Today, erudite Professor Maurice Mmaduakolam Iwu will celebrate his 69th birthday. For a man who has seen the good, bad and ugly side of life, this birthday is unique for a number of good reasons.
Iwu is a colossus that needs no introduction. But for those who may have developed a deliberate amnesia, let me offer a free service.
Iwu the President of Bioresources Development Group (BDG), an independent biosciences research and development organisation that cultivates, processes and produces medicines and cosmetics from natural products has done a lot for humanity . Currently a member of the Board of Directors of Neimeth International Pharmaceuticals Plc. Iwu has shown what is missing in many public servants . He is a Professor of Pharmacognosy.
He is a former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission/Chief Electoral Officer of Nigeria (2005 – 2010). Unknown to some who tar-brush and ignorantly rant about the outcome of the 2007 , Professor Iwu initiated far-reaching reforms in Nigeria’s electoral process. The institute that the commission has today was put together by him . In key universities like UNN , ABU he built electoral institute to help nurture minds on election.
Coming home to election conduct , he conducted the first successful election for the transition from one democratically elected government to another in Nigeria, introduced the electronic voter registration regime and pioneered the use of Permanent Voters’ Card (PVC), its authentication by Card Reader and the Electronic Transmission of Election Results through a dedicated close-loop communication system.
During his tenure as INEC Chairman, he engaged the use of NYSC personnel, civil servants and trade unions as ad-hoc staff during elections. He established The Electoral Institute for the professionalisation of the Election Management Staff and for formalised system of voters’ education.
Should I tantalise you more. Outside the confines of election , in 2014, the unthinkable happened in Nigeria. Ebola struck like a thief in the night. While the Federal and Lagos State Government tried to navigate, a saviour came- Professor Iwu.
He served as a member of the Treatment Research Group (TRG) on Ebola virus disease established by the Federal Ministry of Health. In 2014 -2015 during the Ebola crisis he reactivated his 1999 monumental work on the anti-Ebola properties of a bioactive molecule from the bitter kola (Garcinia kola).
The then governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola eulogised Iwu’s breath-taking contributions he offered when Ebola struck.
As Professor Iwu celebrates, we must not forget his immeasurable contributions to the growth of alternative medicine in Nigeria. Iwu has never been found wanting. At different fora, he has offered his services to Nigeria and the world.
People who don’t understand the dynamics of Nigeria politics, have wrongly vilified a man, whose only interest is to ensure that the country succeeds. The records are there to support this.
Iwu did something which is a lacking commodity among Nigerian elites. He left office in 2010. Unlike many former public officials, Iwu has maintained a stoic silence. Even when pushed to the wall, he has refused to criticise his predecessors in INEC.
But it’s on record that the only existing institutions in INEC were established by Iwu. He inherited a dysfunctional Commission, but revived it in less than five years. Today, Iwu’s blueprints are still unrivaled in INEC.
Hear what eminent Nigerians have said about Iwu. Former Governor of Abia, said Iwu did nothing in 2007 when he supervised the conduct of the general elections.
He said Iwu made history by successfully presiding over an election that broke a jinx of 47 years, by ushering in a new leadership of the tenure of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
“I think something is very peculiar in every chairman of INEC. In 2007, people protested after the elections. In 2011, people also protested. Even if you bring a pope to conduct elections, people would protest,” Kalu said.
Babangida Aliyu Muazu, former Governor of Niger State, said considering the circumstances under which elections were conducted, Professor Iwu did what was best for the country, adding that in time, Nigerians would begin to appreciate his contributions to the country’s development.
He said: “Many of us allow ourselves to be overwhelmed and we forget to remember where the problem started. I know that every coup that has happened in Nigeria has the hand of civilians in it. Foreign interests have interest in our elections.
“I have never seen where any section of the country sponsored any coup. All the coups of the past did not have the interest of the people at heart. Since 1999, you can see that the military has always put people in office, people they can control. We must change this.
“Even if angels were to come and conduct our elections, as long as we do not have good behaviour, that angel cannot conduct good elections. I have been a great admirer of Iwu. The elections of 2007 were a do-or-die affair. When people take that kind of approach, even umpires could be killed in the process. At that time, we thought it was not a good job. With time, we now know he did a good job.”
What can I say? Happy birthday, sir.
Iga , a social commentator lives in Ida , Kogi State