Issues in Iwu's Sack Agitation

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Daily Champion (Lagos)

Onyeonoro Okoronkwo

9 April 2010


Lagos — The undue haste and vitriolic fervour with which some Nigerians want to stampede the Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Prof Maurice Iwu out of office suggest ulterior and selfish motive rather than the clamour for electoral reforms. Their hypocrisy and undisguised hate campaign to bundle Iwu out of office before the expiration of his tenure, just three months away, confirms that they are driven more by survival instinct and a desperate need to protect a secret many Nigerians are unaware of.

After subtle maneuvering and insidious incitement of innocent but gullible citizens against Iwu, with the tale that he conducted the worst election in Nigeria's history, the big masquerades are now disrobing themselves for every Nigerian to see them for what they are. Even before the game is cooked, they are quarrelling over the sharing formula. Their motive is to supplant Iwu and plant their cronies who would do their bidding in 2011. They fear that if Iwu is allowed to conduct the election next year, they would suffer a humiliating defeat, hence the orchestrated campaign to give a dog a bad name in other to hang it.

Unfortunately for these deviant conspirators, the plot to have Iwu replaced at all cost leaked even before they could get their acts together. Not conceding any brilliance or integrity to Iwu for saving the nation from disintegration in 2007, they ganged up to ensure that the INEC boss was painted with a tar brush to foreclose plans of reappointing him.

It is interesting that this Iwu must go campaign emanated and was given verve by a section of the country with heavy media influence. Apart from recruiting vermin who are deficient in honour from the South East to give it national colouration, they proceeded to put pressure on the Acting President to sack Iwu as a panacea to the country's electoral woes. To give it international clout, they got Prof Wole Soyinka to join the campaign. At every forum abroad, the lie is sold to the international community that Nigeria cannot conduct a credible election and that Prof Iwu is the bottleneck. Under one guise or the other, a phantom workshop is organized where the theme to take a swipe at INEC and Iwu. Even nations that practice military rule come to Nigeria at the invitation of these reactionaries to talk about how to conduct an election. The other day, Walter Carrington, former United States Ambassador to Nigeria was in Lagos at the invitation of Tinubu to attend a purely private birthday dinner. It was not long before the man launched into a tirade against Iwu and INEC. This has become the past time of the so-called pro-democracy groups and their foreign collaborators.

As Prof Pat Utomi observed recently, we have so ridiculed ourselves before the international community that we no longer worth the ballot paper with which we use to cast our votes. We waste money to pay outsiders to come to Nigeria to abuse us all in the name of promoting democracy. Our national security has been threatened severally because of our mad quest to get Iwu out of INEC.Recent events have now confirmed that instituting an electoral reform was far from the minds when they hatched the plot. They want their kinsman as the next INEC boss.

This much was revealed by the Nation last Sunday when it reported categorically that former President Olusegun Obasanjo is leading the search team for Iwu's replacement. The newspaper which is owned and operated by the arrow head of the Iwu must go campaign, Senator Bola Tinubu told Nigerians that it was the turn of the South West to produce the next INEC chairman.

In farness to the South West, there is nothing wrong in pursuing a group interest. Indeed they are adept in defining and providing a term plate for the pursuance and realization of their interest. They did in the aftermath of the inconclusive June 12, 1993 elections and succeeded in blackmailing the whole nation into ceding the presidency to them in 1999. Because the people of South West were involved, there was nobody to condemn the undemocratic manner in which Obasanjo and Olu Falae emerged in PDP and APP. The constitution of PDP was explicit that to emerge its presidential candidate the person must have won his ward and local government. Obasanjo did not. In the APP, Ogbonnaya Onu, an Igbo man emerged the presidential candidate but through a convoluted process, APP sold its right to AD and Falae became the APP/AD candidate. Nobody described the election as the worst. Even when in 2003, Obasanjo secured more voter in Ogun than the registered number of voters in the state, the roof was not brought down.

Like earlier stated, self (group) preservation is the first law of nature. But it is ungodly to demonize, criminalize and destroy a man in the name of protecting an interest. From sponsored advertorials and violent demonstrations, Iwu has not been spared by this cabal which is hell bent on producing the next INEC chairman. Seizing the initiative from government, this tiny but vocal cabal wants to stampede Acting President Jonathan to breach the constitution by sacking Iwu before the expiration of his tenure.

The crude manner is which the malicious campaign is being prosecuted in such that the Acting President is not even being given the opportunity to weigh the possibility of re-appointing Prof Iwu as expressly stated in the constitution. They have so much blackmailed the INEC boss that a fait accompli stance has been foisted on government on the issue of reappointment of Prof Iwu. Hirelings going by shadowy names including one non existent South East Democratic Movement have been paid heavily by the anti-Iwu campaigners including a perennial presidential candidate from the core North to rubbish Prof Iwu and threaten the Acting President. Even otherwise respectable newspaper have been compromised to publish editorials warning Jonathan not to reappoint Prof Iwu as INEC chairman.

But the funny and mischievous aspect of it all is that Prof Iwu is being conferred with such enormous powers that he must be next to God in wielding such power of life and death over politicians. How could one single man have been able to be so omni present that he was everywhere in Nigeria during the 2007 elections? That same one man's word was law in INEC as the sole administrator. All the national commissioners who were not answerable to him but to the presidency just stayed there like zombie while Maurice Iwu ran the show. He snatched ballot boxes at Azure and falsified figures at Nsit Ubium as an ad hoc staff. How wicked and vicious could some people be in denigrating a man.

It is however gratifying that some patriotic Nigerians including Acting President Goodluck Jonathan and Senate President David Mark have exonerated Iwu from blame in whatever was the shortcoming of the 2007 elections. Influential Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Dr John Onayikan has also declared that Iwu could not have been the problem of election in Nigeria. He believes that the mindset of politicians towards the election is responsible for the electoral woes that have dogged every election since independence. To him, the Iwu bashers completely missed the point, believing wrongly that once Iwu is out of the way that it would be eureka for Nigeria.

Contrary to the cheap blackmail that Iwu is lobbying for reappointment, the INEC boss recently declared that he was ready to leave at the expiration of his tenure. Apparently reacting to insinuations that he released the 2011 tentative time table to secure re-appointment, Iwu's contention is that scheduled activities of the commission must continue whether he would be reappointed or not. Does that not make his accusers look like the Lilliputians that they are? If Iwu has an ulterior motive, he could as well sit idly until his tenure expires and his successor would have a Herculean task knowing what to do.

And this is where Jonathan should critically study the names of those who are in a mad haste to succeed Iwu. Some names have been touted from the South South, South East and South West. There are fears that those who desperately want Iwu out of office have a hidden agenda, one of which is to postpone the election. These same people tried it in 2007. They wanted to postpone the election. Some of them had even sown gowns for their inauguration as Acting President. But Iwu, as focused and patriotic as ever rejected their poisoned chalice and conducted the first ever successful civilian to civilian election in Nigeria.

Because Iwu dashed their hopes, they are now taking their pound of flesh by pummeling him left, right and centre. They easily forget that the Mr Integrity they are looking for to conduct a flawless election does not exist. In any case they are not interested in genuine electoral reforms. They just want to disgrace Iwu out of office to settle personal scores. Acting President should not indulge them, no matter the pressure. He swore to uphold the constitution. Iwu's first tenure ends on June. Therefore Jonathan should be at liberty to reappoint him or not.

Onyeonoro writes from Amamba, Uzuakoli, Abia State.

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