insult coupled with the PDP's pro-Obasanjo national
secretariat seizing control of the party's state executive

caused Kalu to skip the latest round of state party
congresses. In a rare moment of defeatism, Kalu said he was
considering leaving the PDP for a new party. (Comment:
Since this conversation, we have learned that Kalu has
overtured the Igbo-based APGA political party, the party
which probably has the most genuine grassroots support in
southeastern Nigeria. End comment.)


President Still Contemplating Third Term


3. (C) Kalu felt Obasanjo's intention was to retain his
office "by any means necessary." He said an attempted
constitutional amendment would be the preferred route, but he
mentioned imposing a state of emergency as another
possibility should the legal means not yield the desired
political end.

4. (C) Kalu observed that Obasanjo's quest for a third term
would be disastrous. Meanwhile the poor were getting poorer,
the dearth of money in the system was strangulating
businesses not tied to Obasanjo or his allies, and the
consequent frustrations were being felt nationwide,
particularly in the military, who do not regularly receive
salary and who know their retired brethren receive their
pension at irregular intervals. Kalu concluded that
Obasanjo's financial reforms were a distraction to disguise
his real intention of establishing an economy that
superficially looked more liberal but in actuality was more
tightly controlled by the President and his business coterie.
Kalu said he would not be surprised at a "violent backlash,"
and he intimated there was growing support among many
Nigerians for military intervention.


Abia State Governor Considers Presidential Bid



5. (C) Despite his notorious differences with Obasanjo,
Kalu felt his own chances of somehow emerging with the
Presidential grail were good. He said the current political
dialogue and unity between the South-South and South-East
geopolitical zones would result in a consensus candidate that
would compel northern states to accept another southerner as
President, and he had strong support in both areas. He said
the two regions were treating a vice presidency as "fluff"
and would not accept less than the Presidency. No other Igbo
governor had enough national exposure to match him in the
South-East, he estimated. The only South-South competition
he saw would come from Rivers State Governor Odili, whom he
believed was extremely unpopular because of his strongly
pro-Obasanjo stance. He predicted the current front runners,
including Obasanjo, Atiku, Babangida, and Marwa, would create
a stalemate from which the South-East / South-South consensus
candidate could emerge triumphant. He also claimed a good
rapport with Northern elites who would find him to be an
acceptable candidate. "I am as popular in the North as I am
in Abia," Kalu beamed. (Comment: Depending on how you gauge
Kalu's popularity at home - some say he is, some say he is
not - this was either conscious self-adoration or unwitting
feint praise. End comment).




6. (C) Kalu looked tired from internal party squabbles. He
was more low key than in previous meetings. If he had not
already done so, he appeared ready to sever his umbilicus to
Vice President Atiku. Kalu was objective and probably
correct in reading that the cards are stacked against the VP.
However, he seemed the captive of wishful thinking in
concluding that the deck would somehow reshuffle in a manner
that, after all cards were dealt, he would be holding the
strongest hand. Right now he is losing control of the PDP
apparatus in his state. His ability to claim the ultimate
prize is slimmer still. His certainty regarding a southern
presidency would appear to be bravado in the face of
increasing odds against, and his references to a possible
coup additionally point to the desperation of the moment.
End Comment.