By Elizabeth Chukwuma
When Mahmood Yakubu, a Professor and Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, stepped aside to pave way for Muazu Ahmed, a retired Air Vice Marshall and INEC, Commissioner in-charge of Logistics, and the most senior of the seven Electoral Commissioners who were believed to still have time to occupy the position in acting capacity, he has his reason.
He may have stepped aside to force the Senate under the close watch of Ahmad Lawan, to hasten efforts in confirming his reappointment. Pesident Muhammadu Buhari, had on October 27, 2020, transmitted Yakubu, a Professor of Political History and International Studies, letter of reappointment for another five years to the Senate for confirmation. He has expected the Senate to hasten efforts in the confirmation of his reappointment to ensure that it did not go beyond November 9, 2020, that his first term in office elapsed. The inability of the Lawmakers to fast track his confirmation for a second term in office, ahead of the November 9, 2020, may have forced him to step aside.
In doing so he noted that ‘’it would be inappropriate for him to remain in office beyond November 9, 2020, without confirmation by the Senate and swearing in for another oath of office as provided by the Law’’. Indeed, his plan to force the Lawan led Senate to confirm his reappointment without delay appears to have worked out. On December 1, 2020, the Senate confirmed his reappointment , as requested by the by the Katsina state born Nigerian President. The Confirmation of the INEC Chairman reappointment may have been made possible after Ibrahim Gaya, Chairman of the Committee on INEC, presented a report for Consideration of his Confirmation for another five years in office.
The Senate Committee members on INEC, were said to have told the other Lawmakers that Yakubu, who is not affiliated to any Political Party and has not attended a political rally or campaign of any of the Political parties jostling to hold power in the country has met ‘’the requirements of section 451 and section 41 i(ii) of the third schedule part I as contained in the 199 Constitution as amended and therefore, deserve to be Confirmed for another 5-year in office.
Even without deliberating on the report of the Committee, the INEC Chairman, who had stepped aside, since November, 9, 2020, was said to have been unanimously approved by the Senators for another five-year term.
Until he stepped aside last November, there some unresolved bye election issues like holding the National Assembly and state Assemblies bye-election in some 11 states of the Federation that were on his table. The sbye-elections were spread in the six geo-political regions of the country were to take place in the Borno, Cross river, Bayelsa, Imo, Kogi, and Plateau. Others were Enugu, Bauchi, Katsina, Lagos and Zamfara.
The initial date of October, 2020, fixed for the bye-election may have been cancelled due to the END SARS protest. The return of normalcy in the country after the protest may have provided another opportunity for the INEC Chairman and his Electoral Commissioners to decide on a new date for the bye- elections but Muazu, the Air Vice Marshall, who filled the gap after the temporary exit of the Professor from the Commission may have perfected the plan for the conduct of the National and state Assemblies bye –elections in the states . The bye-elections in the states were said to have been held on Saturday, December 6, 2020 amidst tight security in the affected Constituencies.
The Lagos state East Senatorial district bye-election which was initially occupied by late Adebayo Osinawo, who had won the Senatorial election in the 2019 , general elections on the ticket of the All Progressive Congress, APC, was still retained by the ruling APC , in the state. Tokunbo Abiru, a one-time Commissioner of Finance in the state and who incidentally was the Group Managing Director of Polaris Bank Nigeria, until August 31, 2020, going by INEC, reports had won the Senatorial slot for his party, APC. The Bakura Constituency state Assembly bye-election in Zamfara state, north west Nigeria and home of Bandits, , was said to have been won by Ibrahim Tukur, of the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP, in the state.
Like other previous elections that had been organised by the Commission in the country, which were marked by late judicial pronouncements which created confusion in mind of the electorates and violence in some states reared its ugly head in the supplementary election in some of the states. Take for instance the late Judicial pronouncement in Imo state where Frank Ibezim, the APC ,Candidate for the statee North Senatorial district was sacked. Although the APC, won the bye- election, Ibezin, who had laid claims to the party ticket in the Senatorial district went home unannounced by Hakeem Adikum, the Returning Officer.
