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Cablegate: Nigeria: Action Congress Party Sweeps Lagos Local Election

VZCZCXRO1310
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHOS #0431/01 3080603
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 030603Z NOV 08
FM AMCONSUL LAGOS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0268
INFO RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 9916
RHMCSUU/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 LAGOS 000431

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DOE FOR GPERSONS, CHAYCOCK
TREASURY FOR DPETERS, RHALL, RABDULRAZAK
COMMERCE FOR KBURRESS
USDOC FOR 3130/USFC/OIO/ANESA/DHARRIS
STATE PASS USTR FOR LISER, AGAMA
STATE PASS USAID FOR NFREEMAN, GBERTOLIN
STATE PASS OPIC FOR ZHAN, MSTUCKART
STATE PASS TDA FOR LFITTS, PMARIN
STATE PASS EXIM FOR JRICHTER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: ACTION CONGRESS PARTY SWEEPS LAGOS LOCAL ELECTION
POLL

1. (U) Summary: PolOff and PolSpec observed the Lagos State Local
Government's (LASG) local election on October 11. In the 20 local
councils and 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs), the
opposition Peoples Democratic Party and All Nigeria Peoples Party
(ANPP) refused to contest, and expectation of an Action Congress
(AC) victory was the primary reason behind the low voter turnout.
Lagos State's ruling AC party swept the polls, prompting criticism
by opposition parties of the election process as nontransparent. End
Summary.

LCDAs: Bone of Contention between AC, PDP
-----------------------------------------

2. (U) The former Governor of Lagos State Bola Tinubu (Action
Congress Party) created 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs)
in October 2003, citing constitutional provisions which empowered
state governments to create additional local councils. The Lagos
State House of Assembly passed this into law in 2003. Since then,
opposition parties, including the PDP and ANPP, had denounced the
LCDAs' creation as unconstitutional. They argued that the 1999
Constitution listed 768 local government areas, including 20 local
councils in Lagos State; therefore, the National Assembly needed to
amend the Constitution to create additional local councils before
Lagos State could take action on the ground. Tinubu and current
Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola maintained that Lagos State
had strictly complied with constitutional provisions guiding the
LDCA's creation, but the National Assembly had failed to act
accordingly.

3. (U) Former President Obasanjo (PDP) withheld budgetary
allocations for Lagos 20 local councils after the LCDAs' creation in
2003. Tinubu challenged Obasanjo's action in the Supreme Court. The
Court ruled against Obasanjo's withholding of allocation in the 20
constitutionally recognized local councils in December 2004.
However, it held that the 37 LCDAs were not entitled to public
funding due to their inconclusive status. (Note: President Yar'Adua
released the withheld fund to the 20 local councils upon his
assumption of office. End Note)

Court Cases Clear the Way for October Election
--------------------------------------------- -

4. (U) The dispute between the PDP and the AC over the legality of
the LCDAs postponed the local election from April 2007 to October
11, 2008. Leading up to the October 11 election the PDP submitted
candidates only for the 20 local councils to the Lagos State
Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC). LASIEC rejected the list
and insisted that the PDP needed to field candidates in all 57
councils. The PDP then sought an injunction against the election in
Lagos State High Court, but lost its case on October 2 when the
court cited the Supreme Court's December 2004 decision as the basis
to rule in favor of LASG. With less than 10 days before the
election, the PDP national headquarters directed its Lagos State
branch not to participate, leaving the Democratic Peoples Alliance
(DPA) and Accord Party as two primary opposition parties in the
election. AC won all the chairman and the councillor positions in
the election.

Predictably, Voter Turnout Low
------------------------------

5. (U) Apathy and expectation for an AC victory among the voters
primarily accounted for low voter turnout. Polling stations,
scheduled to be open from 8am to 4pm, had between 500 and 1500
registered voters on the rolls. During the election monitoring
exercise of about 40 polling stations on October 11, PolOff and
PolSpec noted that most polling stations opened from 1000 to 1500
hour. With two hours left in the election, around half of the
ballot boxes observed were virtually empty, and polling agents
counted on average around 60 ballots per box for the other half. Of
the fifty parties represented on the ballot, only party agents from
the AC, DPA, and Accord parties were present at the polling
stations. Most polling stations did not provide voters with any
means to vote in privacy although they were under LASIEC's
instruction to do so; only a few provided simple shields on the side
of the voting area to provide a semblance of privacy. LASIEC's
polling agents attributed the low turnout to heavy rain earlier in

LAGOS 00000431 002 OF 002


the day and voters' confusion as to which polling unit they had
registered and at which they could vote. (Comment: Only polling
agents cited heavy rain and confusion, making it highly unlikely
that these were the primary reasons for the low voter turnout. End
Comment)

Civil Society Faults LASIEC
for Uncompetitive Election
----------------------------

6. (U) Civil society leaders faulted LASIEC for holding a
nontransparent and uncompetitive local election. Olasupo Ojo,
President of the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights, told
PolOff October 10 that the process had neither been transparent nor
open from the primaries to the election. According to Ojo, LASIEC
had not been forthcoming with information regarding the party
registration process and the final determination of the election
date; ultimately, the opposition parties could not properly
campaign. AC candidates, he posited, were hand-picked and
pre-determined to win so they did not bother to campaign. Atinuke
Ogundipe, Chairperson for the Lagos State Civil Society Coalition,
told PolOff October 14 that there existed a great disconnect between
the voters and the government as evidenced by the low level of
participation in the local councils and LCDAs, the level of
government closest to the grassroots. Ogundipe contended that
people had no confidence in the electoral system due to the absence
of any visible reforms. Professor Mojibayo Fadakinte of the
University of Lagos, told PolOff October 10 that, while the process
was admittedly flawed, the majority of the people were happy with
the LCDAs' creation, generally perceive election to be a mere
formality, and therefore did not mind an expected AC victory.

7. (SBU) Comment: While the relationship between Lagos and the
Federal Government (FG) reportedly has improved under Governor
Fashola (Action Congress) and President Yar'Adua, Lagos continues to
challenge the FG on a host of issues. With regard to the recent
local election, Lagos State Government's decision to conduct the
polls in the disputed 37 LDCAs can be viewed either as a positive
step to institute democratically-elected local leadership or as an
AC-orchestrated political gimmick to legitimize its powerbase.
Although election irregularities were impossible to observe, the low
voter turnout was due at least in part to the PDP's decision to not
participate. However, there is no question that the election
process is in further need of reforms. End Comment.

8. (U) This cable was cleared with Embassy Abuja.

BLAIR

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