Tempo (Lagos)

15 March 2000

Nigeria: Former Chairman Of NEC Dies

Lagos — Former Chairman of the defunct National Electoral Commission NEC, Professor Eme Awa dies at 79. NICK NWAFOR reports

The former Chairman of the defunct National Electoral Commission (NEC) Professor Eme Awa is dead. The eminent Professor of political science who was appointed chairman of the defunct National Electoral Commission (NEC) in 1989 by the then military dictator, General Ibrahim Babangida (retd), died at the Holy Cross Hospital in the United States of America. The cause of his death was unclear as at press time. He was aged 79.

Awa, as NEC Chairman was responsible for the conduct of the local government election in 1987 on the zero-party basis. He was however, sacked in 1988 by General Ibrahim Babangida in an unclear circumstances.

However, he was widely held to have fallen out with the IBB regime over alleged pressures to teleguide him. Unwilling to bend to the whims of the self-styled military president, Awa was given the booth and replaced by his former student, Professor Humphry Nwosu. After his exit from NEC, Prof. Awa kept a low profile, speaking sparingly on key national issues. He equally refused to speak on the circumstance surrounding his removal, arguing that the nation would burn if he spoke. However, the professor who is reputed for his marxist philosophy provided a clue to his premature exit from NEC: "It is well known that I have disagreement with them over a number of things, it is this question of autonomy, because they wanted one to depart from certain principles laid down in the decree establishing the agency," he once said.

Born on 15 December 1921 in Ohafia, Imo State, Awa attended Ohafia Central School from 1928 to 1934, Hope Wadded Training Institute, Calabar from 1935 to 1939. He got himself immersed in private studies in Lagos between 1942 and 1946. The young Awa then travelled to the United State where he attended Lincoln University, Pennsylvania from 1949 to 1951 and the New York University.

On his return to Nigeria, he took up a job as a Senior Assistant Secretary, Federal Ministry of Research and Information, Lagos. After a brief stint with the ministry, he opted for a teaching appointment in the Department of Political Science of the University of Ibadan where he was from 1957 to 1962. He spent the greater part of his academic career in the department Political Science of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

Between 1966 and 1960, he was chairman, Sunray Flour Mill, and chaired other concerns like the Revenue Allocation Committee of the defunct East Central State, Committee on Local Government Reform, among others. He was director of studies, National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru from 1982 to 1987 before he was appointed to head the National Electoral Commission (NEC) by General Babangida.

Professor Awa is survived by a wife and three children.

Publication date: March 23, 2000

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