Towards a Quantum Leap for Legacy

Prof. Mahmood Yakubu

Anthony Kila, a professor and director at Centre for International Advanced and Professional Studies, Lagos urges the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Professor Mahmood Yakubu to use the privilege of his second tenure to implement far-reaching reforms at the agency

Dear Prof. Mahmood Yakubu

This note addressed to you is coming about six weeks late; the decision to dedicate an epistle to you and for your attention was conceived when on the 1st of December 2020 when we got official news of your confirmation by the Senate of your second and final term.

Ordinarily, your confirmation should be a matter of course but, in a system where one needs to learn to expect and manage the unexpected, the announcement was still worthy of news.

Events overtook that news but your recent announcement that a draft bill for the repeal of 2010 Electoral Act will be presented before the National Assembly as it resumes from extended Christmas holiday on the 9th of February has made you topical again for this page.

Naturally, we congratulate you and we wish all the very best with your second and final term.

And herein lies the rub: What is the very best you can do with your second and final term? My personal but very deliberated and highly held view is that the prerequisite for you to do the very best you can do is to take a quantum leap that will create a legacy for you as INEC Chair. Anything outside that will be at best just marginal improvements like has been done so far in your commission for the past two decades. Marginal improvements are necessary but they are not sufficient in the situation we find ourselves. The issues we have with our electoral system are neither marginal nor just part of the many issue of our democratic existence they go to the core of most of our malaise. Yes, I agree with the words of Senator Omo-Agege when he says that “once the electoral system was sanitised, every other thing would fall in place.”

Yes, it is not an easy move, I am very conscious of all the inherent and annexed problems that will come with brining radical change into the electoral system but it is the only way you and anyone can solve the problem we have. To sanitise our electoral system, you need to consciously decide to break away from the way and pace with which things are done thus far and look for another mode: The Quantum leap. The good news is that you, Prof. Yakubu, more that anyone today is in a position to bring the needed tchange to sanitise our electoral system: You have the status, experience and knowledge to make things happen, all you need is the desire to be great and a bit of luck. Your experience at the commission gives you a privileged insight into the issues beleaguering and holding down the commission as well as the ills troubling the electoral system. Your position as a nonreturnable chairman gives you the privilege of not being beholding to any individual or part. As a chairman in is his second and final tenure, you have the rare privilege of truly being responsible to only the law, your conscience and knowledge.

It is all about the mindset, here are few suggestions for a quantum leap.

Once we agree on the importance of the electoral system in our democratic existence the next thing to do is to take cognisance of the major ills of the system.

The principal function of the electoral commission is to supervise and ensure free and fair electoral processes that allow the election of men and women chosen by the majority of free discerning registered voters. Factors militating against such principal function are external factors such as rigging, violence, inducement, imposition of candidates, lack of thorough scrutiny of aspirants and candidates and internal factors such as logistics issues.

The commission that wants to take a quantum leap must fully and openly admit as well as underscore the known fact that the sponsors and beneficiaries of rigging, violence, inducement, imposition of candidates, lack of thorough scrutiny of aspirants and candidates are politicians; consequently, rather than pretend that politicians are ladies and gentlemen of honour acting for the purpose of serving the commonwealth, the commission needs to treat politicians like a group with a high propensity for criminal behaviour. Infact, politicians should be treated as guilty until proven innocent. This mindset will probably lead to alienation and or a war of attrition with the political class. When that happens, the commission led by its chairman must then ally with the public. To do so communication must be swift clear and convincing whilst making operations deliberately efficient and user friendly.

The internal factor militating against the success of INEC is largely logistics: Registration of voters, the process of voting, announcement and validation of results. Once the commission develops the mindset of delivering a fraud free, user friendly and efficient operation that at all times understands that voters and potential voters have a life and need to spend time on earning their livelihood and with their families, the next step is to rely on and emulate those who have a track record of delivery, banks and telecoms come to mind they know how to get services to most part of the country: No need to reinvent the wheel. Rather than try to deliver INEC services in first person or via governmental offices INEC should delegate, outsource and regulate delivery. The mindset should be to intervene only where others cannot efficiently and securely do deliver.

Naturally the more digitalised the system the better for all. The now embraced idea we launched on this page some years back of linking voters’ card to BVN is a good place to start.