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What did Maurice Iwu give us?

By Tony Momoh
Maurice Iwu will go down in history as the most controversial INEC chairman Nigeria ever had and may ever have.  If Nigeria has an Iwu again, that is an embodiment of the negative part of the Iwu phenomenon, there is little doubt that his tenure would be the sharp knife that would cut that tenuous chord that had held Nigeria together over the years, come rain or shine. 

But that there is a negative part of Iwu obviously concedes that there is a positive part of Iwu.  It is the part you see that draws you to, or distances you from him.   Iwu  so personalised the office of  the Independent National Electoral Commission chairman  that his name will remain, in its negative connotation, a synonym for electoral malpractices.

For five years now when Iwu took office at INEC, he has done a great deal to grow the institution, but he has done much more, in the opinion of many, to bring shame to Nigeria as a country that cannot meet the simple requirement of conducting elections by ensuring that people vote, that the votes are counted, and that their votes count in the choice of those who govern.

When Iwu became the boss of INEC, he floated a dream which I shared.  The package he had for us was so attractive I believed him, and prayed that his tenure would make the difference, so that he would, as he told the media, be remembered  “as the INEC boss who conducted a free and fair and generally accepted election…”

He would achieve this feat  through the Electronic Voting System (EVS).  He explained the package to us as a young lady would happily present her first baby to the public after she had been written off as barren.

The EVS,  he said, is not the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM),  but a package of which the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) can be part, and should be part, if the National Assembly endorsed the proposal.  Four components made up Iwu’s EVS – the register, the validation method, the balloting instrument, and the rapid transmission of the result coming out of the election.

The INEC boss said his commission had been  perfecting strategies to ensure that all loopholes that had been conduits for robbing the ballot were plugged.  We spent tonnes of money on the electronic register, but when the time for elections came in 2007, the products of those registers were nowhere near because that exercise was a massive failure.  But that was where the positive part of the Iwu presence at INEC ended.

He so preferred being on the job to meeting the demands of the job that he compromised all principles of fair play and justice in conducting the elections of 2007.   There was the ugly occasion when Iwu, like the referee of a match taking instructions from a player, ran into an interview Andy Ubah, one of the candidates in Anambra State, was having with journalists.

What Iwu was quoted as saying and which I challenged him in my piece in this column on March 25, 2007, to deny, made me write him off as a man who could be trusted to do justice to all manner of people.   The phone on Uba’s table had been ringing, but he would not pick it because of the interview.  Iwu, said the reporters there, burst into the room and discovered a team of journalists were there. He was quoted as saying,  “Sorry sir, I didn’t know you were granting an interview.

I will come back sir.  Sorry for disturbing you!”  I asked then and still ask today, “What business had  Iwu with those he was setting exams for?  What business had he with Uba?”   I said then and have still not changed my mind that if the story was true, Iwu was not  a fit and proper person to conduct any credible elections in this country and he should not wait to be disgraced out of office.

He should quit. (See Democracy Watch, A Monitor’s Diary Vol 2, page 301).   Iwu did not only not quit, he did conduct the elections which the person who became president even admitted were flawed.

I am opposed to Iwu being reappointed because he has proved to be incapable of being fair and just.  His EVS package he had made a sing-song of from 2005 to 2007 collapsed when the package was needed the most – there was no register in which you could find your name at the centre you were expected to vote; the validation of the voters register would have been done if the register had been displayed, but there was no register to display;  the balloting instrument was the voter’s card which the electoral act said had to be serialised.

Iwu gave us fliers as ballot papers  during the presidential election, and admitted he could not serialise them because of time constraint;  and the rapid transmission of the result coming out of the election, was achieved by release of results that had been written up before the event.

The world, and Nigerians, minus Iwu and his collaborators,  knew there were no elections in 2007.  An election in which ballot papers are being printed and delivered after the swearing in of those who are supposed to have won the election, cannot be said to be an election, nor to describe it as free and fair.

An election in which compilation of results took place before the day of elections, on the day of the elections, and even after the day of the elections, without regard and respect for the people who were lined up to cast their votes and waited in vain to do so, cannot be said to be an election, nor can it be described as free and fair.

But for the singular reason that Iwu has never been persuaded that there was no election because his EVS package collapsed in the face of pressure, no one should accept that Iwu be retained.  The truth is that Iwu ignored the electoral act in conducting the 2007 elections. If he argues, as he has done since that disgraceful  and treasonable outing, that supervising an election is the measure of its success – he says many were there to ensure there was no election – then we have a problem on our hands.

We need someone who can look people in the face, however powerful they are or claim to be, and tell them what the law says and his responsibility to apply its provisions.

Iwu preferred to obey the dictates of men than apply the provisions of the law and the Constitution.  Yet,  the instrument appointing him as chairman of the commission,  clearly provides that in carrying out its functions, the commission is not to take instructions from any one.  But Iwu compromised everything a man of his status should stand for.

He has registered his presence at the commission with his beautiful packages on how to do the job, but he has proved to be a great disaster in executing the package he sold to us. Iwu may have been  a greedy weakling in a setting where things are not structured to work.  But it was in that setting we had Ribadu at EFCC, El Rufai in Abuja and Dora Akunyili in NAFDAC.

We need someone who knows that there are problems, but would still do and be seen to do the work settled in the document appointing him.  Prof Maurice Iwu is not that person, cannot be that person. He must go.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.