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Cablegate: National Pdp Chair Warns of Potential Coup,

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

160435Z Dec 04

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 002075

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINS KDEM NI
SUBJECT: National PDP Chair warns of potential coup,
President replies

REF: A. LAGOS 2418 and previous

B. LAGOS 2513
1. Summary. A recent heated exchange of letters
between President Obasanjo and the chair of his ruling
People's Democratic Party (PDP) has dominated press
headlines. This rift has been brewing since the 2003
elections, and the current crisis in Anambra has aggravated
it. PDP chair Ogbeh warns Obasanjo that the conditions in
Nigeria are strikingly similar to the conditions that led to
the fall of the Second Republic and subsequent military
rule. This public airing of the PDP's dirty laundry may be
an early indicator of the level of acrimony to come in the
2007 election cycle, assuming Nigeria's democracy makes it.
End Summary.

2. On December 6, Chief Audu Ogbeh, the National Chair of
the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP), wrote a letter
to President Obasanjo warning that Nigeria is "drifting in
the same direction" as the failed Second Republic. Ogbeh
claims the Ministers jailed by Buhari's government "were
suspected to have stolen all of Nigeria's wealth." Today,
he warns, "perception is reality and today we are perceived
in the worst light by an angry, scornful Nigerian public."
He tells Obasanjo that "the buck stops at your table" and
calls on him to "act now and bring any, and all criminal,
even treasonable, activity to a halt...We do not have too
much time to waste." The consequence of a failure to act on
the part of the President would be that "we can, either by
omission or commission allow ourselves to crash and bring to
early grief this beautiful edifice called democracy."

3. The letter was specifically written to address the role
of the President in the recent crisis in Anambra State (ref
A). Despite the fact this crisis seemed to not progress
beyond its initial burst of violence, the Nigerian public
has remained engaged on this issue. A survey of 3 of the
major newspapers (The Guardian, Vanguard, and This Day) in
Nigeria for the period Dec 7-14 front page Anambra
headlines. Of the major weekend newsmagazines, which
attract readership through their sensational front covers, 2
(Newsweek and The Week) of the 4 featured Anambra stories.

4. Obasanjo reacted to Ogbeh's letter on December 10 with a
14-page missive. While much of the letter catalogs the
actions the President claims to have taken to manage the
situation in Anambra, he takes personal aim at Ogbeh
throughout. First, he opens by saying he is "amused and not
surprised" by Ogbeh's letter. In his description of the
Anambra crisis, Obasanjo points to several differences he
has had with his party's national chair since the
President's first term (1999-2003). Later, in a discussion
of the July 2003 "resignation" of Governor Ngige, he says to
Ogbeh, "unfortunately, as in many other instances, you
failed to do what you should have done as the chief
executive of the party and rather prefer to insult me not
only as the President of the nation but also as the leader
of the party you seem never to recognize or acknowledge."
Of note, Obasanjo refers to the kidnapping of Governor Ngige
and his coerced resignation as a "family affair" to be
handled within the party and not as a criminal activity.

5. On the specific matter of Ogbeh's comparison of the
present conditions in Nigeria with those that led to the
fall of Second Republic in 1966, Obasanjo has "taken
judicial note of the ominous comparisons you made between a
government in which you participated that was overthrown in
a coup d'etat and this present administration. I wonder if
that is your wish."

6. Press reports since this exchange have highlighted the
growing rift in the ruling party. A party caucus called
over this feud has thus far been unable to take a firm stand
on either side of the issue. The conflict in the party is
between those who see Ogbeh's letter as an inexcusable
public criticism of the President and those who accept the
letter as the "bitter truth on the state of the nation which
must be corrected to halt the slide of anarchy."

7. The Anambra crisis is largely an internal party
disagreement turned violent, and Edo State may not be far
behind. In Edo, a PDP faction led by the Governor of Edo,
Lucky Igbinedion, suspended the national chair of the PDP
Board of Trustees, Tony Anenih, the state PDP chair, and
others from the state PDP. The Anenih-led faction then
established a rival secretariat in Benin City. The National
Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP meeting in Abuja over the
Ogbeh crisis overturned this suspension on December 14. The
All Nigerian People's Party (ANPP), the major opposition
party, has seized on this additional example of intra-party
conflict and has predicted that it is only a prelude of what
is to come.

8. Comment: The crisis in Anambra seems to have inflamed
the smoldering dissatisfaction of the general population
with the performance of Obasanjo, and the regime seems to
exhibit palpable fear for its ability to maintain control of
the nation. While there have long been whispers of the
possibility of a coup--and even a longing for military
government by portions of the populace who have yet to
experience the benefits of democracy--this is first time
that possibility has been openly aired in the press. This
change is disturbing and may portend future moves by the
President to consolidate his power and marginalize or remove
those he considers less than completely loyal to him.

9. Comment continued. Ogbeh is drifting away from Obasanjo
and apparently toward VP Atiku, who is increasingly seen as
Obasanjo's rival. According to one source, the decision had
been taken by Ogbeh to go on the attack, hence the first
letter. Believing that Obasanjo had already decided to
remove him, he felt he had nothing to lose. This also shows
more clearly the battle lines that may be drawn in the PDP,
should Nigeria's democratic experiment survive until the
2007 election. End comment.

FUREY

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