When the ban on political activities by erstwhile military ruler, Abdusalami Abubakar, was lifted in 1999 there were jubilant scenes across Nigeria; it wasn’t far-fetched to say the citizenry were inebriated with optimism. Such flowery terms as dividends of democracy, due process, fix Nigeria, etc were chucked down our throats at will by the President and his goons via the media in the same manner everyone had once salivated at the prospects of eating his own share of the proverbial national cake.

Once again Nigeria is going to experience democracy; that sound foundation which was laid by its founding fathers, several politicians seemed to suggest in campaigns leading to the 1999 General elections.

If bleak is the picture describing Nigeria’s socio-economic and human development 10 years later, there is no wool covering any eyes with the respect to the poor conduct of elections in Nigeria. The recent cancellation of the Ekiti state Governorship elections in 10 local government’s out of 18 is one more pointer on how the national electoral body has found it easier to conduct flawed elections than credible ones. For the INEC chairman, two years after the elections, it has been a facsimile of the popular nursery rhyme of ‘10 green bottles standing on the wall’. Several states have more than accidentally falling down and billions of Naira are being allocated in the conduct of election Re-runs

However Professor Maurice Iwu, Professor of Pharmacology rings like a classic schizophrenic to Nigeria’s opposition parties; he caused a furore when he remarked that the American elections were not as organized as Nigeria’s advising that the Yankees could borrow a leaf from us. Three months from now INEC will begin plans for the 2011 general elections; incredible when you realise that incompetent elections conducted three years ago would ensure that nearly than one third of 36 states will have separate election dates beginning from 2011.

In 1999 election flaws were tolerated because the country was in great haste to do away with the jack boots and inebriated pepper soup Generals. Erstwhile INEC chairman Abel Goubadia had referred to the elections as a lesson in democracy. But Maurice Iwu is no upstart having superintended two elections. His main supporters are the ruling People’s Democratic Party who have benefited in no small measure from landslide electoral victories helping the PDP create a plutocratic oligarchy. On the other hand, pitched against Iwu are the more than two score political parties, the media, civil society groups and the electorate.

This group has succeeded greatly in demonizing the INEC chairman on the pages of national tabloids, TV, anywhere an audience is guaranteed. However Iwu hasn’t also been the devil, the national assembly had treated him with kid gloves in the run up to the elections when his bogus electronic voting capturing device failed to turn on in a live presentation. And that was several months to the elections, the registration exercise commenced as scheduled but dragged on perpetually because of poor logistic and organisational arrangements.

Iwu is no messiah, which is why on Election Day several fortunate people voted with temporary voters cards and others couldn’t locate their names on the voters’ register, worse still the dead were more fortunate to find their names listed in the register.

The report of the electoral reform committee submitted to the President Yar’ Adua has shown that the present INEC is incapable of conducting the 2011 general election. Look at the number of by-elections we have had in this country, what the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal have said about corruption in INEC, yet no one has brought to book.

The Electoral Act law gives INEC the power to prosecute electoral offenders, but read the reports from most electoral petition tribunals; INEC tops the electoral offenders list. Iwu may be a devout catholic who has never missed mass in two decades but he isn’t that coy to impugn himself. One question that the Government needs to answer is this; can INEC conduct a free, fair and credible election?

The answer lies in 140 million Nigerians and is blowing in the dusty sirocco wind where joy is ethereal, has a slender trunk that often breaks too soon’.



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