SINCE Wednesday, 21st October 2015 when Professor Mahmood Yakubu was appointed National Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Nigerians have quietly watched the performance of the nation’s Electoral Umpire as to whether it will rise to the call of history when it really counts come 2019.
President Muhammadu Buhari is the first Nigerian leader to appoint individuals reportedly close to him into the INEC which will conduct elections in which he and his direct interests will be involved. The notion of “independence” has traditionally been underscored by the fact that before Buhari, Presidents tended to appoint the Chief Electoral Officer of the Federation from regions other than theirs.
To his credit, Professor Yakubu, who from Day One swore to be above board in the performance of his sacred duties, has performed well above average in all the elections and bye-elections he conducted in Bayelsa, Rivers, Kogi, Anambra, Ondo, Edo and Osun States. They were not perfect (no election is) but some of them (like the Anambra governorship election) went so well that no electoral tribunal was necessary after it was won and lost. That is close to the standard that Nigerians expect from Professor Yakubu’s INEC in 2019.
Since our nascent democracy was birthed in 1999, the June 12th, 1993 presidential election conducted by Professor Humphrey Nwosu has remained a reference point as the freest and fairest ever. It has also marked Professor Maurice Iwu’s INEC as worst so far. Even the winner of the election Professor Iwu conducted in 2007, the late President Umaru Yar’ Adua, admitted that his mandate was flawed. On the other hand, Professor Attahiru Jega’s INEC, despite some murmurs, conducted a general election that produced the first transfer of power from one political party to another in our history.
Jega proved that the independence of INCE was more paramount than the notion of who pays the piper dictating the tune. The money used to pay the piper does not belong to any president or his political party. It belongs to Nigerians and must always be deployed without bias, fear or favour.
We congratulate Professor Mahmood Yakubu’s INEC management for commencing its systematic upgrades of the Smartcard Readers and its general preparations towards the 2019 elections. We urge the INEC to probe the alleged attempts to clone the Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) and ensure that no aspect of preparations for the elections is compromised.
Professor Yakubu and his team must be mindful of the fragile and tensile security situation in the country, and ensure that the integrity of the impending elections will help to solidify the bonds of patriotism holding this nation together. No politician’s ambition is above the corporate existence of Nigeria.