I sympathise with those who were appointed to the exalted position of heads of our electoral umpire. I have never envied them, nor the position they occupied. Before they were appointed to superintend over the electoral umpire, we all took them to be saints, clean and incorruptible, but before the end of their tenure, they all turned out to be dirty, thoroughly rubbished, so that nobody would like to come near them any more.
As far as we can remember, there was nobody who presided over the affairs of our electoral body that had come out very clean, and his integrity still intact. It is not that they deliberately sought to soil themselves while in office, only that the system, or rather, that Nigerians had soiled them.
In the First Republic, we had Mr. E. E. Esua as chairman of the electoral umpire. He conducted the 1964 election that was characterized by several irregularities that led to the resignation of three out of five members of the electoral body in protest, and the refusal by the President to appoint a new Prime Minister.
For three days, Nigeria was without a government as both the politicians and the electoral umpire traded blames at each other. This was part of what led to the collapse of the First Republic.
Mr. Michael Ani was the man at the helm of affairs of the electoral body (FEDECO), during the transition to civil rule in 1979. He stirred the hornet’s nest when he interpreted two thirds of nineteen states, to be twelve-two-thirds. He thus set both lawyers and mathematicians at work over the correct interpretation of two-thirds of nineteen states, which later ended at the Supreme Court.
Justice Victor Ovie-Whiskey who was accused of helping the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) with its “landslide” victory of 1983 with one million naira underhand business, was forced to swear that “if I see one million naira, I will faint”.
The appointment and removal of Professor Eme Awa as head of the electoral body by the Ibrahim Babangida administration was a mystery to many Nigerians, while Professor Humphrey Nwosu though, generally acknowledged with his Option A4 innovation, was later to pay dearly with the annulment of June 12, 1993 election.
Justice Ephraim Akpata was the man appointed to head INEC by General Abdulsalami Abubakar to midwife his transition to civil rule programme in 1999, and he did what the regime had programmed him to do, that is, to return General Olusegun Obasanjo as President. But both Dr. Alex Ekwueme who battled the PDP ticket with Obasanjo, and Chief Olu Falae, who contested the final election with him, would testify that the electoral umpire did not provide a level playing field for all the contestants.
Dr. Abel Guobadia as head of the electoral umpire that conducted the 2003 election thought himself to have done a good job when he returned Olusegun Obasanjo as President, but he was faulted by the likes of General Muhammadu Buhari who swore that he did a very bad job and challenged the exercise up to the Supreme Court.
Professor Maurice Iwu has gone down in history as head of an electoral umpire whose main beneficiary would later turn round to discredit the exercise that brought him to power. In discrediting the 2007 election conducted by Maurice Iwu, President Umaru Yar’Adua aligned with the general criticism that the exercise was flawed.
If there were some people who thought Professor Attahiru Jega as head of the electoral umpire to be a saint after conducting two elections, not so for those who killed innocent National Youth Service Corps members in Bauchi and other parts of Northern Nigeria in protest over the outcome of 2011 Presidential election, nor Goodswill Olubebe and many other people like him, who believed that Jega had seriously compromised the 2015 Presidential election.
Professor Mahmood Yakubu has entered the Guinness Book of Record with his 2.00 am coup, cancelling an election scheduled for that day. He caught everybody off balance, and held the entire country comatose. This was the highest coup ever staged by an electoral body, and everybody was furious.
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