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Cablegate: Nigeria: Anambra Gubernatorial Race Off to Rocky Start

VZCZCXRO5866
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHUJA #2001/01 3060651
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 020651Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY ABUJA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7383
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 002001

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR AF/FO, AF/W, AF/RSA, DRL, INR/AA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: ANAMBRA GUBERNATORIAL RACE OFF TO ROCKY START

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SUMMARY
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1. (SBU) Judicial and electoral commission rulings on the disputed
People's Democratic Party (PDP) nomination process have fueled
confusion and tension in the February 2010 race for Governor of
Anambra State. Political temperatures rose further with the
reported kidnapping of the father of the former Governor of the
Central Bank and putative PDP candidate, while the PDP candidate
from the annulled 2007 election continues to urge the courts to
declare him "governor in waiting." In many ways, Anambra is a
political bellwether for Nigeria, but the omens for a credible
election look grim. Thus far, INEC has done nothing there to redeem
its shattered nationwide reputation. Meanwhile, the Anambra High
Court has done a fairly good job of turning down the variety of
attempts to rig the process. END SUMMARY.

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THE ANAMBRA DRAMA
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2. (SBU) On October 23, a Federal High Court in Abuja rejected the
People's Democratic Party (PDP) designation of former Central Bank
Governor Charles Soludo as its candidate for Governor in the
February 2010 elections. The ruling forced the Independent National
Electoral Commission (INEC) to declare that it had barred Soludo's
candidacy, while the Anambra State High Court ruled that INEC could
not remove Soludo's name until higher courts (Court of Appeals)
ruled on an appeal by his legal team.

3. (SBU) The Anambra State INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner
Rowland Uwa told Political Specialist October 27 that INEC's
decision to bar Soludo complied "strictly" with the October 23
ruling by the Federal High Court in Abuja on an internal PDP dispute
arising from "inconclusive PDP primaries." He confirmed four
additional litigations involving Soludo's candidacy. Uwa described
the Anambra political situation as "precarious," adding that "it is
important that INEC respects court orders to avoid accusations of
bias by any of the parties or governorship candidates." Uwa
expressed confidence that INEC would reinstate Soludo should the
Federal High Court in Abuja or another higher court rescind the
order, but described Soludo's selection as an "imposition" since
neither the Anambra PDP executives nor the party rank and file
participated in his selection. Similarly, Anambra State PDP
Publicity Secretary Afam Ilunoh insisted that Soludo's selection ran
contrary to the party's constitution, which required selection of
party candidates through primaries.


------------------------------------
LOSING CANDIDATE PERSISTS IN APPEALS
------------------------------------

4. (SBU) Andy Uba, the PDP candidate who claimed to have won the
2007 Anambra gubernatorial election later annulled by the Supreme
Court continued his attempts to convince the courts that he merited
status as "governor in waiting." Incumbent governor Peter Obi of
the ANPP had taken office in 2006 after successfully waging a
three-year battle to overturn INEC's original declaration of still
another PDP candidate as the victor against him in 2003. Obi later
won a second legal victory when the Supreme Court ruled that his
four-year tenure had started from the time he assumed office in
2006, annulling the 2007 election in which Uba had participated.


5. (SBU) The Chairperson of a PDP faction loyal to Andy Uba, Chief
Bright Nebedum, expressed optimism to Political Specialist October
QBright Nebedum, expressed optimism to Political Specialist October
27 that the courts would declare Uba as the successor to Governor
Peter Obi, obviating the need for gubernatorial elections in
February 2010. Nebedum, who opposed Soludo's candidacy, remarked
that Soludo's legal difficulties stemmed from an "injustice meted
out by those who think the PDP is their birthright."

----------------------------
GANG KIDNAPS SOLUDO'S FATHER
----------------------------

6. (SBU) On October 27, a five-man gang stormed Soludo's family home
in Isofia and kidnapped his 79-year-old father, according to press
reports. The reported kidnapping occurred on the same day that
4,000 anti-Soludo protesters from 21 local councils stormed the
state capital to protest the "imposition" of Soludo's candidacy by
Abuja PDP heavyweights. Police invited Andy Uba's brother Chris

ABUJA 00002001 002 OF 002


for questioning on his possible role in the kidnapping.

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COMMENT
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7. (SBU) Anambra is a political bellwether for Eastern Nigeria. It
is the region's most populous state, the hub of major commercial
towns like Onitsha, Nnewi and Akwa, and it is the home of prominent
citizens like Nigeria's first president, Nnamdi Azikwe, former
Biafra leader and ex-presidential candidate Emeka Ojukwu, former
Vice President and current PDP First Chairperson Alex Ekweme, and
renowned writer Chinua Achebe. The stakes are high in Anambra, in
part because it is the last statewide chance for the federal
government to show before the 2011 presidential poll that it can
deliver a credible electoral process. Thus far, the omens in
Anambra look grim: voter registration last month was marred by
reported abuses, the nationally dominant PDP is bitterly divided,
the courts are already involved as arbiters, and the father of a key
PDP figure was brazenly kidnapped. Thus far, INEC has done nothing
in Anambra to redeem its shattered nationwide reputation. END
COMMENT.

8. (U) Embassy and ConGen Lagos collaborated on this telegram.

SANDERS

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