columnBy Hakeem Jamiu
THE RERUN elections declared by the tribunals were supposed to be improvement over the 2007 elections. However, they were marred with technical and less controversial rigging that was not done on the field but at the INEC office with the connivance of INEC officials.
The case of how the AC candidate in the rerun election in Adamawa State, Bapetel, was disqualified unofficially by INEC 12 hours to the election is still fresh. The name of Maurice Iwu was constantly mentioned in this ludicrous act as having directly sanctioned the disqualification which discouraged the supporters of Bapetel from voting for him. On the ballot paper, the column for the AC party was placed in a position such that most voters who intended to vote for the AC voted for another party, the MRDD, in error as a result of which about 120,000 votes that were supposed to be for Bapetel were voided. The PDP candidate, Murtala Nyako, was eventually declared winner of the election.
During Ekiti gubernatorial rerun of April 25 2009, which is still a subject of litigation, Iwu's INEC was accused of receiving 250 million naira bribe and investigation into this is still ongoing. The Ekiti rerun election remains an embarrassment to the government and people of Nigeria as the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in charge of the conduct of the election cried out that some people were coercing her into announcing fake results to favour the ruling PDP candidate and was reported by the dailies to have resigned as a result of this. Iwu virtually took over the role of the REC by sending one of his Commissioners to announce fake results which the people resisted. Iwu made judgmental statements while the election was still inconclusive. The REC later resurfaced days after and announced a controversial result. The role of Iwu in the scenario is also unpalatable. In the recent Anambra gubernatorial election, the voters register used by Maurice Iwu's INEC was a sham as thousands of Anambra voters could not find their names in the register. Prominent Anambra personalities like Dr. Alex Ekwueme could not find their names in the voters register while those of Gani Fawehinmi, Beko Ransome Kuti and Nelson Mandela were there. Again Iwu was accused of colluding with politicians to muddle up the voters register.
During the 2007 elections, rigging was made easy for PDP thugs who snatched ballot boxes at polling booths to take them to private homes where they were thumb-printed and brought back to the booths for counting and INEC would still record same as the true result of the election. In some states like Enugu during the 2007 election, electoral materials were not brought by INEC and no voting took place but results were declared.
The NLC, through a paid advert, has called for his removal. So are many organizations and responsible Nigerians. Instead of addressing the real issues of how to achieve credible elections, apart from being a master of deceit and full of himself, Iwu is found of abusing anybody who criticized him and his style of running INEC. When the European Observer Mission (EOM), led by Marx Vandenberg, presented the final report on the conduct of the April polls to INEC, Professor Iwu lambasted Mr. Max Van Den Berg and accused him of bias in the mission's preliminary report during the election. The final verdict of the EU monitors sounded the death knell of Iwu's election. It reads: "The elections were marred by very poor organisation, lack of transparency, procedural irregularities, fraud, voter disenfranchisement, lack of equal conditions for political parties and candidates and violence".
In an apparent reaction to the protests against his continued stay in office, a rally was also organised last week in support of his continued stay but Nigerians are not fooled. Many people concluded that every sense of remorse, integrity and honour had taken flight from him if he could still contemplate spending a day longer than necessary in office and even planning to organise another election. It is also beyond human comprehension how anybody could submit to such a shameless rally. If we are desirous of free and fair election that would earn us respect from the International community, Iwu is not the kind of person we need to man our electoral commission. The public are eagerly waiting for the governors who are not part of the mad decision to push for the retention of Iwu to publicly dissociate themselves from the decision or it would be taken that all the governors are in support of this unpopular move against the Nigerian people. They should also know that the governors' forum is unknown to the constitution. The forum should only be used to further good governance and deepen democracy but when it is being used to circumvent the will of the people, it has become superfluous and ought to be discarded.
Maurice Iwu had done enough damage to our image as a country and there is no better time for him to be replaced than now. If anybody is asking for Iwu to be re appointed, such is an enemy of free and fair election. The only way to go about the Electoral Reform is to remove Iwu and reconstitute INEC as a Commission with a mandate to carry out a thorough review of the voters register which Iwu has rendered useless. The consequence of allowing Iwu to conduct the 2011 elections in Nigeria is too grave for our democracy. The end result can only be anarchy and it will be bye-bye to democracy.