Anxiety Mounts as INEC Chairman’s Tenure Expires Nov 9

Mahmood Yakubu
Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu

Chuks Okocha in Abuja

Who becomes the next chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the tenure of the incumbent, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, expires on November 9?
This is one of the raging questions being asked by analysts and INEC officials as uncertainty beclouds the succession process.

Although Yakubu is eligible for reappointment, THISDAY learnt at the weekend from sources in the commission that his body language showed that he is lukewarm about retaining the job.

However, THISDAY gathered that some national commissioners are keen on stepping into the shoes of Yakubu, if not reappointed.
The Senate confirmed Yakubu as chairman of INEC on October 21, 2015, but he was sworn in on November 9, 2015.
By implication, his tenure is expected to end on November 9, 2020.

THISDAY, however, gathered that Yakubu has bright chances of being reappointed and if it gets the president’s nod, he would be the second INEC chairman to have a second term.
A national commissioner in INEC confided in THISDAY at the weekend that Yakubu has not indicated any interest towards reappointment.
It was gathered that his stewardship could give him a head start in the succession race.

Though a historian, he has introduced some technological innovations like the INEC election result website, an almost equivalent of online transmission of results, that has reduced tensions at election collation centres.
He has also been credited for conducting credible governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States.
However, the commission was criticised by observers for alleged poor outings in the conduct of governorship elections in Osun, Bayelsa, Kogi and Kano States.

But despite the allegations, the courts approved most of these elections.
Observers are also divided on the conduct of the 2019 presidential election.
While some alleged that it was rigged, others described it as fair and transparent.
However, analysts have said that his conduct of the last presidential election, which returned President Muhammadu Buhari, increased the chances of Yakubu’s reappointment.

It is also not known yet how opposition political parties will react if he is reappointed.
THISDAY gathered that the lukewarm attitude of Yakubu towards reappointment is fuelling the ambitions of some national commissioners for the chairmanship of the commission.

The commission is being run by the chairman; 12 national commissioners – two from each of the six geopolitical zones and 37 Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) who are in charge of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The seven national commissioners whose tenure is not lapsing on November 9 are: Air Vice Marshal Ahmed Mu’azu (rtd), Malam Mohammed Haruna, Prof. Okechukwu Ibeanu, Mr. Abubakar Nahuche, Dr. Adekunle Ogunmola, and Mr. Festus Okoye.

Investigation revealed that these national commissioners are all qualified for the top job in the commission.
So far, Prof. Maurice Iwu is the first national commissioner to be appointed the chairman of the commission.

Iwu was a national commissioner during the tenure of the late Ambassador Abel Guobadia.
However, the appointments of three national commissioners- designate by Buhari last week has narrowed down the list of contenders as some of the commissioners who could have contested may be on their way out of the commission and would be replaced by the new appointees.

Buhari had asked the Senate to confirm the appointment of one of his media aide, Mrs. Lauretta Onochie, and three others as national commissioners.

Others are Prof. Mohammed Sani (Katsina), Prof. Kunle Ajayi (Ekiti), and Mr. Seidu Ahmed (Jigawa).
The letter was read by the President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, on the floor of the Senate last week.

With Onochie coming from Delta State, it is obvious that Mrs. May Agbamuche-Mbu, who is from Delta State, may be out of the race.
The appointment of Seidu Ahmad from Jigawa State has also neutralised the chances of Mrs. Amina Zakari, who is also from the state, as she may be on her way out of the commission.

Zakari had once acted as INEC chairman after Prof. Attahiru Jega left

Prince Solomon Soyebi had also acted after Iwu’s tenure elapsed.
The tenure of four national commissioners – Dr. Antonia Okoosi-Simbine (Kogi), North-central; Mr. Shettima Arfo (Borno), North-east; Dr. Mohammed Mustafa Lecky (Edo), South-south; and Soyebi (Ogun), South-west, will also expire on November 9.

Edo State has held the office of the national chairman of INEC twice. The Justice Ephraim Akpata died in office and was succeeded by Dr. Abel Guobadia, also from Edo State.

THISDAY gathered that there is a clamour that if the presidency will not reappoint Yakubu, there is the need to appoint a new chairman from the national commissioners who have the requisite experience of the workings of the commission.

“INEC has gone far in ensuring a technological-driven commission and there is no need appointing a fresh person without experience in information technology or someone, who will be on the job learning.
“If Yakubu is not coming back, then a new chairman will certainly come from the south. This is to balance the sequence,” the source said.

He added that the appointment will show political balance as the two immediate past chairmen of INEC are from the North.
Jega, from Kebbi State in the North-west, was succeeded by Yakubu from Bauchi State in the North-east.

“Appointing a southerner is in the spirit of rotating the office of the INEC chairman between North and South and reflecting the geopolitical balancing in the country,” the source said.
It was also gathered that some of the outgoing national commissioners of INEC have moved out of their official quarters in Abuja.
The quarters were built by Jega when he was the national chairman.