Monday, December 13, 2010

2007 Nigerian Elections: Why Maurice Iwu Failed

By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye 


Last Saturday Prof Maurice Iwu and his “Independent” National Electoral Commission (INEC) went all out to shatter the expectations of Nigerians for orderly, free and fair elections in the country, by enthusiastically delivering to the nation a bundle of astounding failures and searing disappointments.

 Despite the revolting chest-beating presently going on in INEC quarters and the (unsurprising) vulgar commendations emanating from the dark covens of the People Democratic Party (PDP), everyone now knows that Iwu and his INEC were simply unprepared or unwilling (or both) to take Nigerians beyond the usual sad, discomforting stories that had attended the past elections in the country, especially, in 1999 and 2003.  
Indeed, last Saturday’s elections have been described as the worst in the history of the nation.  The open and transparent rigging was simply unprecedented. 

Prof Maurice Iwu

Obviously, INEC had another agenda, which it did not even attempt to hide. What Nigerians are therefore seeing as devastating failure is, in the skewed thinking of Iwu and his motley crowd at INEC, “an assignment well executed”. And if you look around you, you will see that those they unambiguously worked for are smothering them with superfluous praises, even in the face boundless failure, horrible malpractices and overwhelming gloom across the nation.   

Iwu’s abysmal failure should come as a surprise to no one who had keenly observed the untoward path INEC had treaded with unqualified glee. For several months, the commission left its own job and preoccupied itself with what should not be its business. It allocated an unfair share of its time and resources to ensuring that candidates whose faces were not liked in Aso Rock were roughly shoved aside, so the anointed ones could smile home with unearned victory. At one point, (I think at it was at the Appellate Court), the presiding judge had to ask INEC what its business was in a case of disqualification of candidates. 

Olusegun Obasanjo

Yet, the commission remained undeterred. Its loyalty, clearly, was not to the Nigerian people, but to a tiny cabal of unpatriotic characters who derive peculiar animation from seeing Nigeria remaining backward and chaotic. 
Despite several court rulings stating clearly that INEC had no powers to disqualify candidates, Iwu had continued to speak and act as if disqualification of candidates was the only job INEC was set up to perform. In fact, the commission got itself so distracted with this thankless, extraneous job that little or no time was left for it to prepare for the elections. 

 Perhaps, that was part of the script, to deliberately make the elections to fail, so that the crises that might possibly follow would create an enabling environment for the resuscitation of the obnoxious Third Term agenda. But, unfortunately, as has become clear, the Third Term stuff will never find a fertile ground in Nigeria again. It is dead and buried, and so Iwu is left alone now in the quadrangle of shame, to grapple with the failure caused by lack of preparations and insincerity of purpose, and be soaked with all the bashings and public odium for the massive charade that took place last Saturday.

Umar Musa Yar'Adua

INEC’s obsession with the disqualification of candidates that stood in the way of Aso Rock’s anointed candidates was most pronounced in Anambra State, aside the obvious (prominent) Atiku case, which was pursued to a most ridiculous extent. While the commission eagerly accepted a court order it claimed was quietly served it by the Chekwas Okorie faction of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) to not accord recognition to the Victor Umeh-led faction of APGA (which had fielded the incumbent governor, Peter Obi, as its candidate), it blatantly refused to honour another court ruling which held that Dr. Chris Ngige, the former Governor of Anambra State, whose tenure Anambra people still remember with immense relish and refreshing nostalgia, is eligible to contest the gubernatorial elections. 

By preferring one court ruling to the other, INEC was only betraying its desperation and doggedness to execute what looks like an unambiguous mandate from Aso Rock to ensure that all formidable oppositions in the race are shoved aside in order for “Dr” Andy Ubah, Aso Rock’s own candidate, to be imposed on Anambra people. 

 And now, that Igbo leaders of thought, under a better-focused and independent-minded Ohaneze-Ndigbo have made it clear that no election took place in Anambra, let’s see whether Iwu and his masters can afford to ignore them, or dream up another strategy to weather the challenge.   

PDP Logo

It does seem that Iwu’s troubles are increasing as his task becomes more complicated. Last Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that INEC lacks the power to disqualify candidates, and that Vice President Atiku Abubakar, whom the commission has deployed every energy and resources to hound out of the presidential race is eligible to contest. 
Who now will  Iwu obey? The Supreme Court or his “Supreme leader” in Aso Rock? What is the implication of this ruling to the case of other candidates, which INEC stopped from contesting last Saturday’s elections? Is there nothing that could be legally done to redress the injustice meted out to them, by an electoral commission that cared less if unwanted and unworthy candidates are imposed on the people? 

