nerPostTitle">IWU, CARSON AND AFARI GYAN Written by Prince General http://www.nigerianbestforum.com/blog/?author=1 http://www.nigerianbestforum.com/blog/?cat=356 Mar 1, 2010

Iwu, Carson and Afari-Gyan
By Ahmed Musdafa
Monday , March 01 , 2010

First thing first; congratulations to Peter Obi, the governor of Anambra State on his well deserved victory at the polls held on February 6. Obi won an election that had been variously hailed as not only free and fair but also of a credible outcome.

The Anambra guber election, the very first in the nation's fortuitous experiment at staggered elections, has in no small measure helped to gauge the trajectory of future polls. And the verdict is simple: the nation is headed to a future where votes would be made to count; a future where voters would freely vote and their votes would count. This is the sense in which the election is not only perceived as free and fair but one with a credible outcome.

The snag in that election had been the irregularities in voters' register resulting in the disenfranchisement of many voters. Even this, serious as it was, should not becloud our sense of judgment. A sober evaluation of that election would show the manifest effort by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to ensure fairness and openness in the process, the mature composure of the Anambra electorate and the level-headedness of the security personnel. For once also we saw the often critical civil society organisations pass a vote of confidence in the process.

INEC had admitted that some desperate politicians working in concert with some deviants in the commission infiltrated its voters' register. This admission calls for internal vigilance on the part of the commission and the public. It should not be construed as a totem of incompetence as some have argued.

The violation of the register vividly reflects the rot in the larger Nigerian society. It is the same way crooks have invaded the Nigerian monetary system faking notes and debit as well as credit cards; the same manner some goons hack into our phone networks and use someone else's phone number to hatch evil; and much the same manner some villains have seized the consumer market by the neck sloshing the marketplace with their own substandard products passed off as genuine. This does not mean that the genuine currencies, cards or consumer products have lost their integrity and genuineness. It only means that some chaff has been added to the wheat.

INEC had tried to sieve the chaff from the wheat by insisting that only valid votes (live votes) count rather than the multitude of invalid votes (dead votes). This should prove an object lesson to the politicians: next time you conspire with some hirelings at the commission to introduce strange names into voters' register be sure those spurious votes won't count. That is a positive we can take away from the Anambra election.

Again, the election in spite of its obvious success has provided Nigerians another perspective and insight into the make-up of the Nigerian politician and the polity in general.

The reaction of some of the politicians especially those who lost to Obi still shows traces of ignorance as to what should constitute the bulk of the much anticipated electoral reform. Before the election, shortly after a stakeholders meeting between INEC and the contestants, all applauded the efforts of the commission at ensuring a level ground for all the parties.

In the course of the election, Obi the eventual winner, apparently fearing he might lose, pooh-poohed the process as flawed. But soon after the results were announced, Obi changed his hymnal. So did his party, APGA. They attested to the freeness and fairness of the election. Soon after Obi was declared winner, other contestants, save few, cried foul. Even those who would never win an election in their family compound also joined in the choir of 'foul play'. Soludo initially said he had consented to his defeat. Now, he has seen the light.

The same man who emerged through the foggiest primary in recent history wants to challenge the result at the tribunal. Suit yourself, man. But you wonder, what is there to challenge in an election that was open and transparent? I wager that if Soludo or any other person other than Obi had been declared winner, APGA would have done the same thing: kick.

This unfortunately is the nature of the Nigerian politician. He is the ultimate bad loser. This lends support to my theory that unseemly political behaviour of the politicians is the bane of our electoral process rather than INEC. No matter how well the umpire comports itself, if the environment is fouled by the players, to wit, the politicians, we will never have fair play.

Changing the leadership of the commission has always been the cheapest prescription any time we find ourselves in a bind. But it has never produced the desired result because the leadership of INEC or the electoral commission itself has never been the only problem. It is only a small part of a whole. Otherwise since we started changing the leadership right from the days of E.E Esua to Abel Guobadia, our electoral fortunes would have been on an even keel. But that is not our story till this day. We are always bent on reforming the referee without reforming the players and making sure that the field of play is itself in good condition. You can't play good soccer on a rugby pitch.

This is why I disagree with Johnnie Carson, the United States Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs who reportedly told (that is, if he was not misrepresented) the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations that changing INEC leadership would conduce to credible election in 2011. It is not as simplistic as that. I would rather believe the counsel of Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, Chair of Ghana Electoral Commission.

Afari-Gyan had told those who have ears that credible election, the type he achieved in Ghana, is everybody's duty. Short of saying he would have failed if he were in Iwu's shoes under the same circumstance, Afari-Gyan voted for reform that addresses behaviour of the political class, enlightenment and proper conduct of the electorate and unfettered independence of INEC.

Afari-Gyan should know. He has been in charge of Ghana electoral commission since 1992 and has conducted presidential and parliamentary elections in 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008. He has conducted controversial elections including the 1992 election that put a seal on the transmutation of his boss, Jerry Rawlings, from military to civilian president. He sure knows where the shoe pinches on matters of election in sub-Saharan Africa. We should listen to him, not the synthetic pontification of Carson.

Musdafa writes from Abuja