Of Mark, Iwu, and the Senate Jamboree

Senate President David Mark knows just how high the desire is for a reform of Nigeria’s electoral system. He knows that the disposition of the electoral umpire to impartial election has a lot to do with the attempt to fix the country’s generally criticised polling system. He also knows that Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) chairman, Maurice Iwu, is standing trial before the court of public opinion, charged with serial indisposition to fair polls.

Mark then saw the five-day Senate retreat in Enugu, which began on Tuesday, as an avenue to defend the man whom many see as the facilitator of most of what is wrong with elections in the country.  He laced his speech, while opening the retreat, with evasive anecdotes in an attempt to ridicule and pour invective on critics of the electoral system.
“Our electoral process is certainly not the worst in the world, as some self-styled analysts would want us to believe, and let me say further and more emphatically this time that the removal of Professor Maurice Iwu is not the review or the reform of our electoral process.
“Removal of Iwu is not synonymous with electoral reform or review. Those calling for the removal of Iwu as the first step are trivialising a very serious national issue.”
Many Nigerians see Iwu as an amalgam of everything objectionable to democracy and fair political competition.  He is thus, a bad advertisement for a country trying to burnish its electoral image.     Contrary to Mark’s belief, Iwu’s removal would be a first step towards sincere electoral reform in the country.
Besides, unknown to the senate president, he has boxed President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua into his reviled club of “self-styled analysts,” because the president himself seemed to acknowledge the electoral process in Nigeria as among “the worst in the world,” when he became the first African, and indeed world, leader to condemn the process that brought him to power in the very first lines of his inaugural speech. “We acknowledge that our elections had some shortcomings,” Yar’Adua said in the third sentence of his inaugural speech on May 29, 2007, following his controversial win in an election marred by poll rigging and sundry irregularities – well under Iwu’s hand. “Thankfully, we have well-established legal avenues of redress, and I urge anyone aggrieved to pursue them. I also believe that our experiences represent an opportunity to learn from our mistakes. Accordingly, I will set up a panel to examine the entire electoral process with a view to ensuring that we raise the quality and standard of our general elections, and thereby deepen our democracy.”
In one of the many examples of Iwu’s disinclination to fair political contest, he has refused to issue a certificate of return to Chief Emmanuel Obot, whom the Court of Appeal in Calabar had since February 12 pronounced winner of the House of Representatives seat for Uyo Federal Constituency of Akwa Ibom State. Bassey Etim, the man the appellate court had told to vacate office for Obot, still occupies the legislative seat.
Yet, Mark sees nothing wrong with Iwu’s INEC chairmanship! 
With mindsets like this, it seems only a politically naïve hope to think anything of good political value could come out of this Senate jamboree in Enugu.