Behold Humphrey Nwosu:Genius of open-field polls


By Emeka Chiaghanam

JUNE 12, 1993 presidential election and its annulment invoke emotions and connote different things to various Nigerians. But for Humphrey Nwosu, it was benchmark process that truncated a watershed electoral process that threw the country into chaos, followed by riots, street protests and planned civil disobedience.

In the build up to the Third Republic, Humphrey Nwosu was appointed Chairman of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to conduct the election that will usher the nation into the Third Republic. Nwosu conducted what was seen as the freest and fairest election in the history of Nigeria. But the election was not to be.

Nwosu, a professor of political Science University of Nigeria, Nsukka was out for a change, even as nobody gave him a chance to be any different from other electoral chairmen before him.   Former federal electoral bodies had been stooge of the ruling government right from pre-independence Electoral Commission of Nigeria (ECN) in 1959 to Second Republic’s Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO). No one before had been praised for conducting Nigeria’s election free from resentments.

Before Nwosu’s headship of the electoral body, every national election in Nigeria had been fraught with electoral malpractices, crises, sometimes threatening national unity, such as the election crisis of 1964 that saw President Nnamdi Azikiwe having to delay the swearing in of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa for some days, and the ridiculous mathematical interpretation of 1979 presidential election result.

Nwosu was born on 2 October 1941, studied political science at the University of California at Berkeley where he earned Master’s and doctoral degrees in political science in 1973 and 1976 respectively. He subsequently returned to Nigeria to teach at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he rose to become a Professor of Political Science.


Humphrey Nwosu

u’s novel approach to electoral process led to the introduction of Option A4 voting system and open ballot system.  Under Option A4, a candidate was required to seek nomination from ward level, to local government, to state and national levels, and to win majority votes at all levels or an average of 50 per cent. Under both, the Open Ballot System (OBS) everything was done in the open. Voters queued up behind the candidates of their choice, and the number of voters supporting a candidate was counted in the open and results collated and announced loudly and publicly at the voting centres.


Nwosu led NEC had released results in 14 states and the FCT, when the military government of General Ibrahim Badamisi Babangida directed that the announcement should be stopped, an election which Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) was presumed to have won.

Regarded as one of Nigeria’s brightest hopes in the field of political science, Nwosu widely praised and acknowledged as the only head of the national electoral commission to conduct an election that was adjudged to be free and fair by both local and international monitors said his greatest regret was inability to officially declare winner of June 12, 1993 election.

Before his appointment in 1989, Nwosu had served in the cabinet of Samson Omeruah, governor of the old Anambra State, as Commissioner of Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters in 1986, where he helped traditional rulers to gain staff of office and receive salaries, and settled intra and inter community land disputes. He also served as chairman of a Federal Technical Committee on the application of Civil Service Reforms in the local government service.

Prof. Humphrey Nwosu, a consummate academic, public administrator and political scientist, defied General Babangida scheming instruction not to go on with the election result, only for the successful election he successfully midwifed to be annulled by General Babangida when the result was been announced. For surmounting the hurdle of the military and forces outside the military that never wanted the election to hold, Nwosu deserves commendation.

After the 1993 annulment of June 12 Presidential election, he returned to teaching at the Department of Political Science, University of Nigeria, Nsukka where he formally retired in 1999. Since retirement, Nwosu has published several articles in international journals and authored several books including:   Laying the Foundation for Nigeria’s Democracy: My Account of June 12, 1993 Presidential Election and its Annulment.


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