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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
07ABUJA2377 2007-11-14 16:26:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Abuja
Cable title:  

NIGERIA: INTEGRITY GROUP FOCUSES ON PDP, GODFATHERS

Tags:   PGOV KDEM NI 
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DE RUEHUJA #2377/01 3181626
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P 141626Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY ABUJA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1426
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHOS/AMCONSUL LAGOS 8252
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
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RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 002377 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/W, INR/AA
DOE FOR CAROLYN GAY

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/13/2017
TAGS: PGOV KDEM NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: INTEGRITY GROUP FOCUSES ON PDP, GODFATHERS

REF: ABUJA 2234 AND PREVIOUS

Classified By: Political Counselor Walter Pflaumer for reasons 1.4. (b
& d).



1. (C) SUMMARY. The Integrity Group (IG) plans to become
dormant within the House of Representatives and promote House
unity while working quietly within the Peoples' Democratic
Party (PDP) in an attempt to rid Nigeria of the godfather
politics that are the root of corruption and governance
problems. The IG plans to expand its membership beyond the
House to include Senate and non-National Assembly PDP members
in the hope of influencing the January PDP convention to
elect a Chairman democratically and on merit. Based on their
success and strong support within the House, the IG may have
a genuine impact on the status quo of Nigerian politics. END
SUMMARY.



2. (C) Poloffs met with Integrity Group Chairman Farouk Lawan
(PDP, Kano State), former Speaker Pro-Tempore Terngu Tsegba
(PDP, Benue State) and Representative Mercy Almona-Isei (PDP,
Delta State) on November 7 to talk about IG plans following
the resignation of former Speaker Patricia Etteh (PDP, Osun
State). The three represent part of the IG's core leadership
and are each senior members of the House, of which they have
been members since 1999.

PLANS WITHIN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES


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




3. (C) IG Chairman Lawan told Poloffs the IG plans to unite
the entire House to push for internal democracy and decisions
based on the merit of the arguments rather than the desires
of a small group of political godfathers. Lawan said the IG
will not form a standing organization, so as not to become a
mere faction within the House. He pointed out that the
mission for which the IG formed, namely removal of former
Speaker Patricia Etteh, was now accomplished. In order to
demonstrate the IG's commitment not to become a new power
block, Lawan told Poloffs new Speaker Dimeji Bankole (PDP,
Ogun State) will leave intact the committee membership and
chairmanships, rather than carrying out a shakeup that would
inevitably be seen as favoring its own members. He noted
that only in a couple of instances where there was gross
incompetence would any change be made to the status quo. The
new focus of those who had formed the IG would now shift to
supporting the leadership of the House in ensuring integrity
and accountability in all matters of National Assembly
business. Lawan told Poloffs that despite the IG's planned
dormancy, they could be called into action again if necessary
to defend due process and integrity in the House.



4. (C) Poloffs asked Lawan about allegations (later
disproved) that Speaker Bankole had not completed his
National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) requirements. Lawan said
whether Bankole had or had not completed NYSC service was not
a matter for the IG and was something that Bankole himself
would have to respond to. COMMENT. That Lawan was willing
to let Bankole (whom he as IG Chairman had supported as the
new Speaker) sink or swim based on his own actions with
regard to the NYSC, and would refuse to take sides on the
issue is a clear sign of a commitment to rule of law both
from Lawan and the IG in general. END COMMENT.

INTEGRITY GROUP SETS SIGHTS ON PDP CONVENTION


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




5. (C) Lawan told Poloffs that despite the IG's dormancy in
the House, members of the group plan to engage like minds in
the PDP to push for the fair election of party leaders at the
upcoming January party convention. Their hope is to remove,
or at least reduce the role of the godfathers who have
controlled PDP politics (and, as a result, Nigerian
politics), and to elect officers based on merit, as the IG
members believe they did in electing Bankole as Speaker.
Although the goal is to reduce the power of all godfathers,
the three representatives made no secret that a corollary
goal is to reduce Obasanjo's influence in PDP, and thereby
national, politics. According to Lawan, 260 House members
from the IG will participate in the PDP convention -- a
substantial number, but not enough to swing the vote on their
own.



6. (C) The IG does not currently have a favored candidate for

ABUJA 00002377 002 OF 002


PDP Chairman. Lawan told Poloffs he and others in the group
would engage all contestants and would likely come out in
support of one candidate; however, the goal was not to
install an IG candidate as such, but to ensure a fair vote
based on merit. Lawan insisted the IG will encourage all
credible party members to aspire for leadership positions and
push for internal reform of the party. With regard to the
candidacy of former Senate President Ken Nnamani, Lawan
maintained he does not believe Nnamani will contest for the
party Chairmanship.

ZONING - POTENTIAL PROBLEM OR LIKELY TO PHASE OUT?


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



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




7. (C) Poloffs asked whether the issue of "zoning" (Note: In
the Nigerian political context, the term refers to the
practice of balancing the allocation of key political offices
to particular regions and states. End note) may come up as a
problem at the PDP Convention because Speaker Bankole and PDP
Board of Trustees (BOT) Chairman Obasanjo are both from Ogun
State. Lawan replied, "that's for the PDP to sort out,"
there is no constitutional requirement that the Speaker
position be zoned -- "the House is free to elect anyone." He
added, smiling, that the PDP cannot remove the Speaker, but
if they feel strongly about the zoning issue, perhaps the
party could remove Obasanjo as the BOT Chairman. The BOT
Chairman position, he noted, is also not zoned in the PDP
constitution. Tsegba offered up that removing Obasanjo as
BOT Chairman was on the minds of some members of the PDP
National Executive Council (NEC). (NOTE: Tsegba is a member
of the NEC.) He said there are significant calls within the
NEC to amend the PDP Constitution to remove the clause
requiring the BOT Chairman to be a former president elected
on the PDP ticket (conditions only Obasanjo can meet).



8. (C) Lawan, Tsegba and Almona-Isei all believe the practice
of zoning positions is nearing the end of its usefulness.
They lamented that zoning restricts choice and prevents a
meritocracy. Tsegba told Poloffs the House is on the right
track to transition out of the zoning practice; however, this
will take time. If meritocracy, competence, integrity and
higher ethical standards are promoted, Tsegba opined, zoning
will fizzle out on its own.

WINDS OF CHANGE BLOWING?


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




9. (C) COMMENT. The members of the Integrity Group have
clearly taken full advantage of the political space opened up
by Yar'Adua's hands-off approach and commitment to separation
of powers. The coalition brought about by the IG, which
notably includes a majority of PDP members of the House,
would simply not have been allowed to form under the Obasanjo
administration. The emergence of an apparently democratic
and forward thinking leadership in the House (and the
internal power base to support it) bodes well for increased
relevance and action from the legislative body. It also
creates a precedent for positive change which could give
impetus to change in other arenas.



10. (C) COMMENT CONTINUED. The January 5 PDP National
Convention promises to be THE Nigerian political event to
watch -- a battle for supremacy between Obasanjo, possibly
challenged by former Military President Babangida, as well as
these House members and others calling for due process and
fair elections. Whether Yar'Adua will put a dog in this
fight or demonstrate yet again his belief in a hands-off
approach will add yet another wrinkle to the intrigues of the
Convention. That the IG was able to attract such a
significant number of PDP members into its fold within the
House bodes well for its appeal to the broader PDP
membership. The entrenched interests of the traditional
godfathers of Nigerian politics will be a difficult force to
reckon with, but the current members of the IG appear ready
for a fight. END COMMENT.
PIASCIK