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Cablegate: Nigeria: Opposition Candidate Oshiomhole Wins Edo

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RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHOS #0447 3181203
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 131203Z NOV 08 ZDS
FM AMCONSUL LAGOS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0290
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH AFB UK
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RHMCSUU/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEWMFD/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE

UNCLAS LAGOS 000447

C O R R E C T E D COPY -- REMOVED SENSITIVE CAPTION

SIPDIS

NSC FOR B POTTMAN
STATE PASS USTR FOR USTR AGAMA
STATE PASS USAID FOR GWEYNAND AND SLAWAETZ

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL ECON NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: OPPOSITION CANDIDATE OSHIOMHOLE WINS EDO
GOVERNOR'S SEAT ON APPEAL

1. (U) Summary: On November 11 the Appeals Court for Edo
State confirmed the decision of the Edo State Election
Tribunal that had declared the Action Congress (AC) candidate
for the governorship, Adams Oshiomhole, the winner of the
April 2007 gubernatorial election. Governor Oserheimen
Osunbor, who remained in office during the appeal, told the
Vanguard newspaper that he would comply with the decision,
which cannot be appealed, calling it a "victory for the rule
of law;" celebration rather than violence was reported
following the decision. The AC now holds two governorships,
Edo and Lagos. End Summary.

2. (U) The Court of Appeal with jurisdiction for Edo State
ruled November 11 in favor of the Action Congress (AC)
candidate for the governorship of Edo State, Adams
Oshiomhole. In the gubernatorial elections of April 2007, the
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared
the Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Oserheimen
Osunbor, the winner despite massive support for the popular
labor leader Oshiomhole. Oshiomhole took his case to the
State Elections Petition Tribunal, which found sufficient
evidence of fraud to over-turn the election of the PDP
candidate, Osunbor, in March 2008. The PDP immediately
appealed the decision of the tribunal, retaining control of
the government throughout the appeal process which dragged on
for over six months. In the November 11 decision, the Court
of Appeal ruled in favor of Oshiomhole, upholding the
findings of the Election Tribunal with respect to massive
fraud. The Court of Appeal decision is final and cannot be
appealed. Oshiomhole is now the second governor from the
Action Congress, in addition to Governor Babatunde Fashole in
Lagos State.

3. (U) Expectations of widespread violence following a court
decision, which most observers expected to go against the
popular Oshiomhole, induced the police to send reinforcements
to Edo State, and the traditional ruler, the Oba of Benin,
urged people to fast for three days in advance of the
decision on the grounds that this would help calm tempers.
However, the surprise decision in favor of Oshiomhole
resulted in celebrations rather than violence. Significantly
the overturned PDP governor, Osunbor described the decision
as a "victory for the rule of law" and indicated he will
comply with the decision immediately, according to the
Vanguard newspaper. INEC vowed to investigate and prosecute
any member of its staff found guilty of having manipulated
results; it also promised to review procedures and correct
these where necessary.

4. (U) Oshiomhole was General Secretary of the National Union
of Textile and Garment Workers and President of the Nigeria
Labor Congress from 1999 to 2005. He is credited for pushing
through a 25 percent wage increase for public workers, and he
was detained and arrested by the Obasanjo administration for
inciting strikes against the high cost of fuel. He turned to
politics in 2006 and he has repeatedly drawn attention to the
misuse of oil revenues by the PDP controlled government. He
is reportedly also a strong supporter of civil society.

5. (U) Comment: The court decision, the first to unseat a
sitting PDP governor in favor of an opposition candidate,
affirms the importance of the courts in bolstering democracy
in Nigeria. Promises by the state INEC, which certified
Osunbor's victory in 2007, to reform itself are suspect, and
Post believes that only fundamental election reform can
improve the conduct of elections in future. End Comment.

6. (U) This cable was cleared by Embassy Abuja.
BLAIR

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