Iwu: Whether or not to remain

The Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Maurice Iwu, has not only seen the fiery face of acute criticism in Nigerian politics, but may have felt the touches of divine warning from the Holy Scriptures if ever he could accept repentance.

Since after the successful but heavily flawed general elections in 2007, there have been several calls to overhaul the electoral system through what former President Olusegun Obasanjo coined as electoral reform. Yes, the elections were flawed to the extent that the first beneficiary, President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua confessed it. Evidences are still rife till today. It is very sad that nearly three years after the conduct of the general so-called elections, some of the politicians declared as winners by the Iwu's led INEC are ousted out of office. Senator Emordi may yet not be the last.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the name sounds is supposed to be the beginning and basis for positive change in Nigeria. I read with amusement INEC's campaign posters scattered on the walls of Nigerian cities especially before elections. Inscriptions on such posters read: “Cast your vote – it's your right! Say no to rigging. Say no to violence. Election is no war!” Invariably, these words are created to convince the public that INEC was sincere and very ready to do the nation proud by doing the right thing. On the other hand, the inscriptions speak volumes of the failure of the whole system because results from such elections have hardly shown that the people's votes count.

Because of this apparent failure of the system - a collective corroboration between the government and the seemingly learned governed - holding credible elections have been a nightmare. So it has been that every boss of the national electoral body faced queries at different levels. Some were faced will calls for investigations over alleged corrupt practices. Some were faced with the calls for outright termination of appointment. And some were faced with death threats.

However, the controversy over Iwu's stay or sack must be handled with utmost caution. Those who support his sack or oppose his reappointment after the expiration of his tenure next June claim that it will be a big relief and good news to all Nigerians. They claim that he has lost confidence of all Nigerians as an unbiased umpire to preside over the nation's electoral body, adding that it would also be a good signal to the ongoing electoral reforms on course.

This category of people may yet be unaware that Iwu's appointment and sack are guided by constitutional provisions. The appointment is tenured and can only be terminated by a two-third majority of the Senate's vote. Except the President decides otherwise as the case may be in Nigeria, he exerts his unconstitutional powers, break into the Senate and gets his way.

It seems we must continue to remind ourselves that the system is a vicious circle. Iwu may not really be the cause just as any minister in a Nigerian cabinet is incapacitated to make any meaningful and visible change even if he or she dares. If Nigerians – including the politicians, the judiciary, the security operatives and the masses say that we can get it right, we can get it right. Look at the people's electoral will in States like Kano and Lagos.

Can the Nigerian politician ever allow INEC to hold credible elections by not bribing their ways – bribing the unscrupulous INEC officials, the unpatriotic security personnel, the uncanny press outfits to blow their trumpets louder amidst illegalities and sheer inhumanity cum incivism and even the hungry community, religious, traditional youth leaders? Can the judiciary always remain the last resort of justice by constantly annulling the selection of the anointed and enforced candidate? Can the security operations sincerely allow the boxes not to be snatched or stuffed? Can the read among the masses keep their dignity and Nigerian nobility and say no to electoral frauds and violence? Can the press unite and fight more for full enthronement of democratic ethics and values? Nigeria will be okay.

That said, however, even if Iwu is removed, our electoral woes would increase rather than decrease because the political machineries will not allow things to work right for the masses. It is true that who pays the piper dictates the tune. With the situation on ground till today, the grip of the presidency on INEC is such that whoever heads it must dance to the tune of the piper. Our system has shown that corruption is the bane of development in every aspect we labour. Every new appointee has a difficult task to satisfy his or her financial needs, those of the immediate family members and the tribal men.

The next general elections are bare less than one year away. If it takes some Nigerian politicians the whole tenure of their appointment to solidify their personal gains, one will entertain little doubt that the appointment of a new INEC Chairman will be a wasteful venture. To get it clearly right, anyone who cares can imagine the level of lobby already going on to replace a yet not-vacant seat. What do we think the person who spends heavily or indulges in fetishism to get an appointment will offer the people? And at the end, the president is misled to appoint one who must be loyal to a fault, not for the people but for the pipers.

Iwu's case should not trouble us any longer. Just in less than fifty days, the nation will begin to decide whether or not the 2011 general elections will be free and fair, with or without Iwu in the INEC.

Muhammad Ajah, a writer, author, advocate of humanity and good governance writes from Abuja ([email protected] yahoo.co. uk, 08055247005)

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Articles by Muhammad Ajah