Monday 16 June 2008

Nigeria: Dragging Iwu to the court of the Twelfth of June

June the Twelfth lives

It would appear June the Twelfth still has a few more lives in it before it gets consigned to history. In fact, it can never be completely consigned to history because it comes every year and someone somewhere would find reason to commemorate the day.

For Nigeria, it remains that one seminal moment when the freest and fairest elections were conducted in the country, the only sad thing being the will of the people was aborted before full recognition was made of the winner.

This being the 15th anniversary of the event, the chairman of the then electoral commission which was known as the National Electoral Commission, Professor Humphrey Nwosu launched his tome about that election.

Titled Laying the Foundation for Nigeria’s Democracy: My Account of June 12, 1993 Presidential Election and its Annulment – a mouthful of a book title not yet available on Amazon, the reviews beyond the pre-launch hype show us nothing particularly new or worthy of news – one reviewer calls it beautiful nonsense.

Boos and all

In any case, at the launch, the guests of honour that included General Ibrahim Babangida, the President who annulled the election, though absolved by the professor and his successor Chief Ernest Shonekan were not present to grace the occasion.

When the name of the current chairman of Inept National Electoral Commission, Professor Maurice Iwu’s name was mentioned at the event, it was booed – perhaps the chairman thought it prudent to attend the occasion lest he be derided.

Anyway, rather than concentrate on trying to avoid more controversy, INEC through its spokesperson has decided to take up the defence of its head by making the following assertions.

The two electoral commissions were different.

One operated under a military junta in 1993 and the other under a civilian administration in 2007.

The annulment of the results of the first almost plunged the country into chaos, the more recent one was a successful transition from one civilian regime to another.

The comparisons are baseless and we should concentrate on the successes of the 2007 elections and work on strengthening the democratic process.

Since Professor Iwu was not at the event he could not have been booed.

Debunking the assertions

The assertions are interesting and quite informative because, whilst the elections happened under different circumstances, it did not mean that the clearly expressed will of the people should be subsumed in annulment or incompetence such that the fairness of the 2007 elections remains questionable.

The elections of 2007 could well have plunged the country into chaos, but the death of 300-plus citizens during those elections was 300-plus lives too many.

The comparison should and must be made to determine if Nigeria has really progressed or not and the verdict in terms of the electoral process seems to tick the negative boxes.

It can only be a delusion for INEC to continue to contend that they conducted very successful elections in April 2007, but maybe we are missing a point that I would elaborate on later on.

Then a man does not have to be present at an event to acknowledge anytime he is booed, a name mentioned carries just as much weight as the presence of the person, if that person is well known and has a reputation the booing audience fully acknowledge – there is no journalistic slight in reporting that a person has been booed or praised, regardless of if that person is present or not.

Transition was the only goal

It would appear that the goals of success INEC defined for itself were not for the conduct of free and fair elections; that was not their purpose at all – from the statements, they were doing the impossible – that impossible act was the transition from one civilian regime to another.

Nobody mentions that it was the same ruling party that had literally politicised the commission such that it took the courts to restrain the commission from blatant unconstitutional infringements.

It would have been a greater achievement if the transition was from a ruling party to the opposition but the numbers did not look that way in the end.

However, if the standard of success was only predicated on a successful transition to a hand-picked invalid who seems to be grappling with the levers of power without successfully moving the vehicle more than an inch – well, it would have been utterly na├»ve of us to expect the elections to be free, fair and absent of irregularities.

The judgement of June the Twelfth

Professor Iwu should by now have developed thick enough skin not to be ruffled by any comments about him, but June the Twelfth brings his stewardship into stark relief as a sycophantic neophyte, oblivious of ethical demands of his brief and in denial about his rank incompetence.

This was exemplified in still having electioneering documents in South Africa 24 hours before a major election – that he still holds office beggars belief, but the woes of the challenge of the President’s election have to pass, then the buffoon can be kicked out and pensioned off in ignominy.

Professor Iwu, when dragged into the court of June the Twelfth is found wanting and judged a failure but it is a more foolish man who kicks against the goads.

As for INEC, maybe sometime in the future, free and fair can enter their vocabulary, but now, transition trumps a decent electoral process – the result of which can be seen the turmoil of Kenya and now Zimbabwe – it is a real shame, indeed, it is.

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