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Cablegate: Nigeria: Southwest Politics Upended As

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 LAGOS 000813

SIPDIS


SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED--PLEASE HANDLE
ACCORDINGLY


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PINR PREL SOCI KDEM ASEC CASC ECON NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: SOUTHWEST POLITICS UPENDED AS
POLL DEADLINE APPROACHES

1. (U) SUMMARY. The April 19 gubernatorial and
presidential election will be a remarkable test of
incumbent power-players and ethnic politics in the
Southwest. After stunning defeats in the National
Assembly elections on April 12, the Alliance for
Democracy (AD) is fighting for its political life.
Free and fair or not, the public will judge the
relative strength of candidates and entrenched
interest groups from the outcome. Although the AD
is encouraging its supporters to cast a protest
vote against Obasanjo, such action is unlikely to
deny Obasanjo victory in the southwestern states.
END SUMMARY.


---------------------------
WHAT HAPPENED LAST WEEKEND?
---------------------------


2. (U) In the Southwest, the April 19 poll will
especially test the strength and relevance of
Afenifere, the most prominent Yoruba socio-
cultural interest group. Afenifere leadership has
long served as a rallying point for Yorubas.
Following the April 12 National Assembly election,
Afenifere met with the six Southwest governors,
all of whom belong to the AD, to review the
results. In that election, the AD lost nearly all
of its National Assembly seats to the national
ruling party, the People's Democratic Party (PDP).
Apart from AD's success in Lagos State, last
weekend's polls marked the first time since
Nigeria's independence that a mainstream Yoruba
political party has fallen in the Southwest.
Unable to fathom a tenable reason for this poor
showing, the Afenifere-AD leadership concluded
their failure was the PDP's handiwork. They
alleged that the PDP manipulated the electoral
process and intimidated their supporters.


--------------------------------
WHAT'S NEXT? WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
--------------------------------


3. (U) Top Afenifere and AD leaders, led by
Senator Abraham Adesanya, met on April 14 with
President Obasanjo to protest "massive rigging" of
the National Assembly election. They demanded
that the President address the matter quickly or
risk losing the Southwest's support. The group
warned it would not hesitate to direct its
supporters--i.e. the extended Yoruba nation--to
cast protest votes against Obasanjo and vote
instead for the AD. NOTE: As the AD did not
field a presidential candidate of its own, under
election rules, such ballots should not count as
valid votes but should be reflected in the
"rejected votes" total. The damage to Obasanjo
would be that the votes he expected from the
Southwest would be reduced, forcing him to make up
his count elsewhere. If, however, the AD
persuades voters to cast their lot with another
candidate, especially Buhari, Obasanjo could face
a much stiffer contest in the Southwest that would
also make the nationwide vote count more
competitive. END NOTE.


4. (U) Afenifere's threat raises significant
questions about its power in Southwest politics.
Do Afenifere leaders really control the Southwest,
as they often claim? If last week's National
Assembly election was not rigged as they claim,
did it reflect a new Southwestern political
reality? If so, what is this new reality? Did
the Southwestern electorate throw its weight
behind the PDP to signify solidarity with
incumbent President Obasanjo, whom they failed to
support in 1999? Or, as international observers
witnessed in some areas, were Yoruba voters
confused about how and for whom to vote in last
week's National Assembly election as opposed to
this week's presidential election?


5. (SBU) Afenifere and AD will not give up
without a fight. They may do everything in this
week's election that they accuse the PDP of having
done last weekend--rigging, thuggery, bribery,
manipulation--to counter a repeat attack by such
means. Senator Adesanya has already warned that
the AD will forcefully resist any attempt to rig
the coming election. The Southwestern governors
have all spoken along the same lines. AD leaders
may also engage in legal actions. Such desperate
measures might yield results favorable to AD in
Lagos and Oyo states, but may not make a
meaningful impact in Ondo, Ekiti, Osun, or Ogun
states.


6. (SBU) COMMENT. This Saturday's election could
provide convincing proof of the true state of
affairs in the Southwest. We believe the most
likely scenario is that Afenifere leaders have
lost much of their former control. But, if
governors in such states as Ogun, Ekiti, and Osun,
where the AD lost nearly everything last week are
returned to power this weekend, then Afenifere is
right and truly in charge. If the Obasanjo-PDP
performance on April 19 drops from their
impressive showing on April 12, then something
really went wrong for the AD last weekend, and
their accusations of rigging carry more weight.
The Southwest should be where the action is this
election round. END COMMENT.


HINSON-JONES

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