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INEC after Iwu

The agitation to sack Iwu was as old as the 2007 elections which saw the acting president and his principal, Umaru Yar’adua declared as elected…

The agitation to sack Iwu was as old as the 2007 elections which saw the acting president and his principal, Umaru Yar’adua declared as elected by the Nigerian people in a charade that made Nigeria a laughing stock in the international arena while Nigerians at home became hopelessly bemused at the level of unseriousness of their ruling class.

Let nobody be deceived that the event of Wednesday was anything spectacular that the acting government has done because in reality, Professor Maurice Iwu indeed has lived full time on the basis of his appointment. The statement simply came at a time when his five year tenure has come to an end and the constitution of Nigeria, 1999 was almost specific that INEC chairman is appointed for a term of five years while the issue of renewal of appointment is silent.

So, those who may wish to hit their heads against the wall shouting hurrah for telling Iwu to go should know that the decision came late and indeed after the man had enjoyed the bounties of the heinous crimes he committed against the sanctity of the votes of the Nigerian people. Let no one, as seem to be the case today, attempt to claim action on the part of the government in Abuja which was indeed the principal beneficiary of Iwu’s grandstanding in 2007 and even after that.

The failure to renew of Iwu’s appointment is coming at a time when the National Assembly is amending the constitution and where the national agitation was more on how to make INEC more credible and transparent. This, Nigerians believe, will be better achieved if the process of the constitution of the commission is taken away from the hands of the executive and placed on the shoulders of the National Judicial Council (NJC). This was not achieved though.

The amendment by the House of Representatives which sought to remove INEC from the list of Federal Executive bodies and modification of the requirements of who should be a member of INEC and the inclusion of the commission among those few bodies to draw their funds from the consolidated revenue funds of the nation to a great extent will make the commission more independent than it is.

Another major issue is the new office of a deputy chairman which was previously not there and therefore   reduces the executive recklessness of an overbearing chairman even though the chairman remains the chief electoral officer of the federation. This to me is a welcome development and even if we couldn’t get the Assembly to make NJC appointing organ of INEC, the changes that are made to the existing arrangement will go a long way to reduce the abject arbitrariness of a reckless INEC.

The end of tenure of Maurice Iwu opens a new chapter in Nigeria’s electoral history especially now that the acting president and his men are desperately plotting on how to take over in 2011. The crisis in the PDP shows very clearly that there is a very dangerous scheme lying in the immediate future because the acting president seems to have been convinced that come what may, he must be on the ballot in January 2011 and therefore is prepared to   do just anything that will actualize that desire. Of course, Nicholo Machiavelli did say that it is the end that justifies the means.

We have seen very frightening developments in the polity. We saw how a government that was ‘elected’ on one ticket became an enemy to itself. We saw how the PDP has been put in severe stress due to ambition. One would have thought that the acting president will pay more attention to conducting a credible election in 2011 so that the nation can regain its lost glory. I thought that the acting president will be sympathetic to the natural problems that are afflicting his principal even if he was manhandled by the president’s men Friday.

Unfortunately what is happening is that a few weak politicians in high places are busy deceiving the innocent Goodluck to go for what he might not necessarily need at this time around instead of imprinting his name in the sands of time and history. They are deploying every draconian strategy to deal with Nigerians so that they may get to ultimate power.

In their desperation, they lost the battle by failing to carry the state governors and a majority of National Assembly members together because they believe that with the federal might on their side, they will overrun everybody. This is a fatal mistake that will be the greatest liability of the acting president and those who advise him.

It is in the same light that I express my doubt on the capacity of the current leadership to constitute an INEC that will endure the national aspiration of supervising over free, fair and credible polls in 2011 and beyond especially now that the constitution under amendment has made an explicit provision that INEC members including the chairman could be reappointed for another term of five years if they are found worthy.

It is against this background that we express deep fears over who makes the INEC list at this very critical threshold of our national history. Of course, competent and capable people are never lacking. What is lacking is the political will and capacity to do what is right devoid of selfishness and grandstanding.

Let me pray that the acting president will have the wisdom to do what is right even in the heat of heavy lobby from those who do not wish him and Nigeria well. They will always appear as patriotic and nationalistic and therefore will keep telling him that Nigeria cannot move forward without him. Let him remember that every other leader was told that and not sooner than he was out of office all those praise singers disappeared into thin air. He will not be an exception. The only way out is to ensure that he does not lose his person and personality to those who hang around power.

I thank Professor Maurice Iwu very much for the service to the nation. He is a lesson in what an intellectual can do. He came, saw and acted to the dictates of those who appointed him. It is clear that the easiest person to manipulate is the highly literate one. We saw one here and he defended his actions sternly with all his powers. He came, saw and left. I hope history will be kind with him.

The INEC that we need must be a non partisan INEC. It must consist of people of transparent integrity. Those whom Nigerians from all the sections of the country know as honest and can trust them. There are several Nigerians in that category. May God help the acting government so that it does what is right for the nation.

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