By Charles Kumolu
The stepping aside of Professor Mahmoud Yakubu as Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for confirmation for a second term has ignited high-wire intrigues within and outside the commission over the soul of the Election Management Body, EMD, Vanguard learned.
Yakubu, who stepped aside last week after the expiration of his five-year tenure, got a renewal in a move sources knowledgeable in the ongoing intrigues said was against the constitution.
The constitution stipulated that the President in appointing officials into INEC shall consult with the Council of State, which includes former Presidents and all serving governors.
It is after the consultation and Council of State meeting that such an announcement is made.
The President of the Senate usually reads out the letter from the executive branch, signed by President Muhammadu Buhari, requesting Senate confirmation.
However, in the case of Yakubu, who stood down and handed over to Air Vice Marshal Ahmed Muazu, retd, in anticipation of Senate confirmation, sources said his tenure was “quickly renewed” to prevent contending forces in All Progressives Congress, APC, from having their way.
Buhari had in a statement by his spokesman, Femi Adesina, renewed Yakubu’s tenure. According to the statement, the President had written a letter to the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, seeking confirmation of the INEC boss under section 154 of the constitution.
Sources further told Vanguard that the controversy over the forthcoming national convention of APC has a direct link to the emerging power tussle regarding who controls the soul of INEC.
Though signals regarding what went into the renewal of the tenure of Yakubu, are conflicting, there are concerns that his confirmation may not come easy. This is based on findings that a few powerful figures in the Senate belong to different power blocs, seeking to have control of the commission ahead of 2023 general election.
They are said to be interested in not just the headship of INEC, but the appointments of National Commissioners and Resident Electoral Commissioners. It was further learned that the move would ensure that current experienced commissioners who had exhibited neutrality in the conduct of elections that should be elevated are possibly removed.
Specifically, two influential persons in the Senate were gathered to belong to opposing camps.
Vanguard learned that while one is for the retention of Yakubu, the other, said to be acting with other forces, is believed to be rooting for a National Commissioner. The top INEC official, who hails from his geo-political zone, is also an in-law.
While there are indications that the Senate may not resume plenary until January 2021, as a result of ongoing work on the 2021 budget, it was learned that some forces are pushing for resumption this week to confirm Yakubu’s appointment.
Vanguard learned that the power play at the executive branch of government is championed by a powerful minister from the North-West.
He nurses the ambition of governing his state.
In fact, he was said to have pencilled down his own chairmanship nominee and those who should be commissioners.
Speaking on the development, an INEC source, said: “The potential series of crises that are likely to overwhelm INEC are going to rear their heads with the filling of slots that would soon be vacant in North East – on account of tenures that have ended, as well as operational nuances that may alter long-held procedures of engendering elections that would stand the test of time.
“Some of the new people that Nigerians will begin to see within the commission will likely signpost the type of election Nigerians will witness in 2023. All those whose faces represent a hopeful future for credible elections in the system at the moment may be eased out instead of being elevated as national commissioners.
“In fact, as of last week, there were ripples within the commission over the move to bring-in another National Commissioner nominee from Gombe where Mauzu hails from. This is apart from surreptitious moves being made to upturn the balance in the ethnic configuration of the top management of the commission, with an emerging plot to reverse a Federal Government’s circular which suspended the tenure policy in the federal civil service.
“Some of the moves going-on now over the struggle for the takeover and control of INEC are said to be part of the fallout of the demise of President Buhari’s key allies.”
Meanwhile, it was learned that but for the relationship, Hajiya Amina Zakari, a National Commissioner, is said to have with Buhari, her experience would have been an advantage. “But for the so-called relationship she is said to have with President Buhari, Hajiya is very competent and has the experience that cannot be rivalled within the commission. The institutional memory she packs remains an asset,” the source added.
According to the source, a national commissioner from the North-West, who resigned last week, “did so because he just did not want to continue with what is wrong that he had endured, having been begged not to resign when he wanted to before the 2019 election, and concerned with what is ahead that may come with grave consequences for the polity, decided to go.
”There is another national commissioner who has just been reappointed against his will who wants to resign but is being prevailed upon to remain for reasons that can best be described as 2023 agenda”.
However, at the headquarters of the commission, Mu’azu, who is going ahead with his duties in an acting capacity, is also confronted with underhand moves by some officials to postpone some scheduled bye-elections, until Yakubu returns.
It was learned that a virtual meeting was held last Thursday, where the idea of postponing the polls until the return of Yakubu was floated.
While some who wanted to be in the good books of the chairman were said to have endorsed the move, the proposal by a top official was rejected.