One major challenge that confronts democracy in Nigeria today is how to make votes count. In many instances, votes are not even counted. For Nigerians, elections are concluded, in the language of Professor Okechukwu Ibeanu, as hollow rituals, bandwagons, direct captures and simulated landslides. The mandates which most politicians claim are effectively dubious, and there is no psychological satisfaction in voting, because the people know that it is either that their votes will not be counted or that their votes will not count.
Since popular consent still defines representative democracy, Nigeria has had it so rough grappling with democratization especially through credible elections. It has been a long, crooked and troubled path.
In discussing the shortcomings of Nigeria’s electoral system, there tends to be some emphasis on the weakness of electoral laws, or the lack of proper election monitoring for mandate protection, or voter apathy, or the decisive role of money in politics particularly in view of increasing poverty, or political interferences in the duties of the regulatory umpire, very scant attention has been paid to the character traits of the key actors within the election management body.
It was the ability of Prof. Humphrey Nwosu to succeed in the midwifery of the freest, fairest and most credible election in the history of Nigeria despite Nigerian factors that has stood him out as enigmatic. Nigeria’s electoral history is now divided between pre-Nwosu and post-Nwosu eras, given that before him there was none like him, and even after him there has been none like him.
That Nigeria marks her Democracy Day on June 12 every year should be a celebration of Prof. Nwosu’s integrity and incorruptibility, which also indicates his place in the annals of the country’s elections, for without him there could not have been June 12. In the words of President Buhari, “June 12th, 1993 was the day when Nigerians in millions expressed their democratic will in what was undisputedly the freest, fairest and most peaceful elections since our Independence.” It was the National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (NECON) headed by Prof. Nwosu that gave Nigerians that election which was presumably won by Chief MKO Abiola but annulled by the military junta.
Born on October 2, 1941 to Chief Nwosu Nwafor, the Eze V of Ajalli and Grace Uzoaku Nwafor, both of Ajalli community in Orumba North Local Government Area of Anambra State, Prof. Nwosu attended Government Primary School, Ajalli, St. Michael’s School, Enugu and Presbyterian School, Abakaliki and graduated in 1955. Between 1956 and 1963, he attended a combination of vocational and missionary schools which espoused self-help and promoted students based on performance.
In 1966, he graduated from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka with a Bachelors Degree in Political Science with First Class Honors, obtained a Masters Degree in Political Science in 1976 from the University of California, Berkeley, California, USA, and a Doctorate Degree in Political Science from the same University. At University of Nigeria, Nsukka he became Professor of Political Science where his scholarly contributions have remained timeless.
Between 1989 and 1993, Prof. Nwosu served as the Chairman of National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (NECON), and conducted elections which transparency, credibility and fairness have continued to reverberate in Nigeria till date.
Today, October 2, this embodiment of refined values and moral excellence has clocked eighty years. The celebration of his birth and accomplishments should cause us to reflect aloud on how well we have sustained his vision for a great and democratic Nigeria in which the right to elect leaders is considered sacred and inviolable. How well have we fought to insist that votes in Nigeria will not just be counted, but votes will also count? How well have we toiled to commit ourselves to democratic consolidation and credible elections uninhibited by challenges, tribulations and trials? How well have we exuded the Nwosu spirit in all facets of our national life?
The Federal Government should therefore lead the charge of deepening democracy in Nigeria by immortalizing Prof. Humphrey Nwosu. One way this could be done is by establishing a Center for Democratic Studies in each Federal University in Nigeria in his honour, so as to set, renew and reinvigorate the discourse on better elections and healthier democracy in Nigeria.
Happy birthday, Prof. Humphrey Nwosu.