It is becoming clear that for some of our politicians, contest for power in Nigeria is driven most by the unbridled desire to control the resources of the country. By contrast, if a politician is truly driven by the desire for public service, he will follow the path of honor, like Al Gore did when he waived his right of petition (or attrition - as applied in Nigeria) and conceded the presidency of the United States to Gorge Bush, even when he (Al Gore) was leading on the manual recount. It is therefore a truism that the spate of litigations that trailed the 2007 elections in Nigeria was fed more by a rising level of desperation on the part of some politicians and less by any institutional flaws in the conduct of the elections. Add the fact that, for the first time in Nigeria, we saw a quantum leap in the number of political parties and contestants for power. More parties and contestants meant many more sour losers who headed to court with the singsong that it was Professor Iwu that robbed them of victory. And I dare say that there is also a new level of misplaced judicial activism that is largely targeted at a PDP that has been successfully portrayed in the media as the sole party that rigs elections in Nigeria. A few of the verdicts too, like that of Amaechi and Ngige appear to be retaliatory rulings against an Obasanjo the judiciary is intent on settling scores with. Unluckily (and unfairly) for Maurice Iwu, he has come to represent the poster-boy for all manners of people who have an axe to grind with Obasanjo and the system he left behind.
Talking of sour losers, there are some who now pass off as activists, pretending to be fighting INEC (read: Iwu) on behalf of Nigerians. Femi Falana has gone to court to secure a mandamus against Iwu yet he downplays the fact that his animus is largely driven by the fact that he contested for and lost the governorship of his state under the nomination of a party (NCP) that did not even win a seat in the House of Assembly. That party has never been heard of since after the election. And then you have Alhaji Balarabe Musa, who is joining up with Femi Falana to fight Iwu because his party failed to win any elections even in his home state of Kaduna. There, the PDP and ANPP won them all. So, it appears that Musa is miffed that Iwu and INEC entered into some sort of tripartite conspiracy to deliver Kaduna State to a hue of joint co-conspirators from the ranks of PDP and ANPP. How do you reconcile this with the mantra that the Iwu is beholden to PDP only?
This whole over-concentration of attacks on Maurice Iwu ignores the glaring truths that also count for him and INEC. Begin with the near zero violence in the federal elections Iwu conducted which clearly and unarguably contrasted with the carnage of Kano and Jos LGA elections. Iwu did not conduct those elections that sadly brought such mayhem. Then we have vast numbers of Governors throughout the federation who are too cowed to conduct their LGA elections almost two years into their term, including a Peter Obi who someone found the false guts to take on an Iwu who delivered on a greater national burden and on schedule too. Now the federal government has vindicated Iwu by proposing to abolish SIECs and have LGA elections conducted by the same national INEC that some people love to belittle. Professor Iwu was the very first to complain about the manner of INEC funding. The Electoral Reform Committee concurred by proposing a first-line charge to fund INEC. That also counts for the Professor.
Additionally, I have come to believe that the problem of organizing elections in Nigeria goes beyond INEC as a single institution amongst the many others like the police and the SSS that are also deployed to critical functions on election-day. The citizenry also carries some of the blame. So, if we decide that nobody is going to interdict our ballot boxes; that election-day law enforcement will rise to deal with instant electoral offenses; that our politicians will refrain from engaging thugs to cause electoral mayhem; and that everybody else comes together to say: for once we are going to have the most credible elections of all time, it will happen and all the ‘omnipresent’ Iwus and INECs of this world cannot frustrate that desire. But if we decide that we are going to be mired in election malpractices just like exam malpractices and other sharp practices that are rife in this country, the most pious assemblage of umpires headed by the Pope himself will not succeed in giving us an election anywhere near being credible. In other words, it is our dubious ways as a people and the mindset that we must win by hook or crook that give us marred elections. Professor Iwu (and those that will succeed him) and our current and future INECs are just the fall guys for what I like to call "embedded societal proclivity to beating the system". And like the mendacious woman in Solomon’s famous judgment, if some people cannot beat the system, they resort to decimating it. Falana’s frivolous lawsuit to force EFCC’s hand on Iwu appears to be directed at sowing some instability in the polity in the run-up to preparations for 2011. So, in effect, his actions are also targeted against a President Yar’Adua they have reckoned to be the soft underbelly to prevailing on their designs to cause political disorders in the system – to achieve the same ends they sought by calling for no elections in 2007.
And lest we forget, Maurice Iwu did not just fall from the sky and conducted the elections within the best of political and legal climates, such as obtained in Ghana and the United States, both of which have been (unfairly) compared to Nigeria. There were flurries of indictments, ill-prepared opposition politicians, inadequate legal order and the specter of Third Term that nearly sailed through the parliament. The aggressive pursuit of Third Term and the forces arrayed against it wrought untold distractions on Iwu, INEC and the larger Nigerian society in terms of concentrating on the transition. Keep in mind that the ‘transition’ election that brought Yar’Adua required a different mindset from one in which Obasanjo was universally expected to succeed himself. Consider also that entire pluralities of the national and state Assemblies joined in supporting third term, not to talk of the aid and comfort coming from cash-flush corporate Nigeria, the blessing received from various Nigerian religious/traditional leaders for third term to prevail and the easy acquiescence of a conniving citizenry.
When third term failed, grand Nigerian conspiracies were unleashed on INEC to intimidate it away from carrying through with the elections. Recall that vast numbers of prominent Nigerian politicians were calling for interim national government, meaning that they did not want the elections to hold, mostly because they figured they were sure to lose. Some analysts have charged that the call for interim national government was also clever cover for the secret desire for the military to come back, in the hope that it will recruit its appointees from opposition ranks. Therefore, it should not be surprising that the same clique of politicians who never wanted the elections to hold back in 2007 will continue to harass a Maurice Iwu they blame for losing a contest they would not have won anyway. Now, their actions have come to be a double strike of sorts – first, as retaliation against Iwu for daring to hold the 2007 elections; and second, as a strategy to scuttle the 2011 elections they have figured that they are again poised to lose to the more disciplined, better organized PDP.
Ejimakor is an attorney and analyst.