Reporter Okodili Ndidi analyzes the difficulties that the Free National Electoral Commission (INEC) Director, Prof. Mahmud Yakubu, will stand up to in his subsequent term.
Prof Mahmood Yakubu as of late impacted the world forever, following his reappointment as the Administrator of the Autonomous National Electoral Commission (INEC) for a second term of five years, making him the first to fill in as the top of the electoral umpire for two continuous terms.
His reappointment by President Muhamamadu Buhari was greeted by both the ruling party and the major opposition party. This may not be unconnected with the transformation in the Commission in the last five years.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said the reappointment will serve as impetus to INEC to conduct credible elections in the country.
In a statement by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, the party said the reappointment has entrusted Yakubu with the fate, hope and future of over 200 million Nigerians, as well as those of generations yet unborn.
He said: “We consider this reappointment by President Buhari as an impetus to demonstrate a readiness for a free fair and credible election, which Mr. President had always promised to bequeath at the end of his second and final term in office in 2023.
“In the light of this five-year extension, our party hopes that the failures, disappointments and miscarriages that characterised the first five years tenure of Yakubu will have no place in the new order.”
The All Progressives Congress (APC) also welcomed Yakubu’s reappointment with a call on the INEC chairman to remain unbiased and apolitical in the discharge of his duties.
The ruling party in a statement by its Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Yekini Nabena, observed that marked improvements have been recorded in a series of recent elections conducted under Yakubu’s watch.
The Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) also described Yakubu’s reappointment as a right step that will secure the nation’s democracy.
IPAC National Chairman, Leonard Nzenwa, in a statement, described Yakubu’s re-appointment as a welcome development and a blessing to the Nigerian polity.
He said only a few helmsmen at the commission were able to achieve respectable results as Yakubu did during his first tenure in office.
However, behind the facade of these accolades, lies the burden of justifying the historic reappointment.
Nigerians are expecting improved credibility in the electoral process, through the deployment of technologies in the next five years, to migrate the commission from analog to digital.
The challenges that will confront the Professor of History and International Relations may not be limited to the amendment of the Electoral Act and revalidation of the voters register as at when due.
The commission is expected to bring to fruition the ageless promise of e-voting, which has been touted as the panacea to electoral fraud.
At the twilight of his first term, the commission has gotten to an advanced stage with the implementation of the plan to migrate completely to electronic voting before the 2023 general elections. Companies have been invited to demonstrate the technology before the management of the commission.
It is therefore, expected that with his second coming, concerted efforts will be made to ensure that the e-voting does not remain a mirage by 2023.
But, the first task, will be to get the Legislature to amend the section of the Electoral Act to accommodate electronic voting and transmission of results before the technology can fully come on board.
Another daunting challenge before the INEC Chairman is to sustain the recent level of improvement in the conduct of elections as witnessed in the Edo and Ondo governorship elections, as well as birthing the promised reform of the electoral process.
Aside this, another salient issue that needs the commitment of the INEC Chairman, is the security of the electoral process. The performance of security agencies during elections in last five years has cast aspersions on the Commission.
Although the Commission under the ingenuity of the Chairman had robustly engaged the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) on ways to better police the process, security situation during elections have left much to be desired.
The last governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states showed that much need to be done to rejig security plans for future elections.
Not oblivious of these lapses, Yakubu, who deplored security arrangements for last year’s general election promised that “we must adopt a different approach to election security. We must translate the new approach to reality in the forthcoming elections such that Nigerians will see a qualitatively different security arrangement.”
He noted that there was less consideration on strategic deployment for the 2019 general elections, leaving the voters, election officials, party agents, observers, the media and unarmed security personnel at polling units vulnerable to attacks by thugs and hoodlums.
Also, the INEC Chairman is to address the issue of electoral violence by ensuring that the perpetrators are made to face the law to serve as a deterrent.
More critical is the expectation to consolidate on the gains of the last five years, especially the sustenance of credible elections.
Yakubu will be faced with the Herculean task of boosting staff morale. Despite the mileage recorded in the last five years, the issue of workers’welfare may not have been given the deserved attention.
Before the end of his first tenure, the staff of the commission were already spoiling for war over the non-implementation of the new minimum wage.
It is therefore, expected that the issue of staff welfare will be given priority in Yakubu’s second term. This is to ensure a motivated workforce to drive his innovations.
Yakubu’s steps so far since his return, have shown that he is aware of the challenges ahead and is neither lost on where to start from.
Speaking at his handover ceremony at the INEC Headquarters in Abuja, he disclosed that the commission will undertake an audit of its voter register ahead of the 2023 general elections.
He also hinted that the commission had concluded arrangements to introduce a new technology for voter enrolment in 2021.
He said the move to clean up the vote register was part of the commission’s efforts to check electoral fraud.
Yakubu said the commission’s work would be easier if the “Electoral Act Amendment is passed by the end of March 2021.”
Yakubu added: “We are content with our register of electors since it is vigorous however we will keep on observing ways that which we can improve the nature of the register. I am stating so on the grounds that the believability of any just races draws from the validity of the register of citizens.