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June 12: Celebrating Prof. Humphrey Nwosu

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What’s your memory of June 12?

 

Mine is that it took me to Dutse, Jigawa State, for the first time in my life. And because there were no good hotels in the city, I had to lodge in Kano and went from there to Dutse, the capital,  to cover the election. I was also visiting Kano for the first time in my life.

 

I was reporting for the then high-flying Champion Newspapers Limited. I was sent to Jigawa State to cover the presidential election as we had no reporter there.

 

I was allowed access to a meeting at the Government House, Kano, where the decision to back Chief MKO Abiola, instead of Alhaji Bashir Tofa, who hailed from Kano, was taken.

 

I recall Alhaji Salisu Mohammed, then of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), who facilitated my entry into Kano State Government House.

 

It was one election Nigerians voted freely to send the military guys back to the barracks.

 

Nigerians didn’t mind the fact that the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP), on which platform the late Abiola ran, had a Muslim-Muslim ticket and that National Republican Convention (NRC) didn’t; it had Hausa/Fulani – Igbo ticket (Muslim-Christain ticket).

 

Both MKO  and Ambassador Babagana Kingibe,  his deputy, were Muslims. And Alhaji Bashir Tofa (Kanuri/ Muslim) had Dr. Sylvester Ugoh (Igbo Christian) as his running mate.

 

Anyway, Nigerians, including Ndigbo, voted freely and fairly. But that opportunity to change things was denied us through the subsequent annulment.

 

The rest is history.

 

My memory also takes me back to a man called Prof. Humphrey Nwosu, the unsung hero of Option A4, which was used for that election and which  was adjudged hugely successful.

 

Many people don’t give him credit for what he did. Many still don’t till today.

 

Under him, the electoral commission was an impartial referee. And Nigerians had hope.

 

The hope has since been dashed with the subsequent malpravtives that trailed the elections conducted by that body

 

On this day, June 12, 2024, I celebrate Prof. Nwosu.

 

I first met him in the late 80s when, as a student on industrial attachment, I was sent to the Government House, Enugu, to cover the Government House beat.

 

Late Air Commodore Sampson Emeka Omeruah was the military governor of the old Anambra State. He appointed Prof. Nwosu commissioner for local government and chieftancy matters. And boy, the professor was an outstanding commissioner.

 

Together with Prof. Mrs. Grace Obayi , nee Nwodo, (education); Prof. ABC Nwosu (health); etc,  Anambra had competent and performing commissioners. And we were hopeful despite the dichotomy that was ravaging the state then.

 

I was, therefore, not surprised at the exploits of Prof. Nwosu  (born October 2, 1941) as chairman of the National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (NECON) appointed by President Ibrahim Babangida.

 

Prof. Nwosu held office from 1989 to 1993.

 

The body has since been called National Electoral Commission (NEC). That body has also answered many other names, including the current Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), a name that typically is tongue-in-cheek, as the body is not independent in all material particular.

 

For those who were not born then – and I doubt if any is here –

Prof. Nwosu “conducted the 12 June 1993 election, which was seen as the freest and fairest election to date, in which Chief Moshood Abiola was presumed to have won.

 

Nwosu’s commission introduced the novel Option A4 voting system and the open ballot system.

 

Nwosu had released many of the election results when he was ordered by the Babangida regime

to stop further announcement.

 

In 2008, he published a book in which he claimed that Babangida was not to blame for annulling the election. The book was severely criticized for “failing to accurately account for what happened.”

 

So, this year, and as we mark another June 12, 2021, renamed Democracy Day by president Muhammadu Buhari, I celebrate all the men and women who put their lives on the line in defence of democracy.

 

One of them is Prof. Humphrey Nwosu.

 

I celebrate him. I will always do.

 

For a better society

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