THE recent confirmation by the Senate of Prof Mahmud Yakubu as the new National Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and five National Commissioners is a welcome relief.
The dispatch with which the Senate screened and confirmed the nominees is commendable, given the constitutional crisis that had loomed.
With the governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States just ahead, there were fears that the Commission as it was just before now was legally incapable of conducting elections given the lack of a quorum.
That lapse has now been addressed, though it took the president and his handlers too long to address the issue given the utmost urgency it deserved.
The events leading to the appointments were notably worrisome. The president had appointed Mrs. Amina Zakari, one of the former Commissioners, as the Acting National Chairman despite allegations of a familial relationship between the two.
It was unwholesome for the president not to allow the public to discuss the candidature of Yakubu before he was suddenly fast-tracked through the Council of State and the Senate. The nation was thus denied the opportunity to assess and approve him as they did his predecessor, Professor Attahiru Jega, before he was appointed by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
This is also the first time that a sitting president appointed his ethnic kinsman to head the electoral umpire, thus upsetting the age-old geo-political and sectional balance that had always prevailed.
Professor Yakubu, however, excelled in the academia and government posts. We are reassured by his distinctive performances at the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) and the 2014 National Conference, which he discharged without accusations of ethnic bigotry or partisanship against him. He must live up to his pledge which he made during his senate screening to be above board.
The INEC under Yakubu must quickly settle down and use the governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi States to reassure Nigerians that the president made the right choice.
After that, INEC must consolidate on the gains of the Jega era and improve INEC’s handling of logistics, which has remained below standard.
Another major challenge for the Commission under Yakubu is the delimitation of constituencies. Since the advent of the Fourth Republic, successive authorities at the Commission have side-stepped this constitutional requirement of redrawing the constituencies perhaps out of fear of the brinkmanship that typically arises from the exercise.
However, given the constitutional imperatives, INEC under Prof. Yakubu is bound to face that storm and many other storms. Prof Yakubu is well advised to keep his cool, be neutral and objective if he is to successfully navigate the storms to come.