Date Published: 10/14/09
HOW DANGEROUS IS MAURICE IWU? By Emmanuel Onwubiko
In my capacity as the executive chairman of the Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria, I headed a six-member team of researchers to visit Anambra state to undertake a detailed opinion poll on the forthcoming Governorship election scheduled for February 2010. We spent one week and indeed visited different strategic urban areas like Onitsha, Awka, Nnewi and Ihiala to find out from the real voters what they feel about the scheduled election.
Our team of investigators went to Anambra in pursuance with our mandate to ascertain fear of the threat of violence expressed in several quarters if the election turns out not to be free, fair, transparent and hitch-free.
Among other salient questions we put across to our interviewees/respondents was whether they believe that the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Professor Maurice Iwu will exercise the virtues of impartiality, transparency and fairness in the conduct of the Governorship election in Anambra come 2010. Another issue we sought to find out from the people on the streets of major towns of Anambra state was the popularity of some of the parties seeking to occupy the Government house in Awka, Anambra state.
From our findings, the majority of the people believe that the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) may not be independent, impartial and transparent in the conduct of the Anambra Governorship election come February 2010.
A majority of our respondents pointed to the deep partisan involvement of Maurice Iwu in the factional infighting in the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) even as they told us pointblank that for Maurice Iwu and his alleged paymasters, the fear of Governor Peter Obi is the beginning of political wisdom.
Most of our respondents told us that one dangerous factor that may scuttle the smooth conduct of the Governorship poll is the insistence of the Maurice Iwu-led Independent National Electoral Commission that it will not recognize the candidate produced by the Chief Victor Umeh-led faction even when they believe that the court judgment from the Abuja High Court recognized the Victor Umeh-led faction as authentic. Most respondents told our researchers that if Peter Obi is not put on the ballot papers, the credibility of the entire exercise is eroded and that any result produced from such a process would be nullified on the long run by the judiciary.
Secondly, on the popularity of political parties, majority of respondents say that peoples progressive Alliance (PPA) of Chief Orji Uzor Kalu is very dear to their hearts even as they told us that the Peoples Progressive Alliance is one of the few parties that can boast of practical presence and credible membership and followership in Anambra state. The next party according to their view is the All Progressive Grand Alliance, and most respondents told us that the endorsement of the Peter Obi administration by the living legend Chief Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu is partly accountable for the reason why they may vote for the All progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). About thirty five percent of our respondents said they will throw their weight behind Dr. Chris Ngige even though his political platform Action Congress does not have real physical presence in their state. These set of respondents said the performance of Ngige as Governor for three years is responsible for their resolve.
Returning to the all important question of how dangerous Professor Maurice Iwu is, it will interest keen observers to know that the majority of the judgments delivered as a result of litigations that followed the 2007 elections showed that but for the intervention of God the Independent National Electoral Commission headed by Professor Iwu nearly truncated or ruined Nigeria’s current democracy because of manifest lack of impartiality, transparency and fairness in the conduct of that exercise in April 2007.
Again to know how dangerous Maurice Iwu is, one just need to look at how transparently partisan he has remained in the leadership squabble that has consistently afflicted the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) so much so that most analysts concluded that the other name for the Chekwas Okorie’s faction is the Maurice Iwu’s faction of APGA..
After spending millions of tax payers’ money castigating Victor Umeh, one of the principal figures in the leadership infighting in the All Progressives Grand Alliance, Maurice Iwu waited till the last hour of closing of collection of nomination forms for the Anambra state Governorship to order the Chief Chekwas Okorie- led faction to hand over the forms which Iwu had earlier passed on to Chief Okorie to be forwarded to Chief Ojukwu and thus validating the candidacy of Peter Obi in the forthcoming poll. These twists and turns being played out by Iwu clearly shows how politically dangerous he is and this is a grave question mark on his impartiality during the forthcoming governorship poll.
Maurice Iwu and his media team cleverly stated in one of their several Newspaper advertorials that the court judgment which validated the expulsion of chief Okorie did not pronounce chief Umeh the chairman. This explanation stood logic on its head because if Maurice Iwu’s Spin doctors had argued that they respect the rule of law, how on earth will they explain that Iwu openly sided with the same person that it acknowledged was validly expelled by the competent court of law?
The electoral body had two weeks ago transmitted the party’s nomination form and APGA particulars for the Anambra election to Okorie.
But in a move, which, Okorie said, was initiated to end the crisis in APGA, the electoral commission asked him to relinquish “Forms CF001, CF002 and all other forms, including Nomination, Withdrawal of Candidate form, substitution of candidate form or any other form relevant to the conduct of the 2010 conduct governorship election in Anambra state” to Ojukwu.
This order followed a letter written to the INEC Chairman, Prof. Maurice Iwu by Ojukwu, asking that all particulars of APGA for the Anambra State election should be released to him. Peter Obi was finally accepted as APGA’s candidate.
In a letter addressed to Okorie by the Director, Political Parties Monitoring and Liaison, and signed by Regina Omo-Agege, the electoral commission said after due consideration, it was acceding to Ojukwu’s request.
Even with this rapprochement, questions will still linger in the minds of voters in Anambra whether the nation’s chief electoral officer will play by the rule because he is known as the most unpredictable political maverick that Nigeria has ever produced. Only time shall tell.
- Onwubiko heads Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria.