The United States does not consider the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party a political party, a US diplomatic cable leaked to the whistleblowing site, Wikileaks, and made exclusively available to NEXT has shown.
Charge d’ affair of the US embassy in Nigeria, Lisa Piascik, in a dispatch dated October 19, 2007, informed Washington that despite its labelling as a political party, the PDP did not meet “the common western understanding” of a political party.
According to Ms. Piascik, the PDP “lacks key ingredients most political parties share”.
After taking a swipe at the party’s mission statement, the American diplomat proceeded to deliver what is probably the most scathing analysis yet of the PDP.
“The PDP remains an agglomeration of interest groups formed around persons of prominence and power which are loosely tied together by a desire to remain in office and maintain access to the “national cake” or resources of the state”, Ms. Piascik declared.
“The PDP remains a highly fractious and opportunistic coalition of interests. True opposition, in the form of a powerful group with access to the pillars of power, comes from within the PDP – not from without as would be expected in a democratic party structure.”
She added that the party, which claims to be the biggest political platform in Africa, has no “ideological consensus” whatsoever and had remained divided from the start.
In a comment attached to the cable, the American diplomat said, “The PDP remains a highly fractious and opportunistic coalition of interests. True opposition, in the form of a powerful group with access to the pillars of power, comes from within the PDP – not from without as would be expected in a democratic party structure.”
However, the leadership of the PDP yesterday faulted Ms. Piascik’s analysis, saying she had no right to deliver such a verdict on the party.
The party’s spokesperson, Rufai Alkali, said “the People’s Democratic Party is governed by its constitution and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.
“We are an organisation, recognised and registered by the Independent Electoral Commission,” Mr. Rufai said. “It is only its membership and leadership of the party and the law governing its operation that can determine it status. It is strange for any organisation outside the shores of the country that is not part of the operation of the party to give it any other name outside of what is known by the party”.
Mr. Alkali therefore urged his party’s supporters to “disregard any information that is likely to undermine the credibility of our great party”.
Interest groups in the PDP
In her breakdown of the configuration of the PDP, Ms. Piascik described the party as a network of pockets of interest groups largely centred around former President Olusegun Obasanjo and his successor, late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
She also pointed out that the PDP is a party divided within itself with different interest groups jostling for prominence. According to her, the biggest threat to the PDP is within the party itself rather than from the opposition.
“When viewing and interpreting developments such as the scandals surrounding House Speaker Patricia Etteh and Senate President David Mark or the intrigues surrounding investigation of former PDP governors, it is important to remember that the largest opposition to the PDP continues to come from within the party, not without”.
Ms. Piascik identified the contending forces in the PDP as the conservatives, the progressives, the Abacha appointees/supporters, the retired generals, the Obasanjo Network, the Yar’Adua network and the Immediate past governors Network”.
The conservatives and the progressives
The conservatives, the cable explained, are made up of the initial 18 northern politicians (G-18) that were opposed to the self-succession bid of former military dictator Sani Abacha and the southern politicians that later joined them to form the G-34.
This group, according to the diplomat, were the bedrock of the PDP and commonly referred to as the founding fathers of the party. The cable explained that this group was sidelined soon after the victory of the party in 1999 elections.
“Several original members left either because they disagreed with the influence of former Abacha-appointed politicians in the party or because of disagreements with President Obasanjo. Obasanjo was well-known for his fickleness and shortly after coming into office side-lined many of the G-34 who had been influential in bringing him into office”.
Notable members of the conservatives, as listed by the dispatch, include, former Vice President Alex Ekwueme, Chairman of the Northern Political Leaders Forum, Adamu Ciroma, former Ambassador to the U.S, Jibril Aminu and Chairman of the Arewa Consultative Forum Sunday Awoniyi.
The cable further classified the immediate past chairman of the party, Okwesilieze Nwodo, the second republic governor of Plateau State, Solomon Lar, the late former governor of Kano State, Abubakar Rimi and former Minister of Environment, Iyorchia Ayu, Governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido and former information minister, Jerry Gana, as members of the progressive camp in the party. Also in the group, Chairman of the All Nigerian Peoples’ Party (ANPP) Ume Ezeoke, who Mrs. Piascik explained is “considered a PDP mole within the ANPP”, and former Minister of Justice who was assassinated in 2001, Bola Ige.
Abacha-appointees and the retired generals
According to Ms. Piascik, the Abacha-appointees are those who had served in different capacities under Mr. Abacha. They include former minister of works in the Obasanjo administration, Tony Anenih, former Chairman of the PDP, Barnabas Gemade, second republic governor of Anambra State, Jim Nwobodo and Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Yar’Adua administration, Ojo Maduekwe.
The retired general’s faction includes former military president, Ibrahim Babangida, Former National Security Adviser, Aliyu Gusau, former Minister of Defence, Theophilus Danjuma, and a former military Head of State Abdulsalami Abubakar.
Mr. Abdulsalami is not known to be a member of the PDP.
The main power blocks
Despite the preponderance of loosely aligned factions struggling for control of the party, Ms. Piascik identified three power blocks at the top of the PDP hierarchy as at the time the cable was written. The factions were listed as the Obasanjo Network, the emerging Yar’Adua Network and the Babangida Network. The faction, which appears to be the most influential of these three, according to Ms. Piascik, was the Obasanjo Network.
“By the end of his presidency in May 2007, President Obasanjo had completely taken over the organisational machinery of the PDP,” Ms. Piascik wrote.
“He made all major decisions on membership, candidates, and matters of party structure, including amendments to the PDP Constitution in December 2006 which virtually guaranteed him chairmanship of the Board of Trustees”.
Prominent members of the Obasanjo Network identified by the Charge d’ Affair are Senate president David Mark, former Speaker of the House of Representatives Patricia Etteh, who was described as the “romantic interest” of Mr. Obasanjo, owner of the Dangote Group and chief financier of Obasanjo’s campaign in 2003, Aliko Dangote, self-acclaimed godfather of Anambra politics, Chris Uba, who the cable described as having “criminal ties” and his brother, Andy Uba, a former domestic aide to Mr. Obasanjo. Other members of the camp were former PDP deputy national chairman, south, Olabode George, former Nasarawa State Governor, Abdullahi Adamu and his Bauchi State counterpart, Adamu Muazu.
Immediate past governors’ network
This group, according to the cable was “formed and coalesced largely around a shared desire to avoid prosecution”. They are also suspected as being the major financiers of Mr. Yar’Adua’s campaign. They include former governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, his Abia State counterpart Orji Kalu, Peter Odili of Rivers State, James Ibori of Delta State and Joshua Dariye of Plateau State. Others are George Akume of Benue State, Ahmed Makarfi of Kaduna State, Adamu Aliero of Kebbi State, Saminu Taraki Jigawa State, and Chimaroke Nnamani of Enugu State.