I think that further interpretation should be sought from the Supreme Court on the fate of these candidates. The Supreme Court must realize that the judiciary is fast acquitting itself as the only credible arm of government in Nigeria today, and so must save the people from the trauma of being governed by those they did not elect. By this ruling, the Supreme Court has endorsed the popular sentiment that the issue of disqualification candidates is so profound and strategic a matter to be left to the whims of an administrative body like INEC. Or else, we will continue to witness this kind of very repulsive abuse to which such a provision was subjected by the Obasanjo/Iwu mob! 
By the way, I thought this was supposed to be a “computerized” election?

So, why was the whole exercise dominated by papers, as of old? Why did it turn out that several people whose names had been fed into Iwu’s magic computers could not find their names in the badly arranged registers on election day?  The names were not even arranged in alphabetical order. What kind of computers were incapable of doing something as simple as that? Sometimes, it took the poorly trained INEC officials a lot of time to find the names of voters. This caused so much frustrations.  

In many places voting could not take place. Election materials in several cases arrived so late or did not at all. Many Nigerians were disenfranchised including Ikemba Nnewi, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Senate President, Ken Nnamani, Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State, Action Congress (AC) Vice Presidential Candidate, Edwin Umeh-Ezeoke, President-General of Ohaneze-Ndigbo, Dr. Dozie Ikedife, Emmanuel Ibeshi, AC Gubernatorial Candidate in Cross River State, and many others, because voting did not take place in their wards. INEC would have to look for better liars to try to convince us that this was not deliberate, to put some candidates at a disadvantage. So, in spite of  all the noise about INEC’s state of preparedness, this was what Nigerians got after all. So unfortunate. 
Again, despite all the stern-looking, gun-wielding soldiers unleashed into the streets to intimidate everyone, ballot boxes were still stolen, and stuffed with already thumped ballot papers. Were these perpetrated by privileged hoodlums?

By the way, I thought Iwu had promised us that his computers would detect multiple-voting?  How many of such were detected last Saturday? We surely would like to know, because so much time and energy was wasted on this Data Capture machine stuff (or whatever they called it), and Iwu had stubbornly insisted on using them despite the position of many Nigerians and the National Assembly on it. He must be willing to tell us the advantage that has accrued to the process as a result of their usage. 

Well, I have heard it mentioned here and there that the only consolation for the very disappointing elections held last Saturday is the realization that no matter the outcome of the overly fraudulent exercise, President Olusegun Obasanjo would certainly show Nigerians his back on May 29. The belief is that foundations for a new and progressive Nigeria can only be successfully laid at his back. 

Indeed, there is an ever growing consensus that the most outstanding legacy of the outgoing regime in Abuja, apart from institutionalization of corruption, glamorization of incompetence and failure, and extreme lawlessness, is, perhaps, our gradual graduation from massive rigging of elections to no elections at all. It is most unfortunate, and what Nigerians must insist on is that such a satanic practice must go with the regime that instituted it. 
After massively rigging the elections, Obasanjo has flooded the streets with gun-wielding, stern-faced soldiers to intimidate everyone into silence and suppress and crush any form of dissent. Nigeria today looks like a typical coup day, and everyone lives in fear. That is Obasanjo democracy. Democracy of fear and intimidation. 

Well, the main loser in the whole charade they are calling elections would of course  be Prof Maurice Iwu who would always be remembered on the wrong side of history as the man who sought to gratify the narrow interests of a tiny, unpatriotic few at the expense of the national expectation for progress and democratic stability. Whatever ugly incidents that these elections are throwing up will surely be blamed on him. 

In Imo State, for instance, the Governorship election was cancelled because of alleged eruptions of violence, yet in some states where worse things happened, the elections have been announced and applauded by the PDP/INEC. And mark you, the elections into the State House of Assembly in Imo State in which the PDP achieved a “fraudslide” victory was not also cancelled. INEC is yet to tell us how it determined that the violence was only perpetrated in respect of the governorship polls, even though the two elections ran simultaneously. 

But what everyone knows is that INEC/PDP cancelled the Gubernatorial election in Imo State and fixed a run-off election on April 28, so that the PDP which had expelled its Governorship candidate can now have the opportunity to field another candidate and equally rig him in. Nothing can be so outrageous. Iwu does not even pretend at all about where his loyalty lies in this election. 

 Well, after the all this mess, Iwu would certainly sit down to count his losses, just as the nation is doing now, and determine where the rain began to beat him. For instance, the way he had gone about his present job had led some people to probe his past, and some questions marks now accompany his academic reputation. When the clouds have cleared, and this strange PDP/INEC assignment is over, he would have to grapple with this, and the fact that he shattered the hope of his people. 

Indeed, this INEC Chairman would be remembered as the man who was given an opportunity to advance his nation’s progress but he chose to conspire with a tiny congregation of retrogressive and dishonourable characters to abort the prized dream of his nation. Most unfortunate, indeed.

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