Today….You will be with me in Paradise – Professor Maurice Iwu

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For many critics, the thief crucified with Jesus Christ deserved not the pardon he got. Though his crimes were not made known by the Holy Book, they believed that he should not live. And he did not live. The authorities crucified him. But one dramatic event took place shortly before he gave up the ghost. As a professional criminal, he also stole the kingdom and extracted the promise of being there from Jesus Christ. What he did was simple but incredible. He just rebuked his accomplice who mocked Jesus with the rabble. What an easy way to get to heaven.

The argument whether Jesus ascended into heaven that same day and thus fulfilling his promise of being in heaven that day with the thief as he promised was inconsequential. Also the rationalization that if Jesus had ascended into heaven that same day to be with the repentant thief, the number of days he was in the tomb was not up to three is inconsequential too. The question on his ascension after forty days of his resurrection if he ascended earlier to be with the repentant thief is not less stupid. The whole Scripture is about faith. You believe it or you don’t.  The important thing is that our Lord Jesus Christ promised the repentant thief his kingdom and he got it. Like the repentant thief, another man might have stolen the kingdom in our own time.

Professor Maurice Iwu came to limelight in 2007 following his appointment as the chairman of the Independent national Electoral Commission (INEC). He conducted the greatly flawed April 2007 polls; the worst in the history of Nigeria. The so-called election was marred with many irregularities and there was unjust disqualification of many candidates to favour the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The whole country, except the PDP cried foul and the peace and unity of the nation shook. Iwu, the man in the eye of the storm did not shake. The PDP did not shake too.

NIgeria INEC Chairman Professor Maurice Iwu

Most painfully, instead of the professor of pharmacology – turned – electoral umpire bathing an eyelid, he went on boasting that he conducted the best election in the world. Many people saw his effrontery as the case of a man who not only murdered the breadwinner of a family, but stood on his grave to taunt him and voiced out his intention to marry the deceased’s wife. Since then, Iwu had been made a mince meat of both orally and in writing. Many people allotted the hottest part of hell to him. In spite of all this hatred and public outcry against Iwu, the Yar’Adua administration did not sack him. Why? Apart from conducting the election that produced him as president, Iwu has his tenure to complete. Within this tenure, the 2010 Anambra Gubernatorial Election would be conducted. Everybody had his heart in his mouth because of the precedence of the electoral umpire.

It reached a point when Iwu had to combine his work with some legislative, executive and judicial functions. He selected the court judgments to obey and those to ignore and went on to manufacture rules to back himself. The apogee of this deplorable situation was the leadership tussle in APGA between Chief Victor Umeh and Chief Chekwas Okorie. The court ruled that Umeh remains the chairman of the party but Iwu preferred Okorie and stuck to him. During the preparation for the election, Iwu’s body tilted towards the Okorie faction and it was obvious he wanted to do some dirty job which would have submerged the state. The hell was let loose and again Iwu made the whole state to cry. Those who saw that Iwu was up to some mischief organized rallies in far away Abuja, demanding his sack. I joined my voice in asking for his sack. This gave birth to a write-up, IWU MUST GO. I gave every reason why the Okigwe-born pharmacologist should be sacked from office. Like a shock absorber, Iwu assimilated all these and went on to prepare for the election. The PDP rejoiced. APGA, the party obviously to be maltreated spoiled for a fight, dusting documents for the tribunal.

No one knew what. No one knew how. But something happened! Iwu began to assure of a credible poll in Anambra as a test case for the 2011 polls for the whole country. Many were of the view that that was not different from what he said in 2007. As it was obvious that Iwu will retire in June this year, many believed that he would do something significant in the election. Some believed that Iwu might decide to amend his life before his retirement, after all, retirement means moving closer to one’s grave, especially in Nigeria. Others believed that he would hand over victory to Emmanuel Nnamdi Uba (Andy) in appreciation for aiding his appointment as the INEC chairman. Some others said he would give the victory to Soludo in appreciation to the PDP. But it was said that Iwu himself told the INEC officials that he wanted to retire in peace and be at peace with his God. It was also said that he sternly warned his workers that any person who did not count what he or she saw during the poll would be ready to go in for it. Again, many scoffed at Iwu and his utterances. But it happened.

During the February 6, 2010 election, many thought it would be business as usual. It is true that the voters’ registers were grossly marred. But there was heavy presence of security agents deployed to take care of the anticipated security breach. It was said that there were many unofficial voting centres in some private homes in which thumb-printing had been completed the previous night and stuffed into the ballot boxes, ready to be smuggled into the collation centres. In Nnewi and Dunukofia areas, two prominent business moguls loyal to the PDP were said to have vowed that they must deliver their areas to their party and had perfected the plans to accomplish that. What they saw became too much for them and they were scared by the presence of the new no-nonsense security agents. It was even said that when the intelligence report of the activities in one of the chieftains’ houses got to the police, they detailed their men to guard the surroundings of his compound. He was helpless and thus the materials could not leave his house.

One other thing that Iwu did was the introduction of the system of calling the results at the different polling booths and collating centres and giving the different party agents the results before taking them to the INEC headquarters in Awka. This foreclosed all chances of tampering with the results on transit as it would surely be disputed if there was any misconduct. Then, in the INEC headquarters, the results were transmitted live as they came in by the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), till about 8 am when the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Barrister Josiah Uwazuronye declared Obi the winner. Iwu later gave him the certificate of return. For the first time, the INEC under Iwu had the intention of doing a good job and went on to do it and is ready to defend it. That is what integrity is all about.

Recently, there were pro – Iwu and anti – Iwu rallies at the National Assembly Complex at Abuja. Those who are against Iwu were calling for his sack whereas those for Iwu were calling for his tenure elongation. I watched the theatrical comic scenario especially that of the pro – Iwu group which, from all indications, was sponsored. There is no need for such play. One thing we must learn in Nigeria is to appreciate people when they do well and condemn them when they do evil. We should neither praise people when they do evil nor condemn them when they do well. I personally feel that Maurice Iwu is one man that has stolen his way into heaven by a simple act of repentance. Iwu has asked for the forgiveness of his past sins with the peaceful conduct of the Anambra Gubernatorial election which is adjudged the best in the country by both local and international observers. But this does not translate to the fact that his tenure will be extended. We have seen both his worst and best. He can now retire in peace as he has got one good story to tell his grand – children as the INEC chairman. The world has seen that something good can come out of Iwu and his story is not different from that of the repentant thief. No time is late for repentance. Other Nigerians can learn from the Iwu experience and sin no more.  

*Rev. Fr. Clement Muozoba writes from Awka, Anambra State.

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