As the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) chairman, Prof. Maurice Iwu released the political timetable for the 2011 general elections, pressures are mounting for his immediate removal as the as the electoral body’s chairman.
Members of civil societies, the organised labour movement and some opposition political parties especially the Action Congress and the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) have called on the government to throw Iwu out of INEC. The clamour for the removal of Iwu as Nigeria’s chief electoral umpire began shortly after the 2007 general elections in which local and foreign observers in their findings and observations during the elections had indicted the INEC’s boss and the commission for the electoral lapses that characterised the elections. The conduct of the elections was widely criticised as falling below acceptable democratic standards.
Maurice Iwu was appointed to succeed Dr. Abel Guobadia as INEC chairman on June 2005. But soon after the appointment as INEC’s chairman, some politicians and civil society groups called for his immediate removal over his controversial statement that only foreign election observers not foreign monitors would be allowed during the 2007 general election.
Though, INEC said the election was credible, foreign observers disagreed, saying the election lacked any measure of credibility. Consequently, Iwu came under the hammer of the organised Labour movement, civil society and the opposition political parties for alleged bias in the conduct of the poll and non adherence to its guiding principles.
The commission and its helmsman have been accused of not showing enough transparency, integrity, credibility, impartiality and dedication in their relations with the various political stakeholders.
Going by the guiding principles of INEC, the commission shall be open, transparent, truthful and honest in dealing with the people of Nigeria and its political stakeholders. On credibility, INEC had promised to ensure that the people of Nigeria and the various political stakeholders will readily accept the commission actions and activities.
The INEC had also promised to create a level playing field for all political actors towards providing the highest quality election services to the people of Nigeria.
But these turned out to be Herculean tasks for INEC to achieve in Nigeria. No wonder therefore that as the preparation for another round of general elections comes 2011 gather momentum, the opposition towards the continuing INEC chairmanship of Iwu had become more intense with each day not passing without a call for Iwu’s removal.
Iwu is being adjudged as not competent enough to conduct free, fair and credible elections in the polity. There is also the allegations that INEC lacks the necessary integrity and credibility score sheet under Iwu leadership to conduct any credible elections in Nigeria.
The latest call for the sack of Iwu is coming from the leadership of the organised Labour Movement in Nigeria. The Nigeria Labour Congress had planned mass rally to sensitise and raise the consciousness of Nigerians that the incumbent INEC boss cannot organise an unbiased free and fair elections.
The organised Labour, civil society and the oppsition political parties believe that the only solution towards the sustenance of democracy in Nigeria is for the government to change Maurice Iwu and reform the Electoral System.
Recently, during INEC chairman’s visit to the leadership of the Senate, David Mark re-echoed the need for INEC under Iwu to improve in its performance. The Senate President’s comment on INEC, no doubt re-enforced the clamour for leadership change in the nation’s electoral body and the need for electoral reforms in accordance with international best practices.
While Maurice Iwu was leaking his wound from David Mark’s unsavoury remark on INEC, the organised Labour released another onslaught on Iwu. In a communiqué after the Nigeria Labour Congress National Executive Council meeting in Kaduna, the NLC called for the removal of the chairman of INEC. According to the communiqué, the call for change of leadership in INEC is necessitated by the onviction of the Labour movement that Iwu has overstayed his welcome in the commission which has led to his poor performance in the outings of INEC.
In a statement jointly signed by the NLC National President, Abdulwaheed Omar and secretary Comrade John Odah respectively, the organised Labour listed Iwu’s monumental failures in the conduct of the 2007 general elections, the re-run gubernatorial election in Ekii State and the February 6, 2010 Governorship election in Anambra State.
“The National Executive Council of the Nigeria Labour Congress is of the view that Iwu has inflicted enough damage on the electoral integrity of the nation that all patriots must work to have the INEC boss removed and prevented from presiding over the preparation for the next general elections,” the statement declared.
The NLC mandated its NEC to fix a date for the National Mass Action to drive home the Congress Point that Iwu msut go as INEC’s boss.
The NLC mandated its NEC to fix a date for the National mass action to drive home the congress point that Iwu must go as INEC’s boss.
The NLC leadership equally canvassed the urgent implementation of the report of the Justice Muhammadu Uwais Committee on Electoral Reforms and condemned the delay in the process by the National Assembly ahead of the 2011 elections.
Be that as it may, the primary concern of many Nigerians and the organised Labour is the need to re-constitute and re-organise the nation’s electoral body in accordance with the 1999 constitution and the Electoral Act to make the commission more efficient, proactive and responsive to the fundamental and structural challenges of Nigeria’s electoral process.
Meanwhile, the Action Congress (AC) believes that continuous involvement of Iwu in any process leading to the conduct of 2011 elections would endanger the march to a credible 2011 general elections which is the desire of Nigerians and the International Community.
According to the National Publicity secretary of AC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed,” election rigging is not carried out only on election day. It is a culmination of a series of processes, including voters registration,” adding that a biased and incompetent electoral umpire should not be allowed to handle the registration process not to talk of the elections.
The Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP), agree that for Nigeria to have a very transparent electoral process in 2011, Iwu must be relieved of his job. The CNPP spokesman Osita Okechukwu said the removal of Iwu will re-build the confidence of Nigerians and the political stakeholders in the electoral processes come 2011 elections.
But the INEC’s boss, however, picked the gauntlet and fired back at his critics wondering why people would call for his removal after he had successfully conducted a free and fair elections in 2007.
According to Iwu, there is no perfect electoral process without imperfection, noting that lessons and mistakes are part of block building process in the march to efficient electoral system in Nigeria.
However, no chairman of Nigeria’s electoral body has gone with a clean slate. In each electoral outing, they had had their own peculiar controversy superintending over the conduct of an acceptable elections right from the period of Chief Esua to Chief Michael Ani, Justice Victor Ovie Whisky, Prof. Eme Awa, Prof. Humphrey Nwosu, Prof Okon Uya, Chief Sumner Dagogo-Jack, Justice Fajuyitan Oluyemi, Justice Ephraim Akpata, Dr. Abel Guobadia and the incumbent Electoral Commission’s chairman, Maurice Iwu.
As Iwu first tenure gradually winds up in June 2010, political observers believe that getting a second term is dependent on the thinking of the Presidency.
Nigerians generally expect nothing short of transparent, and credible elections comes 2011 from and unbiased Electoral body.