By Eric Teniola
CHIEF Esua also conducted the 1965 Western Region election, which was violent and was disputed by the opposition United Party Grand Alliance. A few days before these elections Esua acknowledged that his organisation could not guarantee a free and fair poll. General Yakubu Gowon did not appoint any chairman of any electoral commission in his nine years in power.
After Chief Michael Ani resigned, President Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari, GCFR, appointed Mr. Justice Victor Erereko Ovie-Whiskey (April 6, 1923-July 18, 2012) as chairman of the Federal Electoral Commission, FEDECO. On July 21, 1980, the Senate approved the appointment of Justice Ovie-whiskey along with members of the commission.
They are Chief J. B. C. Anyaegbuna (Anambra), Mrs. Ethel Onwu (Anambra), Alhaji Ahmed Kari (Bauchi), Mr. O.I. Afe (Bendel), Brigadier L.N. Obeya (Benue), Alhaji Mustapha Umara (Borno), Mr.R.F. Uko (Cross River), Mr. A.N. Adumanu (Imo), Alhaji Liman Umaru (Kwara), Mrs. Husa Iro Luko (Kaduna), Alhaji Aminu Salihu (Kaduna), Alhaji Mohamadu Mashabaru (Kano), Alhaji Zubairu Danbatta (Kano), Dr. (Mrs) Mabadeje (Lagos), Alhaji Umaru Audi (Niger), Dr. Lateef O. Aremu (Oyo), Alhaji M.B. Ibrahim (Plateau), Mrs. E.A. Pam (Plateau), Chief P.G. Warmate (Rivers) and Alhaji Garba Jabo (Sokoto).
According to Wikipedia, Chief Ovie-Whiskey attended King’s College Lagos, Yaba Higher College and University College, Ibadan (now University of Ibadan). He worked as a clerk, and for a short period as a teacher, before being admitted to study law at the University of London. He was called to the bar in 1952. He practiced as a lawyer until 1960 when he became a magistrate in Western Region. In 1963 he was appointed chief magistrate of the newly formed Mid-Western Region, renamed Bendel State in 1976.
At the time of Ovie-Whiskey’s appointment as head of FEDECO in 1980, he was the Chief Judge of Bendel State, and was seen as upright and non-partisan. However, the general elections of 1983 were marred by widespread irregularities and the electoral officials were accused of rigging the results in favour of the National Party of Nigeria, NPN. Ovie-Whiskey declared that he was largely satisfied with the electoral process in 1983, but said: “We did not expect to be perfect”.
He denied wrongdoing, and when questioned by reporters on whether “water passed under the bridge” in the elections, he said that he would faint if he saw N1 million cash. In April 2009 the Ijaw Monitoring Group said Ovie-Whiskey was in poor health and his condition required urgent attention from the Delta State Government.
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Major General Muhammadu, GCFR, took over on December 31, 1983 and till he was toppled on August 27, 1985, he did not appoint any electoral chairman neither did he conduct any election. On July 15, 1987, General Ibrahim Babangida appointed Professor Eme Ewa as the chairman of the electoral commission.
Awa was a professor of political science at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He conducted the September 4, 1987 local government election.
There were irregularities during the election. On December 24, 1987, the National Electoral Commission under Professor Awa ordered fresh elections in 312 wards for the December 12 local government election. On March 20, 1988 another election was conducted by the electoral commission. At that time the military government felt that Professor Awa, who is from Ohafia, was not in a position to conduct a credible election that would be accepted by all. He was sacked thereafter.
On February 28, 1989, General Ibrahim Babangida appointed Professor Humphrey Nwosu, a commissioner for rural development and chieftaincy affairs under Governor Samson Emeka Omeruah as chairman of the ElectoralCommission. Incidentally, Professor Nwosu was a student of Professor Awa at the University of Nigeria Nwosu. Before the appointment, Professor Nwosu was a member of the committee on the review of the local system in 1984 led by the late Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki.
Professor Nwosu was born into the family of the late Chief Nwosu Nwafor, the Eze V of Ajalli and Grace Uzoaku Nwafor in Ajalli on October 2, 1941. Both the poor and the rich value education highly in their community. In 1948, he was admitted into the Government Primary School, Ajalli before being transferred to Saint Michael School, Enugu, where he lived with his elder brother in Abakaliki in 1952.
Professor Nwosu worked briefly at Shell BP. He was the head of the Department of Political Science at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, before his appointment as chairman of the National Electoral Commission.
It was his commission that conducted the controversial June 12, 1993 Presidential election, which was later annulled by President Ibrahim Babangida. Observers are still pressing that national honours be bestowed on Professor Nwosu.