JONATHAN AND IWU'S TWO LIVES
Jonathan said that the same Iwu who is vilified today has conducted three credible elections recently and so at the expiration of his tenure, he will review his performances in office in the last five years including the three glorious elections and come to a decision one way or the other. In other words, Jonathan is not sure what to do with Iwu as we write. Whichever way Jonathan chooses to handle the Iwu matter, it is one issue that will affect the judgment of Nigerians on the Jonathan Presidency.
Understandably, Jonathan represents the pride of our national identity and by our cherished tradition it is considered improper for anybody playing such a fatherly role to wash his dirty linens or berate one of his own in public except in 'war time'. I can only argue that this is the spirit with which Jonathan chose to sit on the fence over an issue that many credible Nigerians and the international community have spoken against. If I read the mood of the nation well, Iwu is near history in INEC. The call for his removal is loud and clear. Iwu must go. However the question is whether Iwu is truly the problem.
Before we crucify Iwu, it is important we consider this double standard in the life of a man so well educated, elegantly experienced and robustly funded to handle elections in Nigeria. We must concede that he knows what is good and what is bad about our national elections. What makes Iwu good today and bad tomorrow and good again the day after? The answer is very simple. Iwu is a typical flexible and shameless man who is easily manipulated and overwhelmed by his masters.
Therefore those who call Iwu the Chief Electoral Officer of the Federation miss the point. For the purpose of elections in Nigeria, the Chief above all Chiefs is the President and Commander-In- Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation and as the case may be, the governors of the states. In nearly all cases, they dictate what the umpire does and the result he declares. The politicians are incurably desperate and bad. Otherwise how would you explain local government elections in the states that have been thoroughly rigged in favour of the government in power? The story line of rigging is the same as the state governors have showed lack of commitment to transparent elections. That is why I am most times reluctant to blame Iwu for the failures of our elections. I rather would blame him for lacking the courage to throw in the towel and leave the exalted office, if his conscience disagrees with the turn of his duty.
No country that parades decent credentials will tolerate an ambivalent INEC Chairman because of the fundamental nature of his office. It is either he is performing well or he is not. Small countries in Africa like Ghana cannot tolerate an Iwu but he is worshipped in Nigeria because he is crowning kings against the wishes of the helpless people of Nigeria. Therefore I disagree with Mr Acting President that Iwu has a good side. In this business there is no middle ground and Jonathan has to choose which God he will serve today and soon too, because time is not on his side.
Iwu's is not alone in this bondage. Prof Humphrey Nwosu was held hostage by Babangida in the June 12 elections but elections of those days tower above what we have in Nigeria since 1999. I believe that if our INEC Chairman is properly chosen, given a free hand and independence to operate, and properly enabled to discharge his duties under an environment that has respect for existing laws, the result of the elections will beat what we have in the United States and some developed countries.
We have remained electoral bench warmers after several elections since pre-independence, because the leadership would not allow the umpire be. What this tells us is that we have learned nothing,( and this is deliberate) from the various elections and electoral processes under reference, and this makes a mockery of our fifty years of nationhood.
At the risk of repetition, nearly all political office holders and those aspiring to be have scanty regard for credible elections in Nigeria. They don't believe in it and I dare say, for now there would be none unless Jonathan becomes born again and declares irrevocably that from now onwards, it would not be business as usual. If he does that and means that, then an Iwu with a dual mode will consequentially switch over to digital mode and remain there, delivering on good elections. This is the legacy we are begging Jonathan to bequeath to Nigerians – elections that are essentially an expression of popular sovereignty and affirmation.
The checklist for credible general elections is short and easy to follow. Jonathan can muster the political will to achieve amazing results, punish breaches and still remain very relevant, a fulfilled leader. He must satisfy himself that conditions exist for the conduct of elections that allow Nigerians to freely express their will.
Secondly, INEC must honestly assess and determine whether the elections would be or were actually conducted in accordance with the constitutional and legal framework for elections and that the outcome is a reflection of the people's wishes freely expressed.
We are less concerned about how many points on the agenda Jonathan would run the remaining President Yar'Adua's tenure but what is paramount today is that this one point agenda (electoral reforms) affects Nigerians most. It comes before electricity or even war against corruption. Many commentators including this column had advised the ailing President Umaru Yar'Adua to shed load and concentrate on electoral reforms instead of the bogus seven-point agenda that was celebrated only on NTA. The reason is simple. Unless the people's wish is expressed through the ballot box, Nigeria may never have the kind of leadership that will translate our vision into reality in a country in search of role models.
I'm not a pessimist and I believe that Nigeria has the best of materials to lift the country up but events in our country show clearly that primordial and extraneous considerations are beclouding any conceivable efforts by Nigerians to enthrone credible leadership. We are blinded by greed, mediocrity, ethnicity, disregard for basic laws and weakness of the civil population.
With or without Iwu, Jonathan cannot allow INEC to kiss the ground. Any failure by INEC to guarantee free and fair elections in 2011 will leave its mark, not so much on the institution's credibility, which is already at its lowest ebb, but on the understanding of the democratic process itself by citizens.