Maurice Iwu and the games Igbos play with their most famous sons
By: Dr. Yakubu Tsav
Before Nigeria gained freedom from the British, the Igbos of Nigeria were known to be the most dominant and united tribe in comparism to the Yoruba and Hausa/Fulani. The Igbos were so united that the party they led, the NCNC, was deemed to be the only one with some national spread. It came to pass that when the British left, the Igbos were still the most united and prepared group to dominate national affairs in Nigeria. Their unity of purpose helped them a great deal in controlling the pre-1967 Nigerian armed forces, national commerce, and even the federal civil service. I don’t believe that it is the same great Igbo, one of whom I am happily married to, that have lately turned upon one another in an ending frenzy of political self-cannibalism. They did it to Zik (NPN sell-out); did it to Ojukwu (by getting one Onwudiwe to ‘defeat’ him); they betrayed Ekwueme in Jos; produced too many Senate Presidents; and now they have turned their self-destructive gunsights to Professor Maurice Iwu, a man who much of Nigeria sees as Igbos’ most powerful son of the moment, like or not.
It is troubling that the Igbo bask in scattering into smaller groups that quarreled amongst themselves while other Nigerians are pulling together. They forget that the Yorubas faired better because they always stuck to Awolowo and the Hausa/Fulani stuck to Sardauna, even in death. Instead of banding behind Ojukwu when he returned, the Igbo conspired to procure one unknown Onwudiwe to ‘defeat’ the charismatic Ikemba in the Nnewi senatorial election. Since then, Nigerians have never heard of that Onwudiwe again, not to talk of while he was in the Senate. A disunited Igbo forgot that they would have gained a lot more if they had united to send Ojukwu to the senate at a time when other Nigerians either respected or feared him. It therefore goes without saying that the Yorubas would have never imagined rubbishing Awolowo in any contest that held national implications and the Hausa/Fulani would have done likewise for the still-revered Sardauna.
This whole sad drama knows no bounds, as it is now being extended to Professor Maurice Iwu, Igbo’s highest political office holder in Nigeria. If you doubt the vast reach of Professor Iwu’s power and influence, remember that he continues to retain a privileged access to the President and commander-in-chief. His access to the highest levers of federal power is guaranteed by his constitutional position as head of INEC. That means that he gets to see the President anytime he wishes. And under the constitution and the Electoral Act, the office Iwu occupies is imbued with a lot of authority. This is besides the intimidating international stature and access to the highest levels of power in the United States Iwu had attained before he accepted to serve in INEC.
Recall also that Professor Iwu was appointed by Obasanjo and being that Obasanjo was our last President, Iwu can still indirectly wield lots of power and influence through him. I don’t believe the self-delusional hype that Obasanjo is suddenly no longer in reckoning in political decisions of the present day when a vast number of powerful federal officials owe their emergence to his political patronage. Except for overthrown, deceased or impeached ex-presidents, a nation’s politics continues to be influenced awhile by its ex-president, especially one like OBJ whose political machine produced much of Nigeria’s current leaders, top to down. So, whether you like or not, Obasanjo is still a force to be reckoned with, and through him, Professor Iwu can, whenever he chooses, flex lots of political muscles of a national scale.
Other ways Professor Iwu can exert his influence and power is to turn to members of the National Assembly, all of whom owe their tenure to the transition Iwu midwifed (or eked out) in 2007. Same is true of the Governors and members of the Houses of Assembly in all the states of the federation. If you think about it, you will agree that this explains why those who sought removal of Iwu relented because they got feelers from the Senate that it would have been impossible to muster the majority the constitution required for removing the Professor.
It is as if the Igbo don’t know what other Nigerians have since known and that is: Professor Iwu is their supremo of the moment, possessing plenty of goodwill and national stature the Igbos can deploy to some political advantage. It therefore beats me why Igbos have chosen to continue to be blind to Iwu’s high potentials in favor of this bewildering pre-occupation with Iwu-rubbishing. You can see this from the so many anti-Iwu media reports sponsored by the Igbos themselves, especially some Igbos of Imo State where Iwu hails from. They seem not to have read the handwriting in the wall that Professor Iwu alone can muster the most power and leverage to reach across Nigeria to ensure that the additional state they crave so much will be created.
Take the constituency delineation exercise for instance. Last month, some group (from Ideato in Imo State) said to be comprised of mostly retirees, awaiting for their pension in the village and with no clue of current trends in national affairs were procured by a bitter, a non-Ideato ex-governor to sponsor anti-Iwu articles and paid advertorials. Their write-up was devoid of any concrete facts to support their position but was instead laden with rambling personal attacks on the person and office of Maurice Iwu. Many Nigerians I spoke with didn’t see any justification for blaming Iwu for a delineation plan that was long endorsed by Ideato’s elected representative in the federal house and its two members in the state house of assembly, besides other civic groups from Ideato which have since published their own more credible reasons in support of the new delineation plan.
Under the constitution, INEC (which Iwu heads) is empowered to carry out this exercise after every ten years. Professor Iwu is doing it almost two years late because, as I gathered, he did not want to overheat the polity so close to before or after the 2007 elections. The delineation exercise is a serious national affair that is not limited to the said Ideato constituency or even Imo state alone. But any uninformed observer reading the newspapers recently will believe erroneously that Professor Iwu singled out Imo State alone and its Ideato for delineation. So, it is puzzling that a small portion of Imo State is getting personal with Iwu on a matter upon which he has the constitutional duty to act and over which other sections of Nigeria have accepted his authority.
The technical committee Iwu set up on delineation made recommendations that affected the entire federation in terms of which federal constituency gains or loses LGAs. This comports with the constitutional requirement that federal constituencies be as equal as possible in population and number of LGAs. The rest of Nigeria similarly affected has since come to terms with this. Why is Imo State alone roiling and hauling unnecessary insults on Professor Iwu? Why is Ohaneze silent when Igbo’s most famous son of the moment is being harangued by all sorts of unknowns? Why the Imo Governor, a product of Iwu’s courageous umpiring of the Imo elections, is silent while his citizens are unleashing vituperations on Imo’s most highly placed federal official? Why is the Imo House of Assembly too cowed to pass a simple resolution to condemn this perfidy? Why are Igbos continuing to embarrass themselves in front of their fellow Nigerian compatriots? Why?
Dr. Tsav is a public affairs analyst yts