WIKILEAKS: Senator Barnabas Germade – The Germade we met was simply not Believable – US Ambassador

Details of meeting of APC Stalwart and current Senator representing Benue North senatorial district Barnabas Germade with the US embassy when he was scheming and maneuvering to take over from OBJ.

Classified by Ambassador Howard F. Jeter. Reason: 1.5(d).

C) 01 Abuja 2878, d) 01 Abuja 2832

1. (C) Barnabas Gemade October 28 informed the Ambassador of his plans to run against President Obasanjo. The former PDP Chairman accused his President of fostering corruption, non-performance and heavy-handedness. Gemade offered useful information on the timing of the PDP primaries and its convention. While Gemade’s allegations cannot be dismissed, he failed to mention that, as an insider, he had enriched himself from corruption and lack of transparency that he now complains about as a relative outsider and a disappointed and wounded suitor for the PDP Chairmanship. End

2. (U) Former People’s Democratic Party Chairman Chief Barnabas Gemade October 28 called on Ambassador Jeter to inform the USG of his Presidential aspirations and to invite the Ambassador to attend his formal announcement the next day. The Ambassador declined the invitation, commenting that he had not attended any other Presidential campaign announcement. Providing some documentation on his platform, Gemade said he understood the Ambassador had a tight schedule but hoped an Embassy officer might attend. (NOTE: None did. End Note) The former ruling party Chairman was accompanied by two aides; DCM (notetaker) also sat in.

Germade’s Political sojourn:

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3. (C) Gemade recounted President Obasanjo’s alleged sins, including fostering corruption, non-performance on issues of concern to Nigerians and heavy-handedness in his dealings with the PDP and its leading members. Obasanjo condoned and had full knowledge of Works and Housing Minister Chief Tony Anenih’s practice of using money skimmed from road-building contracts to grease political wheels. Over 200 billion Naira had been spent on road-building contracts since May of 1999, Gemade charged, but the actual construction completed could have been done with only “one-tenth of that.” Anenih was so intent on getting money for Obasanjo’s re-election that no performance under a contract now took place once the “mobilization fee” was paid to the contractor and the contractor had kicked back the agreed political pay-off. Gemade estimated that Anenih had skimmed at least 30 billion Naira (USD 236 million) for Obasanjo’s campaign and other political purposes from contracts awarded by his Ministry. Gemade offered that, as a former Minister of Works and Housing, he understood how the system could be exploited. (Comment: By reputation, Gemade not only understood the loopholes, he also exploited them. End Comment.)

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4. (C) Gemade charged that Obasanjo was insensitive to other members and elected officials in the PDP, including Governors and National Assembly members. Because he (Gemade) would not support the continuing manipulation of the legislative branch and the sequencing of party primaries in Obasanjo’s favor, Obasanjo had decided to replace him, Gemade averred. Eighteen of the 21 PDP Governors had told Vice President Atiku Abubakar, dispatched by Obasanjo to plead for their support in ousting Gemade, that they wanted Gemade to stay. However, Gemade said, Atiku had offered Presidential support in allowing the Governors to appoint state-level PDP chairmen in exchange for helping ditch Gemade. The Governors were won over by the offer. However, Gemade asserted, everyone knew he had been running the party well and that there was no basis for his dismissal.

5. (C) Gemade also claimed that “everyone” in Nigeria could see that the Obasanjo government had not delivered on its early promise. If a free and fair election were held today, the President would lose badly. Even in the Southwest, Obasanjo had at best 50% support, and he was doing much worse in the other five geo-political regions.

6. (C) Gemade suggested that Obasanjo’s control of the PDP Central Working Committee might be blinding the President to his thin support in the National Executive Committee. He predicted the NEC would reject Obasanjo’s preferred sequencing (Presidential nomination December 6, followed by State-level and National Assembly positions December 13, and local government slots December 18) in favor of a bottom-up sequence (starting with local government and finishing with the Presidential nomination) that would take place during January. Obasanjo could not get the nomination if this sequencing were employed because he was deeply unpopular in the states and LGAs, Gemade claimed. By putting his office first in the series for which nominations would be decided, Obasanjo hoped to pre-empt his intra-party opposition and preclude development of a grassroots consensus around any other possible candidates.

7. (C) Gemade admitted that, within the PDP, Vice President Atiku Abubakar was the strongest contender, but the VP was not yet a candidate (Note: The four PDP aspirants facing Obasanjo are Senator Ike Nwachukwu and former Senate President Chuba Okadigbo; the Second Republic Governor of Kano State, Abubakar Rimi; and Gemade. End Note.). Gemade offered that the requirement for an aspirant to purchase a form for 5000 Naira in order to “express interest” was created by the Obasanjo-controlled Central Working Committee as a device to smoke out Atiku; it was not a legal or Constitutional necessity, and Atiku’s supporters in the NEC would probably hand Obasanjo a defeat by throwing out the requirement. Moreover, he said the spectacle of the President going to a bank to purchase an electoral form had demeaned the Office of the President.

Tony Anenih:

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8. (C) Most in the party wanted the primaries (really more like caucuses) to take place during January, starting with decisions on local government and proceeding upward from there, Gemade stated. There was concern among Obasanjo’s opponents that a section of the PDP constitution allowing all Special Assistants and Special Advisors to the President a voting seat at the party’s Presidential convention would invite abuse by Obasanjo’s backers. Gemade claimed that section had been mysteriously inserted “by the printer.” Already, Gemade stated, there were 180 persons in such positions, and Anenih was continuing to hand out appointment letters to political hacks certain to support the President.

9. (C) (Comment: Gemade should not get away with ascribing this clause to scrivener’s error. Most accounts date the clause to a meeting which Gemade chaired when he was still in the President’s camp. Perhaps Gemade thought it was bad enough to feel the sting of his own machinations without having to admit them to us now. End Comment.)

10. (C) Comment: The National Executive Committee is slated to meet on Thursday, October 31. If Gemade and Atiku are reading the tea leaves right, Obasanjo is in for a fright. However, the importance of money in Nigerian politics should not be underestimated, and, by all accounts, Anenih has been spreading it liberally. The decision on how to sequence the primaries, assuming it is definitively taken, will give an early sense of the balance of forces in the ruling party.

11. (C) Comment continued: When speaking with us, Gemade knew his audience. He asserted a strong commitment to democratic principles, claiming to be working with other politicians to fight the scourge of political violence. He spoke, more in sadness than in anger, about blandishments offered to dethrone him from his position as PDP Chairman and asserted that it was common knowledge that he was doing a fine job at the helm. He claimed he lost favor with the President because he objected to automatic self-succession. In other words, Gemade said many of the right things, and painted himself as an angel, which he is not.

Benue Cement Company:

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12. (C) Comment continued: The Barnabas Gemade who met the Ambassador, however, bore scant resemblance to the Barnabas Gemade the Mission has known in the past. That Gemade was an Abacha-era Minister who later led one of the parties that the late Bola Ige devastatingly lampooned as “five fingers of a leprous hand.” This week’s Barnabas Gemade said he had tried to convince Abacha not to have each of those parties nominate him as its standard-bearer, but the 1994-98 version never voiced such qualms. One Barnabas Gemade told the Ambassador that Obasanjo was failing on the economy and tut-tutted about deepening regional and ethnic divisions, even as another Barnabas Gemade works behind the scenes to reverse the privatization of Benue Cement Company, one of the more promising transfers of state assets to private hands. Gemade and other indigenes of Benue object to the company being turned over to Aliko Dangote, a Northern businessman who has proved his competence in the cement industry. Instead, Gemade and his friends want Benue Cement given to people like…Barnabas Gemade, someone reputed to be deeply corrupt (Refs C and D). Gemade’s claims that he rejects violence run at odds to those of Benue Governor George Akume (Ref A), but pots often call kettles black in Nigerian politics.

13. (C) Comment continued: Also, if Gemade lost his post at the PDP helm for standing up to Obasanjo, that certainly was not how things were seen at the time. Ref B reports that Gemade was faulted for being overly deferential to Obasanjo and for failing to carve an identity for the party separate from the Presidency and that Gemade actively worked to isolate and even expel from the party those who did not toe Obasanjo’s line. The Ambassador has seen the overly differential Gemade in private and in civil meetings with Obasanjo. Finally, Anenih may be greasing the political skids with large sums of cash, but Gemade seems to forget that it was Anenih and others who purchased the PDP Chairmanship for him in order to prevent independent- minded Sunday Awoniyi from taking the top party job.

14. (C) Comment concluded: Anenih and other Presidency political operatives made Gemade PDP Chairman, and he seems to forget that those who make you can also break you. He was dropped not for opposing Obasanjo but for his failure to manage the ruling party effectively — certainly a Herculean task. Gemade was offered a senior Ministerial position in exchange for departing quietly. Overestimating his support in the party, he tried to fight. So he was forced into retirement. Now embittered, he wants to exact his pound of flesh, and Tiv anger at the President over the October 2001 Zaki Biam massacre guarantees Favorite Son votes for Gemade. This venal former boss of a government parastatal cannot win, but he can help reduce Obasanjo’s chances of succeeding himself. The Gemade we met was simply not believable.



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