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MAURICE IWU: A JUGGERNAUT AT 60

By Andy Ike Ezeani
 Published April 23rd, 2010

 

The temptation to contend that the best part of Professor Maurice Iwu’s life so far has not been as Chief Electoral Officer of Nigeria can be understood. But don’t bet on that. It is true that striving to create order out of chaos, otherwise known as administering Nigeria’s political process cannot be any sane person’s idea of fun, the same way keeping the keys and jamming the gates on prisoners cannot be any man’s joy, not for too long. But these are jobs that have to be done in the interest of social order and meaningful human development.

Appreciating the essence of such assignments and imbuing them with interpretations more profound and useful for the society than the mundane often speak of the caliber of each person to whom any such job is entrusted at any point in time.

Depending on profundity of interpretation and the passion invested on any such task, especially within the scheme of social development, an assignment around which ordinarily is wrapped frustration can be redefined into a social goal of noble dimension, becoming at such instance, a veritable source of personal challenge as well as a fulfilling service to the society.

For Maurice Maduakolam Iwu, born on April 21, 1950 and honed in the world of academia and controlled research laboratories, transfer to the uncontrolled conservatory of partisan politics some time in 2003 was bound to present new challenges, not like what he used to deal with. From being appointed a National Commissioner at the Independent National Electoral Commission after the 2003 general elections, the man who had made a name internationally in the area of pharmaceutical research soon found himself appointed to the headship of the electoral management body. For the research scientist, an opportunity had come to try to manage and moderate tendencies and conduct of participants in the uncontrolled arena of partisan politics which he had watched disapprovingly from afar.

Prof.Iwu came into the job of Chief Electoral Officer of the country with great zeal and contagious passion. If, however, he had an inkling of the tortuous nature of the terrain and the character of the persons he had come to tangle with, he must have underestimated their talent for mischief and the matching capacity for ensuring that nothing is done which ought to be done.

Engaged perennially in plots, either against themselves or the system, the rambunctious tribe of politicians Iwu set out to get into an orderly line soon showed him that they were more unmanageable than any mixture of substance he must have contended with in science laboratories. He swore to rein in the politicians and change the old method in doing things and wining in political contests. They swore in turn that nothing would change. The examples are there.

He wanted the electronic voting machine. They simply put it on perpetual hold at the legislature. He introduced electronic voters register with pictures and thumb print to check the old order of free for all multiple registration and ghost voters. They resorted to undermining the system and feeding voters registers with fake pictures and curious names, even if the registrants cannot vote. He introduced various reforms in the electoral process and progressively moves towards conducting free and fair elections as the various bye-elections and the governorship election in Anambra state showed. They turned round to launch a blistering campaign that electoral reform simply means nothing unless he gives way.So much capital was made for long of how an individual, Andy Uba facilitated his appointment as INEC Chairman and therefore as umpire the INEC Chairman will be biased., Yet when the same Dr.Uba ran and came fourth in the governorship election in Anambra state what does Prof.Iwu get? A protest by leaders of the Labour Union that Dr.Uba who they endorsed did not win. If Iwu thought he operated out of Washington for years, his impaccable foes are showing him that they can get Washington and London on their side against him as well.

It is most unlikely that Professor Maurice Iwu could have imagined himself evolving into the juggernaut that he has unwittingly been turned into in Nigeria’s contemporary politics. The contention by the motley coalition of forces promoted by politicians that Iwu has stopped at one point or the other, that Prof.Maurice Iwu is the kernel of electoral democracy in Nigeria today gives him a level of visibility and name recognition that is presently unmatched.

As he turns 60 today, resolute as always, Professor Maurice Iwu is not surprised at the storm around him. He says he knew what was coming; that because he touched the root of the old system of winning elections he knew that the beneficiaries of the old order will rise against him. But there are few points to note no less. If Iwu had conducted the 2003 elections in which virtually all the states of the South West region were won by the PDP against conventional calculation, a campaign would have been mounted for him to face the International Court at The Hague. But he did not conduct that election. The 2007 elections that he conducted are maligned more in broad terms than in statistical detail.

For the professor of Pharmacognosy from Umukabia in Imo State, what seems to matter most to him is that the old order does not return in Nigeria’s electoral process again. Whether he presides over it or not is secondary. Today as he turns 60, Professor Iwu’s wife, the passionately private and guiless Mrs. Kate Iwu, will, no doubt, vehemently disagree with the view, but her husband seems to have been made to do the job he is presently doing for the nation. It takes guts and conviction. And he has both

 

 

Article - Submitted by Aloy Ejimakor



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