By Kunle Oyatomi
Nigeriaâ€™s foreign minister was reported to have said in New York that â€œMr President himself… publicly accepted that the process that brought him to power was flawed; so, Nigerians would be shocked if the same president goes ahead to re-appoint the same man to conduct the 2011 general election.â€
But in a swift reaction to the report, Maduekwe got his aides, Mr Udo Uduma, to rephrase that statement thus, â€œ.. that President Yarâ€™Adua himself demonstrated considerable integrity when in his inaugural speech he admitted that the electoral process that brought him into office had flaws that required institutional, procedural andÂ perhaps personnel changes to guarantee credible elections in the future.â€
Both Maduekwe and his aide have said the same thing, and that is the usual semantic ploy of smart guys who play â€œdialectical politicsâ€. Which ever way you look at it, the import of the statement is what matters.
Maduekwe, Mr President and the rest of us know that Iwu and his INEC were the major electoral problems of 2003 and 2007.
Today, majority of Nigerians continue to perceive Iwu as the main problem for a credible election to hold in 2011. Nigerians also know that if the professor had been acting against the interest of Mr Presidentâ€™s ruling party, the man would have been removed from office long ago.
Whether or not the reluctance of Mr President to remove Iwu from office is because of the Chief Executiveâ€™s â€œbelief in the rule of lawâ€ or his â€œdesireâ€ to act in consonance with â€œthe law governing that office,â€ the meaning is the same and clear.
The unstated truth that Maduekwe is in denial of however, is that, if the presence of Iwu in INEC were detrimental to the political and electoral fortunes of the ruling party, the man would have been thrown out the window ages ago, as Baba Gana Kingibe was sacked for actions perceived as prejudicial to the authority and position of Mr President.
In other words, it is patently in the political and electoral interests of both the president and the ruling party for Iwu to continue in office for now. So that statement credited to the foreign minister, and the damage control attempt of his aide are plain hogwash.
However, I congratulate the minister for letting the obvious be restated that it is not in the countryâ€™s best interest to continue with Professor Iwu as Chairman of INEC. But the minister ignored (maybe diplomatically) the real issue which is the electoral reform process which the government started pretty well with the Justice Mohammed Uwais led committee, thatÂ recommended popularly accepted reforms, the crux of which, unfortunately, the government is rejecting.
As currently conceived by the government, even with the best of intentions, the electoral reform bill is most unlikely to produce the desired change for a credible election to take place. And as the Senate Deputy leader, Sen. Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN) rightly put it, the electoral reform law by itself â€œwould not guarantee credible elections in Nigeria unless people are prepared to respect the law and defendÂ it.â€
Our experience is that both the incentive and actions taken to violate the law have been predominantly the ways of the ruling parties. All kinds of malpractices have been allegedly committed by â€œall the ruling partiesâ€ to retain power. Only that the PDP is the dominant party at the centre and in most of the states, which makes it the most vilified.
However, that is by the way. The real issue is, can a new electoral law – supposedly intended to effect reform in the process-change anything? Senator Ndoma-Egba does not think so. I also find it difficult to disagree with him.
We are in deep political crisis. Whatever the purpose behind allowing Iwu to stay in office this long, would be the same reason that the government is bent on making it a preserve of the executive to appoint the chairman of INEC, in opposition to the Justice Mohammed Uwais committee recommendation.
The concerns for 2011 are very serious. Agencies of government have been fingered, as well as political thugs of parties, and individual politicians for participating in electoral fraud. If politicians and some law enforcement agencies were involved in electoral malpractices, what hope or faith is there to have in the so-called reform process that our foreign minister is propagating in the USA?
My understanding of all that we are experiencing is that Iwu has become a syndrome;Â his electoral performance has evolved into a character, and until a similar character like him is found, he might as well keep his job.
Perhaps this explains why Mr President (according to the foreign minister) is taking his time to search for the â€œcloneâ€ of the current chairman to replace him at the end of his tenure. We only hope Maduekwe has rightly characterised Mr Presidentâ€™s action to let Iwu continue to stay on the job.
The good news, however, is that we now know that Iwuâ€™s days at INEC are numbered, a la Ojo Maduekweâ€™s statement.