Atiku, Ojukwu, Iwu, and the culture of expediency

by Okey Ndibe

The time has never been riper for the emergence of a formidable opposition force to dislodge the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) from power. Yet, there are disturbing signs, once again, that Nigeria’s opposition parties are looking for every means or opportunity to surrender to the PDP – or to sell their prospects for a mess of porridge.

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is, from several accounts, on the cusp of returning to the PDP. That would not be so bad, for Atiku’s natural habitat is within the moral jungle of the PDP.

Atiku was part of an initiative to form a so-called “mega party.” With his looming exit, that bad idea appears decidedly stillborn. For one, the potential constituents of the opposition behemoth never seemed able to offer a comprehensive critique of the PDP. Nor did they seek to define their vision, or to tell Nigerians where they intend to take the country if given power, and how.

There’s also the fact that many of the ambivalent founders of the “mega party” were once, like Atiku, in the sanctuary of the PDP. Like him, many of them still belong, in mind and spirit, to the PDP.

Atiku represents the kind of unprincipled, me-first-and-last politics that has kept Nigeria in the doldrums. Last Sunday, Thisday quoted one of Atiku’s lieutenants as saying that “even with the mega party being formed, even if the electoral reforms is concluded on time before the next elections, it will be difficult to oust PDP from power. That is a fact. I say this with all sense of responsibility, because with their rigging machines all out, with people like Iwu still in office, and with all the money they have, I think we will have a battle on our hands.”

So what does Atiku do? Jump ship – and enlist with those determined to employ their rigging machines to sabotage Nigeria’s democracy. Perhaps, Atiku is at home precisely in that company.

The original impulse to form a mega opposition party represented a fundamental misconception. The PDP was deemed a party – to adapt a Nigerian saying – of “no shaking.” Consequently, the party’s opponents concluded that they must create an equally gargantuan force in order to have a shot at wresting power.

To be true, the PDP is a giant, but one whose feet are made of clay. There’s no denying that the PDP’s roster boasts the largest collection of the kind of men and women known in Nigeria as “stakeholders” or venerated as “prominent Nigerians,” but who, in reality, are criminal raiders of the public treasury.

The PDP may be the most bloated “sumo” party in the country, but it’s far from strong in real terms. Its chairman, Vincent Ogbulafor, has served notice that the party plans to rule (translate that word as “ruin”) Nigeria for sixty years. It’s the party’s plan, and one not shared by Nigerians. In order to realize the plan, the party must thwart the democratic will of the Nigerian people through a logistics called electoral fraud.

Since 1999, the PDP has established itself as a master rigger. It goes without saying – but we’ll say it – that a party in power resorts to rigging principally because it recognizes that there’s no clean way to win.

My point, then, is that it does not require a mega party to rout the PDP in an election. No, it takes two things. One is a party with disciplined organization, a commitment to a set of laudable socio-economic goals, and the focused ability to communicate its message to the Nigerian people. The other is a culture of credible elections, a transparent polling system that, above all, demonstrates that the wishes of the electorate are paramount.

Elections are as credible as the system that produces them, and the men and women who run that system.

The wishy-washy effort to form a mega party rests on diseased reasoning. It’s sad to see those who want to unseat the PDP waste their energy trying to acquire the ruling party’s pathologies. What they should do – assuming that they’re up to it – is to push the case for sound electoral reform and the appointment of men and women of unimpeachable moral mettle to oversee the country’s elections. Once these are in place, the opposition should then offer Nigerians a clear-eyed dissection of how the PDP has mortgaged, and still pawns off, Nigeria’s best interests.

Last week, elements of Nigeria’s opposition parties appeared to use every opportunity to display their poor judgment or myopia.

A headline in last Sunday’s edition of Thisday told a disappointing story: “Ojukwu Roots for Iwu’s Reappointment”. The report, filed by Christopher Isiguzo, stated that Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the leader of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), “gave his support for the reappointment of the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Prof Maurice Iwu for another term in office.”

Ojukwu’s endorsement, according to the paper, “was based on the transparent manner the Anambra election was conducted.” On account of that election, which Ojukwu reportedly categorized as “the best so far in the country,” he saw “nothing wrong in allowing Iwu to continue in office provided he would not derail from the feat he achieved in Anambra.”

One’s immediate response was that Ojukwu should know better. He should know that, if the February 6 governorship election in Anambra represents the best Iwu has to offer, then Nigerians are in deep trouble.

What’s there to celebrate in an election where most of the voters couldn’t find their names on the voters register? Or where ballot material and electoral officials did not show up at many polling centers until several hours past the due time?

While many people in Anambra and outside are satisfied with the announcement of Governor Peter Obi as winner of the election, that fact is far from a good criterion for measuring Iwu’s performance. All told, Iwu and his electoral commission gave a terrible account of themselves. In a serious nation, the moment Iwu pledges, henceforth, to patent his Anambra performance, he would be fired on the spot. Unfortunately, Ojukwu was too happy with the outcome of the Anambra election to recognize Iwu’s woeful performance.

Let’s be clear: the removal of Iwu from his INEC perch will not guarantee credible future elections. We also need an improved electoral system, vigilance on the part of the citizenry, and a judiciary courageous enough to reverse glaring cases of electoral theft. But Iwu’s retention at his post would be a grave mistake. With his record of overseeing and then defending fraudulent elections, the man has come to personify the miscarriage that was the 2007 elections. In fact, he has inspired the term iwuruwuru in our political lexicon.

Iwu is, as far as elections are concerned, bad news. If he stays at INEC, it would be a clear signal to the world and to Nigerian voters that rigging has been recertified as the central element of our forthcoming elections.

It is obscene enough that Iwu is still entrenched in the seat he’s degraded by his incompetence and shamelessness. It’s an affront on Nigeria’s democratic aspirations that Iwu is going around, like a politician, to recruit big-name endorsers like Ojukwu just as his cronies orchestrate “pro-Iwu” rallies.

Goodluck Jonathan should fire Iwu – the sooner, the better.

You may also like

Leave a Comment