The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Maurice Iwu, has advised those calling for him to resign to channel their energies somewhere else because he intends to serve out his term. Iwu made the comment at the National Press Club in Washington, DC where he presented the last April’s election report to the media.
“We had a job to do and we performed to the best of our abilities under a terrible condition. We were asked to conduct elections but in reality we were in a war zone. Yes, it was like war. People with different agendas tried to stop the election with the aim of throwing the country into chaos. Thank God they did not succeed.” He told The Times of Nigeria.
Iwu said, though “mistakes” were made, he maintained that politicians wanted his head at all cost because of their failure to disrupt the entire electoral process.
Speaking further, Iwu admitted that the elections were not perfect but “the results represented the intent and will of the voters.”
“How can you allow someone who has partisan interest; who lost election; who has all rights to be aggrieved from venting his anger? But the point is that the anger is misplaced. We should think in terms of their working hard to win elections next time and not trying to personalize issues.
“One thing is a fact. The fact is that the election was a triumphant movement on the part of Nigerians from one civilian elected government to another. That is something that nobody can remove from Nigeria.”
According to Iwu, Nigeria has made “tremendous stride” with the elections.
Iwu said “the bickering of a handful of people should not be allowed to affect negatively the fortunes of the masses. The Commission wants the bigger interest of Nigerians to prevail.”
“In terms of public opinion, we are trying to capture our people as many as possible in terms of their knowing what happened at the elections and then be able to form their own opinion that is why we have decided to bring this report to Nigerians in Diaspora.” He explained.
Explaining the difficulties his commission encountered during the elections, Iwu said, “”The last batch of materials arrived the country by 10 p.m Friday night and was distributed within 12 hours to the 774 local government areas and 8,800 wards. This was a huge challenge,” he declared.
He said some powerful politicians worked to get the polls postponed so that an interim national government would emerge. While others planned to cause trouble by seeking a court judgment to stop the announcement of results, adding that another group who benefited from military rule wanted to topple the government.
Iwu aimed his most stringent criticism at the European Union observers whom he said tried to interfere in Nigeria’s internal affairs instead of being observers. Iwu said the international observers ignored the rules. “They cannot do that in the Federal Republic of Nigeria,”
Iwu said he they were angered because he denied their offers of financial assistance. “The offer was increased to 20 and later 40 million euros but it was rejected. The animosity with EU began when INEC rejected their request to sit in the commission’s meetings and to have a copy of voters tabulated electronically,”
Iwu told The Times of Nigeria that he could not have influenced the results of the elections as the Electoral officers and resident commissioners were directly under him. He said the commissioners were appointed by the Federal Government and do not report to INEC’s chairman.
“My job as Chief Electoral Officer starts with preparing the election. I have no authority to tell resident electoral officers what to do. Did I tabulate the results tendered by resident officers? I am swearing by God Almighty that I did not. We did everything we said we will do according to the Constitution”
Nigeria’s acting ambassador to the United States, Ambassador Usman Baraya who gave the vote of thanks at the event, urged Nigerians in America to eschew bitterness and work together to make the country a great nation.