By Omeiza Ajayi
ABUJA: Following his reappointment by President Muhammadu Buhari last month for a second term of office as Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, the professor of History has faced pockets of criticisms from some unnamed partisans who would rather have him out of the way.
Barring last-minute changes, Yakubu will be cleared for swearing-in on November 24 when the Senate returns from its long recess. He was reappointed during the lawmakers’ vacation.
First, there was an allegation that he had bribed the National Assembly leadership to the tune of $2 billion. Then came attempts by some partisans to get the National Assembly to reject his nomination on the grounds that he was not qualified.
These are not unexpected in Nigeria’s political terrain. However, no umpire has ever been free from mudslinging by partisans. What might appear strange in the case of Yakubu is that many of those against his reappointment have not been able to present themselves to the public. It is only a deregistered political party, the Hope Democratic Party HDP that has been able to institute a case against Yakubu.
However, INEC has denounced sponsored attacks regarding the reappointment of Prof. Yakubu, saying the decision was clearly in conformity with the country’s constitution and other extant laws.
INEC described as tissues of lies, reports that there was tension within it following Yakubu’s temporary exit last week. According to him, reports of in-fighting in the Commission were sponsored by elements who are bent on causing disaffection in the system.
National Commissioner and Chairman of INEC’s Information and Voter Education Committee, Barr. Festus Okoye who stated this in a chat with Vanguard also defended the powers of the president under the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to make such appointments into INEC.
Section 154(1)(2) of the Constitution provides that the President, in exercising his power to appoint the chairman or member of INEC, “shall consult the Council of State”, and such appointment again, “shall be subject to confirmation by the Senate.”
According to Okoye, the appointment of National and Resident Electoral Commissioners RECs, as well as the Chairman of the Commission, is the exclusive responsibility of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Such an appointment is subject to confirmation by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”, he said.
Yakubu had last week handed over to a national Commissioner, AVM Ahmed Muazu (retd), saying as a respecter of the rule of law, he needed to stay away and await clearance from the Senate and consequent swearing-in by President Muhammadu Buhari despite his reappointment for a second term of office.
He said both local and international stakeholders had since endorsed Yakubu’s reappointment in recognition of the various innovations he has introduced into election administration and conduct.
Okoye said; “The Nigerian people have endorsed the reappointment of Prof. Yakubu as the chairman. The international community has expressed satisfaction with his reappointment and stated that the commission is in safe hands. The expectation is a speedy confirmation of his appointment. The Senate is made up of representatives of the people of Nigeria and will give vent to the wishes of the people of Nigeria. We are confident that all constitutional and statutory requirements have been met and will be met in the appointment and confirmation of the chairman”.
On their part, the Zenith Labour Party ZLP and the Rights Agenda Initiatives Network, RAIN, have condemned attempts by a deregistered political party, Hope Democratic Party HDP, and those they described as fifth columnists to frustrate the clearance of Prof. Mahmood Yakubu for a second term in office as Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC.
National Chairman of the ZLP, Chief Dan Nwanyanwu who was flanked by some members of the party’s National Working Committee NWC in a chat with journalists yesterday also described the bribery allegation against Prof. Yakubu as reckless, unfounded, and a fake news which could only have emanated from a drunk.
Consequently, ZLP said it will approach the court to be joined in a suit against the nomination of Prof. Mahmood Yakubu as the Chairman of INEC, even as it demanded immediate clearance by the Senate.
Nwanyanwu said, “We endorse the reappointment of Yakubu, we are opposed to any attempt to thwart it, and ZLP leadership has been directed to join in the suit with a view to quashing it. By tomorrow morning, we will be filing our suit to be joined, because it is when we have electoral results that are credible that smaller parties like us can win seats. ZLP was few months into the last general election but we were able to pick seats and that was because the process was transparent and we were able to win where we worked harder. And of all the places we lost, we lost gallantly.
“Some of our colleagues who are politicians have decided to go to court to stop the renomination of INEC Chairman, Prof. Yakubu and they are using an organization that used to be a political party but now deregistered which of course do not have any locus to go to court but the court is there for everybody to come to, when you get there, you present your matter. And those of us who are the major stakeholders, the political parties, over 80 percent of the registered parties are happy with the proceedings in INEC as they relate to the conduct of elections.
“We have seen some improvements, some innovations, it started with accreditation and voting at the same time to the introduction of Portals whereby we can watch results at a place as they vote. We are now moving into improvement in the electronic system which we have been asking for years. But I think some of those politicians who are using Hope Democratic Party to go to court, to stop the Senate from approving the nomination legitimately made by the president is, to say the least, irresponsible. We are in support of the reappointment of Prof. Yakubu”, he added.
Also, Executive Secretary, Rights Agenda Initiatives Network, Dr. Abraham Bulus said the organisation “read with dismay the sponsored lies against Prof. Yakubu in the social media where it was alleged that he paid heavIly to a few persons including the National Assembly to get him renominated with a possible clearance. Though the leadership of the National Assembly has denied the allegation, however, it has become necessary for our Network to shame the peddlers of such wicked lies”.
He insisted that the attack on Prof. Yakubu was the handiwork of some politicians who are not comfortable with ongoing reforms in the commission and in the electoral process.
According to Dr. Bulus, the last five years of Professor Mahmood Yakubu have been the best years of the commission with a wide range of reforms.
“His tenure has proved that INEC has the capacity to manage elections with fearless results that have defied all permutations.
“We have also noted that under his leadership, INEC has achieved numerous successes such as the introduction of Continuous Voters Registration as prescribed in the Electoral Act 2010 as amended, the introduction of the INEC Election Result Viewing Portal, the introduction of the Z-Pad as an additional electronic means of voter identification and transmission of results from polling units in real-time.
“Others include the gradual return of credibility in our electoral process as attested by the Edo and Ondo States 2020 Governorship elections and internal reforms along the electoral value chain.
“It is these successes that have put him in a pole position to be the man best suited to reposition the electoral policies of Nigeria. This is more so as the electoral laws are receiving much-needed review by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“RAIN believes that those politicians who are opposed to his reappointment are doing so because of 2023 and are afraid that Prof. Yakubu is not such a personality that can be bought over with their money. They are simply working for a candidate they can easily pocket. But we are satisfied that President Muhammadu Buhari, known for his anti-corruption crusade knows the best person for the job.
“It is on these note that we on the side of RAIN call on the National Assembly to without delay confirm the nomination of Mr. Presisent’s candidature of Professor Mahmood Yakubu as the INEC Chairman”, the network demanded.