These are some of the issues which Yakubu, the INEC Chairman, who had been returned to office by the Senate for another 5-year term may have to tackle to avoid a repeat in the 2023 general elections . The INEC Chairman may have known that he cannot afford to make mistakes in the conduct of the 2023 general elections that would usher in a new government in the country that he had said to the hearing of Nigerians after been sworn in by Buhari that preparations for the 2023 elections have started in earnest, noting that’’ the Commission needed certainty and a new Legal framework which is Fundamental for the formulation of its regulations and guidelines for the elections.
He has made it clear to those that cares to listen that without the electoral regulations and guidelines, ‘’the Commission may not be able to conclude the work on the manual for the training of the adhoc staff for the elections’’.This may have informed why he proceeded to the National Assembly after being sworn in for a second term in office by the Nigerian President to push for the electoral reforms so that the Commission would start its work in earnest. Yakubu , who had resumed work on Wednesday, December 9, 2020, had said that’’ the amendment of the of electoral legal framework is very important’’’, stressing’’ that elections in Nigeria are getting and will continue to getter’’ which must be sustained. The INC Chairman, had said that the electoral legal frameworks ‘’ will help the Commission in confronting the challenges ahead of it in 2023 election.
Lawan the Senate President may have gladdened the heart of the officials of the electoral umpire when he said that the National Assembly ‘’will pass the Electoral Act Amendment Bill by the first quarter of 2021. The Senate President who broke the cheery news at the public hearing on the repeal of the 2010, Electoral Act in Abuja recently said the National Assembly would do everything within its capacity to make that possible so that the amended 2020 Electoral Act would be tested in the early elections of 2023 to gauge its effectiveness by the Yakubu led INEC.
‘’A Free, Fair election and credible election in 2023 is doable’’, he had said. Already the Commission had started making plans for the conduct of the 2023 general elections with a comprehensive review of the 2019 general elections internally by way of self appraisal and externally through wide-ranging consultations with stakeholders. This may have given Nigerians of Voting age the impression that the the 2023 elections will be one of the best that will be organised by the Commission that would put the country on the path of the one of the democratically advanced nations that could compete with the North American country of the United States, US.
In a related development, in the just concluded its 2020 Presidential election in Ghana, President Nana Akuffo-Addo of the centre-right New Patriotic Party, NPP, has been reelected for another four years in office. He had beaten his arch-rival in the country’s Presidential race, John Mahama of the National Democratic Congress, NDC, a party leaning more towards the left and which was formed by Late Jerry Rawlings and his political Associates.
Mahama, was the Cocoa-rich Ghana’s former President until 2016, before being defeated by the opposition NPP, Candidate, Akuffo-Addo, who succeeded him. Like other African Leaders who had lost elections, H had cried foul, Vvowing to head to Court to challenge the result. The Party has said that ‘’overwhelming evidence available had made it impossible for it to accept this spurious and hurried conclusion called election’’. Mahama, may have opened up when he said that Akufo-Addo, had engaged the services of the military to sway the outcome of the election in his favour but the government had dismissed the allegations as false.
Haruna Idrisu, a member of the country’s Parliament , on the ticket of the Oppostion NDC, may have spoken the mind of Mahama, the party Presidential Candidate when he said that”it will take decisive and concrete steps , to overturn this brazen and shameless attack on the country’s democracy’’.
In spite of Mahama’s anger over the outcome of the 2020, Ghana Presidential election and plan to head to Court to challenge the result, President Akuffo-Addo, he has continued to receive Congratulatory messages from other African and world Leaders which may dampen his enthusiam to still challenge the NPP victorious Candidate in Court but to accept defeat and Congratulate him and join in the development of the late Kwame Nkrumah home country.