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Cablegate: Appeal Court Voids Election of Bayelsa Governor

VZCZCXRO7019
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHOS #0152/01 1151400
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 241400Z APR 08
FM AMCONSUL LAGOS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9876
INFO RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 9591
RHMCSUU/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 LAGOS 000152

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED -- HANDLE ACCORDINGLY
SIPDIS

STATE FOR AF/W
STATE FOR INR/AA
DOE FOR George Person

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM NI
SUBJECT: Appeal Court Voids Election of Bayelsa Governor


Sensitive But Unclassified; Handle Accordingly

1. (SBU) Summary: On April 15, a federal appeals court overturned
the election of Bayelsa Governor Timipre Sylva. Pursuant to the
court's order, on April 16 the Speaker of the House of Assembly,
Werinipe Seibarugu, was sworn in as acting governor pending a new
election to be held within 90 days. According to an official in the
Sylva Administration, President Yar'Adua weighed in by telephone
from Germany to assure that rivalries between supporters of Vice
President Jonathan and Governor Sylva did not delay implementation
of the court order. However, the Jonathan faction makes up a
majority of the People's Democratic Party in the state, and could
shift support to an opposition candidate willing to do the faction's
bidding. End Summary.

2. (U) On April 15, the federal appeals court sitting in the Rivers
State Capital of Port Harcourt overturned the April 2007 election of
People's Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Timipre Sylva as Governor
of Bayelsa State. The court ordered that the Speaker of the Bayelsa
State House of Assembly be sworn in as acting governor pending a
fresh election to be held within 90 days. According to press
reports, the ruling stated that the election tribunal erred in
concluding that the 2007 gubernatorial election in Bayelsa State had
taken place and had been free and fair. The court held that the
petitioner, Action Congress (AC) candidate Timi Amgbare had provided
clear and convincing evidence that no election had taken place. The
court held that an election reporting document, from which every
other form derives information, was conspicuous by its absence in
the set of documents presented to the tribunal by the Independent
National Electoral Commission (INEC), and that consequently, the
court could conclude that no meaningful election had taken place in
the state.

3. (U) The court's order occasioned another round of competition
between supporters of Vice President and former Governor Goodluck
Jonathan and former Governor Sylva. The group loyal to Sylva is
made up of party executives elected during a controversial state
party congress held on February 21 in violation of a directive of
the state's party caucus, composed of Vice President Jonathan and
other prominent party members. That directive stated that the
former party executive should remain in place as part of an on going
effort to reconcile aggrieved party members. According to press
reports, the Vice President's supporters launched allegations that
Sylva had misappropriated funds that are part of the federal
allocation and had taken out a loan without obtaining the approval
of the State House of Assembly. The press reported that, following
the announcement of the decision of the tribunal but before a copy
of the decision could be received in Yenagoa, the Vice President's
supporters moved to impeach Senate President Seibarugu and to put in
place their own candidate for speaker.

4. (U) An official serving in Governor Sylva's administration told
Pol-Econ Chief that President Yar'Adua himself had intervened by
telephone from Germany to say that the court's ruling was clear, and
that there was no need to wait to swear in Speaker Seibarugu until a
copy of the decision had been received. The official stressed that
there is no ill-will between the Vice President and former Governor
Sylva, and that the competition between their supporters does not
extend to the principals.

5. (SBU) The official also told Poloff that former Governor Sylva
will be the PDP candidate in the new election and predicted he will
win. Asked if he thought the new election would be free and fair,
the official replied that it would have to be; the entire PDP
apparatus has been embarrassed by the ruling, he said, and will not
risk additional humiliation. The official stated that he
anticipated that there would be election monitors in place to
oversee the elections and to assure that the former Governor's new
mandate is seen as legitimate. Acting Governor Seibarugu has
indicated that he will continue many of the reforms set in motion by
Governor Sylva, the official said, including due process, government
procurement and fiscal responsibility initiatives.

6. (SBU) Comment: While the pro-Vice President Jonathan PDP faction,
which opposes former Governor Sylva, appears to have been quieted by
pronouncements from the President and Party Chairman Vincent
Ogbulafor, it does make up a large percentage of the Bayelsa PDP.
They could decide at any time to cause problems for former Governor
Sylva in his re-election bid by shifting their support to any
opposition candidate who indicates a willingness to do the faction's
bidding (meaning payoffs and influence). Nonetheless, Sylva appears
to still have influence with his former cabinet and with this the
ability to guide the elections in his favor as well. End Comment.


LAGOS 00000152 002 OF 002


7. (U) This cable was cleared by Embassy Abuja.

BLAIR

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