By Kingsley Omonobi, Innocent Anaba, Kenneth Ehigiator & Victor Ahiuma-Young
ABUJA â€” Presidential candidate of the All Nigeria People’s Party, ANPP,Â in the 2007 election, General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), yesterday threw his weight behind Acting President, Dr Goodluck Jonathanâ€™s sacking of Professor Maurice Iwu as Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, but said more still needed to be done if a free and fair election was to be conducted in 2011.
According to Buhari, the Acting President should carry out a total overhaul of INEC and its officials for Nigerians to have faith and confidence in the body as presently constituted.
Speaking during the launching of a book written by the Association of Retired Police officers of Nigeria, ARPON, and his investiture, Chief Earnest Shonekan and three former Chief Justices of Nigeria, Lawal Uwais, Idris Kutigi and Alfa Belgore as Grand Patrons in Abuja yesterday, the CPC founder regretted that even after Prof. Iwu had messed up the country in the 2007 elections and both international and local compliants over the shoddy job, there was no visible change in the attitude of INEC.
“You were all in this country and you were all witnesses to subsequent elections conducted in Ekiti State, Anambra State and here in the FCT. INEC under Prof. Iwu continued disenfranchising Nigerians from performing the rights to vote the leaders they want. If he cannot handle local government elections at this stage, is it the 2011 elections that he can handle. His removal is the best thing for this country but more still needs to be done to bring back confidence,â€ he said.
Sack all Resident Electoral Commissioners â€”NBA
The Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, on its part called for the sack of â€œall Resident Electoral Commissioners in the states to break totally from this sorry past.â€
NBA President, Chief Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, in a statement yesterday said: â€œWe received a sketchy piece of information on the long overdue impendingÂ departure of Prof. Iwu from the INEC and wishes to congratulate Acting President Goodluck Jonathan for taking the bold and necessary step towards the realisation of a credible electoral process.
â€œThe heavily tainted and corrupt octopus called INEC should be overhauled. All Resident Commissioners should also be given the boot to break totally from this sorry past. The current recruitment exercise embarked upon by the former Chairman and his cohorts should be halted until a reliable umpire is appointed.”
PPA, ANPP react
National Secretary, Progressive Peopleâ€™s Alliance, PPA,Alhaji Dahiru Abdullahi, has described the pre-disengagement leave embarked upon by Iwu as a normal civil service procedure. He stated this yesterday in an interview in Abuja.
According to him, if the presidency has decided to disengage the man as INEC boss for any reason, such mandatory leave is necessary for him to reflect and also decide on what he will do for himself later.
Abdullahi said Iwu was not the only problem with Nigeriaâ€™s electoral system, adding that the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo was the main architect of â€œpolitical woesâ€ in the country.
â€œIwuâ€™s case should serve as a deterrent to those who hold public trust, but the entire problem should not be blamed on him alone,â€ he said.
However, All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, applauded the decision of the Acting President on Iwu
This was stated in a statement in Abuja and signed by the National Publicity Secretary,Â Emma Eneukwu.
The ANPP asked the presidency not to stop on Iwuâ€™s disengagement alone, but should embark on full implementation of the Electoral Reform.
â€œWe are still expecting the total overhaul of the entire commission from the 36 states to the national level,â€ the statement said.
It also called for a worthy replacement for the INECâ€™s top job in order to attract public confidence.
â€œWe are aware that the bane of Nigeria is electoral mismanagement. Therefore, anybody who sets out to bring about the correction must start with very trusted electoral body,â€ ANPP demanded.
First bold step at electoral reforms â€”AC
The Action Congress, AC, has described the sack as the first bold step at electoral reforms in the country, but said this would come to nought if a fresh votersâ€™ register was not created for the country.
Similarly, former Governor of Lagos State, Senator Bola Tinubu, said the sack was good for the nationâ€™s political system, adding that without a new votersâ€™ register, the sack of Iwu would achieve nothing.
AC National Secretary, Usman Bugaje, told newsmen in an interview at the Presidential Wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos yesterday, that while the sack of Prof Iwu was good tiding for the country, what was equally important was replacing him with a credible and God-fearing person.
He said: â€œThe most important thing at the moment is that the person who will replace Iwu must be the one with good credibility, good record of probity, who have the commitment to love and serve this country.
â€œIt is not enough for the acting president or the people in government to be satisfied, Nigerians have to be satisfied with this man who is holding that office, but also, the most important is the registration of proper voters register.
â€œThe voters register we have had as at the time Iwu came has been sufficiently adulterated, contaminated and cannot serve any election in this country and we donâ€™t want it to be a reviewed or revived, we want a fresh votersâ€™ register, which is in accordance with INEC 2006 Act.â€
Tinubu wants new votersâ€™ register
On his part, former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu, said in as much as the sack was good for the country, what was critical was for the federal government to ensure that a new votersâ€™ register was developed for the country.
According to him, everything about a credible election rests squarely in a good and an acceptable votersâ€™ register.
Tinubu said: â€œThat (sack) is just the beginning of the response to our cry. He has to clean these people. There is another man that Iwu would handover to, what has he been contaminated with? There are various contracts that Iwu had embarked upon to rush through before he leaves.
â€œThey should suspend all those contracts. There is the integrity of the voters registry, the register is a fraud. And I am going to address it clearly today and I am going to write a petition to the acting president.
â€œIf he wants this country to move forward, you have to scrap the voters register. You have to scrap it and start afresh because what we have right now is a fraud. If you plant a corn, you donâ€™t expect to reap pineapple. The data base of which the registry is housed is a fraud.â€
Major step towards credible electionsâ€”TUC
Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, yesterday said the removal of Iwu was a major step towards credible election in 2011 and praised the Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan for the bold step.
The umbrella body for senior staff associations in the country, however, declared that only full implementation of Justice Uwais Electoral Reform Committee, ERC, report would calm the minds of Nigerians and international community who had been clamouring for a genuine reform of Nigeriaâ€™s electoral system.
President-General of TUC, Comrade Peter Esele, told Vanguard on telephone that, the removal ofÂ Iwu was the first major step taken by the Acting President to ensure free and fair election in the country and urged him to do more.
According to him, â€œthe removal was long over due. The man would have been sacked long ago. We knew why those who were supporting him were doing so. We can say he single handedly brought them to power. We commend the Acting President for this bold step which we believe is a major step toward a credible poll in Nigeria.”