Indications have emerged that some powerful politicians have started lobbying President Umaru Yar’Adua to replace the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Maurice Iwu.
Sources told Saturday Tribune that the lobbyists have narrowed their choice of his replacement to a female judge (name withheld) from the North.
The name of the judge, said to be from the North-East zone, has also been mentioned to Yar’Adua. But Yar’Adua is reportedly not keen on acceding to the request for several reasons. The first is that he is not empowered by the constitution to remove the boss of the electoral commission. Only the National Assembly is empowered to.
Yar’Adua is only empowered to make recommendations to the National Assembly on the choice of the electoral commission’s boss.
Yar’Adua is also said to be concerned about the fact that even if there should be a lobby for the replacement of Iwu, it should not be at a time when elections had just been concluded and there are petitions and by-elections to be attended to by the electoral commission.
Sources equally said he was opposed to the idea because he believed that Iwu did his best in the prevailing situation that preceded the conduct of the 2007 general election. The President reportedly praised Iwu for being able to withstand the pressure to hold the elections despite all the odds.
Yar’Adua also reportedly told those toying with the idea of appointing a Northerner as the electoral commission’s boss that the commission had, though not enshrined in the constitution, been reserved for the minority.
Also, Iwu’s tenure will only expire by 2010, since he was appointed for a five-year period that started in 2005. Iwu confirmed this development on December 18, 2007 in Washington D.C., the capital of the United States of America, when he addressed Nigerians and the world press on the 2007 elections.
Prof. Mobolaji Aluko of the Howard University first raised the issue during a question and answer session that followed the briefing by Iwu. Aluko had jokingly said that since Iwu was not the first male, first professor or first Southerner to be INEC Chairman, it could be good if the country would try a female Northern judge to head the commission.
Iwu said that Aluko’s statement was part of an agenda of blackmail against him. He said he was aware that there was a particular woman that was being positioned to replace him. Though he did not elaborate on the issue, sources said that the female judge, of the Federal High Court, is from the North-East.