Professor Mahmood Yakubu assumed office as substantive Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission in October 2015. But since his appointment, the major concern of Nigerians has been the ability of the electoral umpire to deliver credible and conclusive elections.
The ratification of the INEC boss came after the Council of States meeting was held in October last year as stipulated by the constitution.
The appointment, according to the Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, who spoke after the Council of State meeting, was in conformity with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, particularly Sections 154 (1 and 3) and 156 (3) that confer on the President the powers to appoint a chairman and national commissioners of INEC, in consultation with the Council of State.
Tambuwal had said, “The situation in INEC as at today is such that requires for this emergency meeting to approve the nominations by Mr. President because the law requires that a minimum of four commissioners should form a quorum in INEC, which is not the case as at today.”
That means there must not be a vacuum in the office of the INEC boss and a qualified candidate should emerge as new chairman. As every other Nigerian, who has the prerequisite qualification, Yakubu is qualified to become INEC’s number one man. But the pertinent question here is, has he proved his mettle? After a year, has he improved on the job? These are questions begging for answer from political analysts.
Since his appointment in October last year, he had conducted elections in some states but the process has always ended up inconclusive. His tenure has, indeed, injected somewhat new term into our political lexicon.
In fact, the fears of political analysts deepened last week when the electoral umpire announced the postponement of the Edo State election, which was earlier scheduled to hold on September 10. It was postponed to the 24th of this month.
INEC claimed that the security intelligence reports received from both the Department of State Services and the Nigeria Police Force were not favourable for the conduct of the election and, therefore, it could not go ahead with the conduct.
Speaking on Thursday last week on a popular television network programme, the Governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, alleged that the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, was planning to rig the election and import militants from neighbouring states to Edo State as part of its plans to mar the electoral process.
But when asked if the ruling APC was comfortable with the new date, Oshiomhole said it coincided with the coronation of the new Benin monarch and holding it on that same date might affect the free conduct of the electoral process. The governor, therefore, called on INEC to conduct the election as soon as possible.
He assured the party loyalists of victory anytime the election was held.
However, the PDP, on the other hand, has blamed the postponement of the election on the ruling APC’s fear of losing the election to the opposition. The Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, also came down hard on the INEC, APC and President Muhammadu Buhari, saying he was not competent enough to lead Nigeria.
The acid tests KOGI
Although the first abnormality which affected the Kogi election was wrought by nature-the sudden death of the APC candidate-Prince Abubakar Audu, political analysts are of the opinion that INEC obviously didn’t manage the situation well. There are arguments and observations that INEC shouldn’t have canceled or declared the election inconclusive, despite Audu’s death. The ripple effect of the crisis engendered by the development is still being felt in Kogi State and beyond; the issue has yet to be totally resolved. The legal fireworks are definitely not over.
Political analysts had held the belief that INEC would improve on its logistics preparations for the Bayelsa polls, given the lessons the electoral umpire was expected to have learnt from the mistakes made during the Kogi poll and the difficult terrain in Bayelsa. Unfortunately, almost the same issues arose, except in this case where the political class took their violence a notch higher in their desperate attempt to win at all cost. The security tension during Bayelsa election raised questions about whether the electoral body was really working in tandem with security agencies because the process was marred with irregularities and serious crisis. According to media reports, electoral materials were hijacked, violence was visited on innocent citizens, despite the deployment of thousands of security agents, failure to deliver election materials on time in several polling units was recorded, sporadic shootings in some areas during the election, apparently aimed at scaring away voters, and of course, the election was again declared inconclusive like that of Kogi.
Rivers state by-election was a clash of the titans between the APC and PDP. It was the battle ground for the political heavy weights in the state to test their might. Party members loyal to both Governor Nyesom Wike and the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi tested their strength, with each of the two camps riding on the influence exerted by both the governor and the minister. At the end of the day, a member of the National Youth Service Corps serving as an electoral officer and an INEC ad hoc staff were killed by unidentified political thugs. But as usual, INEC again declared the Rivers State elections inconclusive.
Pending by elections
There are some by elections into the National Assembly pending across the country. INEC cannot be sure when the election will be held. The implication of this is that the people of the affected constituencies and senatorial districts have no representation at the National Assembly, for now.
Apparently overwhelmed by this abnormality attending the nation’s electoral process, the INEC boss, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said, recently during a visit to the corporate headquarters of one of the national dailies, that with the challenges and malpractices that had marred elections both in the past and in recent times in the country, the commission could not guarantee that even the 2019 general elections would be conclusive.
The INEC boss’ pessimism has further eroded the confidence many Nigerians had in the ability of the electoral body to successfully conduct future elections, especially as the Ondo governorship poll fast approaches.
A professor of Political Science from the University of Nigeria, Nsuka, Enugu State, who pleaded not to be named, said that the issue of inconclusive elections and the postponement of polls should be given serious concern by every Nigerian.
The university don, who spoke with our correspondent in Abuja, said in advanced countries such a failure on the part of the electoral umpire was enough for its chairman and the top echelon of such a body to resign from office.
He argued that merely citing security reports was not enough cogent reason to postpone the Edo poll.
“The man (INEC chairman) should resign. He is not competent. Election is being conducted even at war front. Why will anybody put such an argument forward? You cannot tell me that 25,000 security men are not enough to monitor election in a state like Edo State. You cannot tell me that the so called militants are more powerful than our gallant security personnel. “We have the military, though they are not supposed to interfere in electoral matters, if the situation demands their involvement, let them come on board. Our police are there. Our Civil Defence Corps are there. Our local security agencies are there also. So why all this lack of seriousness on the part of INEC? Even if it is as a result of security reports, why didn’t they envisage this before now and address it? The Ondo election is coming in October, I can bet it with you that such a thing will also repeat itself. So, I cannot believe that story but they have their own agenda,” he noted.
In his own contribution, the former chairman of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party in Oyo State, Alhaji Rasaq Folorunsho, said the development should be a thing of concern to all politicians because of the impression it had created.
Folorunsho said the 2019 election could not be guaranteed if the umpire refused to learn from its past mistakes.
“I think by now, INEC is supposed to have learnt from its past mistakes. They should identify the reasons behind the inconclusive elections and address it before the time comes. The Federal Government can even employ the former INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega as consultant to teach the new chairman how to go about it. We cannot continue this way”, he said.