toral officer undermines President Musa Yar'Adua's will to deliver on the much needed electoral reforms he had pledged.
It could very well be that the call for the resignation of Maurice Iwu by the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Olisa Agbakoba, was an advisory note indirectly served President Musa Yar'Adua, informing him that the present INEC Chairman is a huge liability on the country's electoral system. With decades of experience in mobilizing civil society groups to confront various personages of impunity in government, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba understands how easily Maurice Iwu is perceivable as a collaborator in the latest abuse of the rights of the Nigerian citizens to elect their leaders as constitutionally stipulated.
The October 2007 report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on the April polls highlighted three dimensions to the crisis of elections in Nigeria which were underpinned in the last governorship and presidential elections. First is "systemic violence openly fomented by politicians and other political elites that undermines the rights of Nigerians to freely choose their leaders and enjoy basic security; second, the corruption that both fuels and rewards Nigeria's violent brand of politics at the expense of the general populace; and third, the impunity enjoyed by those responsible for these abuses that both denies justice to its victims and obstructs reform."
The huge impact of the first two points on the April polls should rightly have informed the resignation of the INEC boss without any prodding. Since this has not happened, it would be a positive signal of death to impunity from President Yar'Adua if he asks Iwu to go. In either case, the INEC Chairman would be far from a scapegoat. It is impossible that a government parastatal (which is what the present INEC is) could perpetrate the level of abuses seen in the April polls except it was acting a script written and directed by the top echelon of government.
Outcomes of April Polls Elections
Specific outcomes of the elections as monitored in both local and international media by Financialnigeria.com are thus:
So far, the Election Petition Tribunals in the states have invalidated the ill-gotten mandates of five state governors for diverse reasons bordering on abuse of the system INEC presided over. According to Olisa Agbakoba in his letter to Maurice Iwu, "The widespread acceptance that the general election was flawed has started to receive judicial validation as Election Petitions Tribunals have overturned a good number of results returned by INEC."
The HRW report already cited above is an addition to the list of published documents, including the European Union (EU) election observers' report, which flawed the conduct and outcome of the April Polls on the core electoral principles of fairness and freedom in the exercise of electoral rights.
The immediate period after the election saw a wave of violence in the country with many lives lost. Private capital came under serious assault as businesses (especially banks) were routinely attacked by criminal gangs and cults which had deplored the armoury of their sponsor politicians into extended use after the elections. Many reports have named some of the immediate past governors in the oil-rich Niger Delta as sponsors of increased criminal activities in that region, which Nigeria is about to deploy substantial part of the 2008 appropriation to quell.
INEC's perceived alignment with the ruling party - the People Democratic Party (PDP) in the conduct of and results returned for the elections has further weakened opposition politics in the country. In preparation for the next set of elections, there is already carpet crossing to the governing party.
The April polls have thrown up governments that are weak on the credibility stakes. The attendant petition hearing has tended to slow down governance, and in some cases, fuelled corruption, as in the reported case of a governor who allegedly signed multiple cheques shortly before his election was voided at the tribunal. It is believed that a number of people 'elected' into executive positions are very tentative in their actions. The election of President Yar'Adua itself is still being contested at the tribunal.
Whereas Nigeria had achieved an unprecedented inter-regime democratic transition eagerly awaited by the international community, the immediate period following has been marked by new doubts about the country. This is resulting to a whittling down of the country's influence as connoted in the way Nigeria easily lost the hosting bid for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Continued Relevance of Maurice Iwu-led INEC
Reacting to calls for the sack of Prof. Iwu as INEC Chairman, Alhaji Ahmed Raji, the Kano State Resident Electoral Officer for INEC, declared recently that such calls were "most unwarranted", and premature. May be Ahmed Raji refers to the fact that the works of the tribunals have not been concluded. He must also be aware that there is now the need to organise By-elections into the positions that have been invalidated at the tribunals.
But do these automatically preserve the jobs of especially Maurice Iwu and the Returning Officers for the states where the tribunals have managed to cancel the elections based on available evidence of malpractices?
Except that INEC officials have been in denial of the emerging facts from the election tribunals on the wide-ranging flaws in the April 2007 elections, Prof. Maurice Iwu would have been a good resource person to the well constituted National Electoral Reform body recently inaugurated by President Yar'Adua.
Right from the chicanery of the third-term bid by former President Olusegun Obasanjo through the blackmail which defined the process that made the then Governor Yar'Adua the PDP presidential candidate, the testimonies of Iwu would have made a good input into the work of the election reform body. Professor Maurice Iwu definitely knows enough on how not to organise an election, particular after the farce of April 2007.
But for the country to take the first step into the future where our electoral system can begin to enjoy a degree of integrity, Maurice Iwu should go. He needs to go so as to restore some honour to his name which never alarmed anyone when former President Obasanjo picked him as the country?s chief electoral officer.
November 26, 2007