Fellow Nigerians, the elections have come and gone, and contrary to what detractors of this great administration would have Nigerians believe, they were a resounding success. The meticulous planning and attention to detail of Prof. Maurice Iwu came to the fore as the venerable Professor oversaw an election that raised the bar for future INEC chairmen very high indeed.
Fellow Nigerians, it is an open secret that from the onset, the commission was plagued with logistics and human resources problems. These problems were met head-on by Prof. Iwu, who displayed all the savvy of a general on the battlefield. The professional government critics among us, instead of proffering solutions, or at least joining hands with INEC to ensure that the elections were successful, chose to go about town proclaiming that INEC was being positioned to deliver a tailor-made result to the ruling PDP. These people have now been put to shame.
Fellow Nigerians, it is no secret that this year's elections were fraught with problems, and indeed, an election in Nigeria would be incomplete without the usual cases of thuggery, attempted ballot box snatching, etc., but what made this year's elections stand out was that Prof. Iwu foresaw and made provisions for handling such recalcitrant individuals. Those who attempted to snatch the peoples' mandate were duly given a taste of the long arm of the law at its very fiercest. As a result, the area boys learned quickly that this was one election where the rule of law would reign supreme.
Fellow Nigerians, INEC sought to prevent a known crook in Vice-President (how it galls me to call him that) Atiku Abubakar from contesting and tarnishing our great electoral process with his presence. The Supreme Court ruled that INEC had no such power to restrain Atiku, and INEC immediately complied with the judgement by making sure that all ballot papers to be used in the Presidential Elections carried Atiku's picture, and the logo of his party. INEC had indeed often stated its readiness to comply with court judgements. As for the Supreme Court ruling, all I can say is that the situation is similar to a police officer arresting a thief red-handed only to be told to release him because he had no power to arrest such a crook. Indeed, the decision of the Court was better in the end for Atiku and his “teeming” supporters, as he was allowed to contest a free and fair election, and was resoundingly trashed at the polls. Nigerians voted, and they said in a loud voice that they did not want Atiku to rule this nation. That the man has been crying foul ever since the results were announced only shows the fundamental flaws in his character. A real man, a man of integrity and honour, such as Atiku has claimed to be, must be one who knows how to lose with dignity.
Fellow Nigerians, the situation in Imo state was also particularly interesting for INEC. The PDP substituted the name of its gubernatorial candidate in Ifeanyi Ararume with that of a person deemed by the party to be better suited for the job. Ararume went to court, and secured a judgement declaring him to be the rightful candidate for the elections. INEC immediately demonstrated its willingness to comply with the judgement, but alas, the PDP decided to expel Ararume, and withdraw from the race. Unforeseeable logistics and human problems however, forced INEC to cancel the elections in Imo state and reschedule them for the 28th of April. Of course, the naysayers are out in force, declaring that the postponement is merely a ploy by the PDP to buy some time to produce a candidate for the elections. This is preposterous in the extreme.
Fellow Nigerians, everywhere people lost in these elections, they have cried foul. This attitude cuts across party lines, and is truly saddening. Why is it that some Nigerian politicians have refused to learn how to take defeat with grace and dignity? I know it hurts to lose, but the endless posturing and shouting is shameful.
Fellow Nigerians, the international observers were greatly impressed with what they saw of the elections and praised Prof. Iwu for his courage, administrative skill, leadership, and organisational ability. To a man they proclaimed these elections as a watershed in the history of electioneering in Africa, and urged other nations to take a page from our book. High praise indeed, especially coming from the same quarters that were so critical of the 2003 elections. Prof. Iwu can bow out with his head held high for he has laid down a foundation to be built upon in future.
Fellow Nigerians, we must now prepare to move forward – we have a President-elect in Umaru Yar'adua, a man of quiet strength, moral integrity and financial probity, who is ready to build on the great work of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, and take our great nation to the next level. This is not the time for petty recriminations and blame trading. If we look to the so-called “advanced nations” of the world, we will see that the elections process was not invented perfect. There were flaws, which were worked out over time, and gradually minimised, but not eradicated. The election of President Bush in 2000 showed that even America, the most advanced democracy in the world, still had problems with it's election process.
Fellow Nigerians, I strongly urge that we all join hands to help in moving our nation forward.
Long live the Federal Republic Of Nigeria, and God bless you all.
And, by the way, if you actually believe the general thrust of this article, you need help.