By Azuka Iheabunike
Like a sore thumb, the catastrophe called the 2007 general elections in Nigeria will continue to come to the fore of our national discourse for a reasonable time to come. Also like someone who makes the mistake of telling a lie, Prof. Maurice Iwu, who supervised that election, will require to tell many more in his bid to justify his defending what has continued to be adjudged the worst election ever conducted in Nigeria.
While all men of goodwill all over the world have continued to pass a terrible judgment on that election, it is only Prof. Iwu, the chief umpire, who has not seen anything wrong with it. Even President Umaru Yar’Adua, the primary beneficiary of the election, had on a lot of occasions acknowledged the fact, and shortly after assuming office, inaugurated the electoral reform committee which has since submitted its report.
All these facts not withstanding, Prof. Iwu, has vowed to continue to defend the election come what may. The fact that the plan to do a shoddy job on the election may have been premeditated may be gleaned from the actions of some people during the countdown to the elections.
Then people like Prof. Iwu and others such as Nuhu Ribadu, then of the EFCC, who never believed that the proverbial day of reckoning would ever come, used all the arsenals within reach to make sure that only those candidates of a particular political party sanctioned by the powers that be, won in the elections. In areas where others, in spite of everything were coasting to victory, such elections were cancelled without recourse to the provisions of the electoral laws, rescheduled and rerun until the ‘right’ candidates eventually ‘won’.
Recounting what did or did not happen in the 2007 general elections in Nigeria has always been a sad commentary on our nationhood and will forever haunt us when we see the so called smaller and less endowed nations, even in Africa here, conducting very transparent elections in their countries while we continue to deceive and delude ourselves as the giant of the continent.
Even Zimbabwe nearly got it right when Morgan Tsvangirai of the opposition party won the initial election but was stopped by the incumbent President Robert Mugabe in the re-run election.
Earlier in Kenya also, where the opposition party led by Raila Odinga had virtually won the election, the incumbent president, Mwai Kibaki backed by the electoral commission hijacked the election by delaying and eventually announcing the result they required. The riot that then followed claimed the lives of thousands of Kenyans until a unity government option was adopted as a way to stop the unfortunate incident.
Later, Ghanaians conducted their own national elections which although inconclusive during the first round of balloting eventually produced their next president in the person of the opposition candidate – Prof. John Atta Mills. The ruling party did not use its power of incumbency or do-or-die attitude or tactics to force themselves on the people of Ghana.
We are however lucky that the crises and the ethnic riots which resulted in the death of thousands of Kenyans as a result of the rigged elections there were avoided here in Nigeria. In November 2008, the United States of America, the acclaimed world leaders in democracy had its national election where the incumbent Republican Party led by President George W. Bush lost woefully to the Democratic Party whose candidate in the person of Barack Obama happens to be from the minority African-American community. Barack Obama made history by becoming the first ever African American to be elected the President of the United States of America.
The election and even the preceding electioneering campaign were televised to the whole world and once again acclaimed as a show case of democracy for other countries for its transparency and the non interference of the government in the electoral process. Such world acclaim of the USA electoral process was accepted by all and sundry except for our own Prof. Iwu. He immediately went to town with the view that both the USA and Ghana have much to learn from the Nigerian experience in the organization of successful elections.
This comment created both shock and disbelief within and outside the country as it immediately reopened the controversy on the 2007 general elections in Nigeria. Another unfortunate development is that Prof. Iwu continues to antagonize anybody who dares to pass the very obvious judgment on the 2007 election.
Recently, he took on Chief Ken Nnamani, the immediate past Senate president by claiming through his special assistant on media, Andy Ezeani, that Chief Nnamani was only criticizing him because he (Iwu) refused to agree to his (Nnamani) ambitious move to rule the country even as an interim president in the unlikely arrangement that the 2007 election is postponed.
It is very unfortunate that Prof. Iwu had to get to such a level of absurdity in his blackmail attempt. Nigerians are nobody’s fools since they can still remember vividly the role played by the then Senate President in making sure that the third term agenda of Chief Obasanjo was killed at the National Assembly which he then was presiding over.
If however, Chief Ken Nnamani should not comment on the badly conducted general elections of 2007 because of his so called ambitions, according to Prof. Iwu, what then will be his reason for attacking every other person including Prof. Wole Soyinka for daring to criticize the election by comparing it with the recently concluded elections both in Ghana and the USA?
What is however baffling to most Nigerians at the moment is that despite the consensus that the 2007 elections did not meet the minimum standards required for such elections all over the world, the Commission that organized the election is still intact and is warming up to continue to conduct other elections, including the repeat or bye-elections in areas where their earlier elections have been nullified by the law courts and electoral tribunals for lack of transparency including the declaration of results in places where no election was held.
There is no gain saying the fact that for most Nigerians the minimum required of the government should be that the Election Commission as constituted should be dissolved and reconstituted with credible Nigerians to save us any further embarrassment.
It will easily be understood that since Prof. Iwu has not been convinced to acknowledge that something even if not everything may have been wrong with his conduct of the earlier election, he will therefore not see any reason for any change or improvement in the manner subsequent elections are to be conducted under his leadership.
He should therefore understand that all Nigerians including himself, his critics and even the silent majority are equal stakeholders in the enterprise called Nigeria. He should therefore consider the various criticisms in good faith in the greater interest and benefit of all of us.
*Iheabunike wrote from Suite 3A (East Pavilion), TBS Complex, Onikan, Lagos.