By Kunle Oyatomi
The issue is no longer Iwu. He is gone for good. Our controvertial professor chairman of INEC has lost his spirited battle to stay on his lucrative job. Now, that man is part of our blighted history.
Iwuâ€™s departure is a mild relief. It is nothing to celebrate over, although we note the courage involved for Jonathan to take that decision against the current of negative opinions within the ruling party. Most people in elective post in PDP owe their favours in political office today to Iwuâ€™s betrayal of trust as an â€œimpartialâ€ umpire.
So when we sit back to analyse the situation critically, Iwuâ€™s part in the massive network of fraud called Nigeriaâ€™s electoral system is pretty small even if critical. But if his leadership of INEC had been responsible, maybe the situation would have been slightly different. Unfortunately it wasnâ€™t, which is what really compounded the situation.
Thus with Iwu gone, we have a massive problem to resolved, which encompasses the entire fabric ofÂ society.
We cannot understand the nature of the problem if we stopped at Iwu. The electoral engine itself has knocked!! Our people who this electoral engine was supposed to serve have themselves become part of the problem.
Right from the ward level is where electoral fraud begins. It takes the criminal collaboration of some politicians and the voters to rig elections at that level and above. If our INEC needs reformation or complete overhaul, we must be conscious enough to also know that quite a considerable number of stakeholders in the electoral process also need education and reorientation.
Having said all this, let us now get to the meat of the subject of the aftermath of Iwuâ€™s departure on 2011. There are three core issues here:
* Who takes over from Iwu, and who makes the appointment?
* What are the basics of the electoral reform now being worked out?
* And what do we do with Iwuâ€™s voters register? Discard it and do a new one or update it?
The issues still to be resolved are so much weightier thanÂ Iwuâ€™s inglorious exit. Indeed they can make Iwuâ€™s departure a none event at the end of the day if we do not get those unresolved issues thrashed out to the satisfaction of the generality of Nigerians.
In the first place, the beauty and attraction of the Justice Uwais committee report is that it struck the nail on the head by seeking to make the new INEC absolutely independent of any political interference whatsoever. Although politicians of the ruling elite have resented this suggestion, majority of Nigerians believe it is a proper road to travel.
However, we take consolation in the fact that it is not all politicians who think like most of the ruling class. The popular consensus therefore is that for the public to trust the next INEC, it must be independent of the executive and legislative arms of government. In plain language, neither the president nor the National Assembly should be directly involved in the appointment of the leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission.
Having secured this condition precedent to an Independent INEC, we shall turn our attention to the personality of the occupant of the driverâ€™s seat of the electoral body. Nigeria being awash with criminally disposed individuals notwithstanding, we know of men and women of integrity, who possess the moral, ethical foundation for uprightness and justice that could occupy that post. But what we cannot guarantee is whether such people will like to volunteer their services to the nation on this matter.
To be frank to ourselves, INECâ€™s chairmanship job is one that can effect sudden death to its holderâ€™s reputation,Â if loopholes that ravaged the organisation and left it manipulable by politicians and other criminals are not removed.
With absolute independence, (absolute here should be understood to mean, without political and other extraneous influences), the chairman and the leadership of a new INEC should be in a position to compel strict adherence to the electoral laws of the land.
I have a fear that if the same politicians, (most of whom are beneficiaries of fraudulent electoral manipulation), are the ones we depend on for a comprehensive electoral reform package, our hopes may be hanging in the balance. Maybe withÂ Iwu out, and Acting President Goodluck Jonathan looking good to deliver on his promise, the politiciansÂ at the National Assembly may already be reading a tough handwriting on the wall.
This is only when we can be relatively hopeful.
But reports making the rounds donâ€™t suggest that beneficiaries of electoral fraud intend to give up their fight against electoral reform. It is disturbing that so many powerful people up to the last minute were still fighting to keep Iwu. Well, they failed, but they are not down and out.
My gutÂ feelings are that if these negative superstars canâ€™t keep Iwu,Â at least they will struggle harder to abort or vitiate the electoral reform agenda.
We are nowhere out of the woods on this issue.
Finally, Iwuâ€™s voters register is as good as the man himself. If we donâ€™t want him because of what he represented, there is no way we can adopt one of his rigging tools, which is the voters register. Our electoral reform process to be dependable must have an updated, new register of voters that truely represent the voting population from the ward to the constituency in all parts of the country.
Whatever we invest on this exercise will be worth our pursuit of a credible electoral process. That, is the nextÂ stage of the struggle. So, Aluta Continua.