INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Nigeria: Southern Snapshots - March 2004

Published: Wed 24 Mar 2004 02:56 PM
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 000637
SIPDIS
LONDON FOR GURNEY, PARIS FOR NEARY
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV KDEM PINR NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: SOUTHERN SNAPSHOTS - MARCH 2004
REF: A) LAGOS 562 B) LAGOS 296 C) 2003 LAGOS 2187 AND
PREVIOUS
"It wasn't me...or maybe it was."
1. (U) Continuing its losing ways, the Alliance for Democracy
Party (AD) lost another challenge to the April 2003 elections
that gave the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) five of the six
southwestern gubernatorial offices AD had held since 1999.
2. (U) Immediately after the elections, the AD had brought
suit in the Elections Tribunal charging that newly elected
PDP Ekiti State Governor Peter Ayodele Fayose had presented
false credentials to the State Independent Election
Commission, and was thus not qualified to run for or hold the
office of Governor. (ref B) The AD claimed that the school
records and other documents Fayose submitted bore the name
"Peter Ayodele Oluwayose", a resident of Ibadan in Ogun
State. Fayose put his father on the stand to testify that
God had told him (the father) to change the family name to
Oluwayose or die. After several postponements, the last one
ordered when fighting broke out in the courtroom between
supporters of the two parties, the Tribunal threw out the AD
case saying that AD did not offer sufficient proof that
Fayose was not also Oluwayose and, thus the true owner of the
credentials.
3. (U) Two weeks later, the Tribunal issued a decision in the
AD's case against PDP Delta State Governor James Ibori. The
AD claimed that Ibori was ineligible because he had been
convicted in 1995 of theft by fraud of over ten million
naira. Based on the testimony of a defense witness who
claimed that he was the one who had been charged and
convicted, and not Ibori, the Tribunal decided that someone
named James Onanefe Ibori had been convicted, but it was not
proven that this person and Governor James Ibori were one and
the same. The day after the decision, the witness clarified
his testimony saying that he was not convicted instead of
Ibori -- they were both convicted of the crime of theft by
fraud on the same day, but in separate trials. The AD has
vowed to appeal the Fayose case and the Ibori case is set for
retrial in April.
OPC now stands for peace
4. (U) Once proscribed for its violence prone activities and
labeled as terrorists by President Obasanjo, the pan-Yoruba
group, Odua Peoples Congress (OPC), may have resolved to
follow the path of peace. Gani Adams, leader of one of the
two factions of OPC, stressed the organization's new image
during his opening remarks at a March 16 OPC-organized
conference in Lagos calling for no violence in the up-coming
local government elections. Prominent Nigerians, including
diplomats, former Ministers, and civil society leaders
attended the conference. Owelle Rochas Okorocha,
Presidential Advisor on Inter-party Affairs, represented the
Presidency, and Lagos Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu also sent a
representative.
5. (U) Adams described the conference as the first in a
program of political education that the OPC hopes will serve
as a catalyst for "positive political socialization" in
Nigeria. He said the one-day meeting is part of the OPC's
plan to help find a new and lasting solution to Nigeria's
historical difficulty with maintaining democratic governance
through "free and fair elections." Adams, who is also on the
Presidential Committee on Peace, used the occasion to
distance his faction from the recent spate of attacks and
violence he blamed on the other faction led by Dr. Frederick
Faseun.
6. (U) Comment. The conference highlighted the fact that
Adams' faction has been gaining support from the respectable
side of Nigeria's political and civil society establishments.
In reaction to the recent spike in attacks on prominent
persons, some political leaders have even hired members of
the OPC as bodyguards. Governor Tinubu and other notables
attended Adams' wedding a few months ago. If the March 27
local government elections come off relatively peacefully in
the southwest, it might be a sign that there is a new and
responsible OPC dedicated to peace and unity in Nigeria.
End comment.
Pa Adesanya takes sick leave
7. (U) Afenifere, the pan-Yoruba socio-political group that
is designated to mediate between two rival factions of the AD
(ref A), announced in mid-March that its octogenarian leader,
"Pa" Abraham Adesanya, was leaving his position, temporarily,
to seek medical treatment abroad. Chief Reuben Fasoranti,
according to Afenifere's National Publicity Secretary, Dayo
Adeyeye, is to be the "Acting Leader" until Adesanya "comes
back and is in a position to function as leader."
Fasoranti's political credentials date from the First and
Second Republics in Nigeria. He was close to famed Yoruba
leader, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. He is from Ondo
State and served as State Commissioner of Finance in the
early 1980's. Fasoranti is currently the Ondo State leader
of Afenifere.
8. (U) Comment. The AD split into two factions after losing
badly in the April 2003 general elections. Afenifere, one of
the organizations that helped found the AD, was asked to lend
Adesanya to mediate so that the Party could present a united
slate of candidates in the March 27 local government
elections. Unfortunately, just as negotiations were to
begin, Adesanya suffered a major, crippling stroke.
Reportedly, before he stepped down, Adesanya got the two
sides to pledge to submit a unified slate. The appointment
of Fasoranti, who is not from Lagos and does not have a
following in either Afenifere or AD, seems to be the best
move the two groups can make with only a week until the
elections. Fasoranti is a "place holder" to keep the groups
stabilized until after the elections and/or Adesanya is able
to resume his leadership.
HINSON-JONES
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