As expected the tenure of Professor Mahmood Yakubu (58) as chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission ends on Monday November 9. Then came the announcement by Professor Yakubu that the presidential election will hold February 18, 2023 that is eight hundred and eighty-five days away. It is the first time Nigerians have been given eight hundred and eighty five days’ notice for a presidential election. The announcement came twenty-six days before Professor Yakubu’s tenure as Chairman of INEC terminates. One would have expected that the INEC Chairman announce the dates for the gubernatorial elections in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun states slated for next year. I am a bit prying and nosy at the timing of the announcement of the date of the presidential election. I am sure critics of Professor Yakubu will think that the announcement is a campaign alert of his readiness to be given an opportunity to be reappointed and that he is flying a kite having been intoxicated by INEC’S so called success in Edo and Ondo gubernatorial election. It’s like the Bauchi born Professor is throwing bits of bait into the waters for the attention of President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR. No doubt he is qualified for reappointment, he is fifty-eight. He has served as the Executive Secretary as the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) (2007-2012) and also served as the assistant secretary of Finance and Administration of the 2014 National Conference of President Goodluck Jonathan, GCFR.
If you push your luck too far, you may risk losing the good favour and the good fortune you have garnered thus far. That is the simple lesson about life.
It is the constitutional responsibility of President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, to consult the National Council of State before submitting a name to the Senate for confirmation as Chairman of INEC. The President may choose to nominate any other person entirely. It is up to President Buhari. I am sure the President will be under pressure on this issue now. Whoever the President chooses is expected to conduct the Anambra, Osun and Ekiti states gubernatorial elections and the 2023 presidential election of February 18, 2023.
The past chairmen of the commission are Mr. Ronald Wraith (1958-1963), Eyo Esua: 1964-1966, Michael Ani: 1978-1980, Victor Ovie-Whiskey: 1980-1983, Eme Awa: 1987-1989, Humphrey Nwobu Nwosu: 1989-1993, Okon Uya: 1993-1994, Summer Dagogo-Jack: 1994-1998, Ephraim Akpata: 1998-2000, Abel Goubadia: 2000-2005, Professor Maurice Mmaduakolam Iwu (2005-2010), Professor Attahiru Muhammadu Jega (63) (2010-2015) and Professor Mahmood Yakubu(2015-)
I have two observations about the past and present chairmen of the electoral body. The first is that no woman has so far been appointed as the chairperson of the electoral commission. I find it so hard to believe that all those who have nominated chairmen of the electoral commission could not find a suitable woman among all the talents we have in this country to head the commission. A country that could nominate a 66 year old princess, Ngozi Okonjo-Eweala, from Ogwushi Ukwu in Delta state to be the Director General of the World Trade Organisation made up of 164 countries cannot nominate a woman to head the INEC. The other observation is that no person from the SOUTH WEST has so far been appointed to head the electoral body. I do not know why. I do not know the yardstick considered for the nomination for the chairmanship of INEC and why someone from the SOUTH WEST is not qualified for the nomination. In Nigeria, the spirit of Federal Character is entrenched in the constitution but not adhered to and ethnicity is a major factor in Nigeria. In terms of appointments, this President Muhammadu Buhari has raised the bar of partisanship and nepotism to the highest level, without pretence. And this is in a country where true nationhood is still a dream. The major responsibility of a leader is to promote unity among his or her people in spite of religion or tribe. A leader must be an agent of unity especially in a fragile, friable and frangible society like Nigeria. I am equally worried that the job of the chairmanship of the national electoral body appear to be jinxed.
The first person to head that body, a Briton, Mr. Wraith, was summarily removed. He was bitter about his removal and in the books he wrote later, he exposed corruption in the electoral system in Nigeria. The man who took over from him, Chief Eyo Ita Esua, who organised the first post-independence general election of December 20, 1964 and the October 11, 1965 election into the Western Region House of Assembly was equally bitter to the end. He refused to take up any appointment again when offered. He died seven years after leaving the office in Calabar in 1973. His children still idolize the outstanding qualities of Chief Esua till today in Calabar.
And the man who took over from Chief Esua, that is, Chief Michael Ani in 1976 also died six years after leaving the job on December 18, 1985 also in Calabar. Justice Ephraim Omorose Ibukun Akpata (1927-2000) who conducted the 1999 general elections died in office during his tenure on January 8, 2000 in Abuja. Sir Abel Goubadia (1932-2011) who took over from Justice Akpata and conducted the 2003 Presidential election died seven year after leaving office in Benin on February 4, 2011.
Professor Maurice Iwu who took over from Sir Goubadia, has a 1.2 billion naira fraud charge around him by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) at the Federal High Court now. Professor Eme Awa (1921-2000) was sacked from the office by General Ibrahim Babangida, GCFR. Also sacked was Professor Humphrey Nwosu, who conducted the freest and fairest election in the country on June 12, 1993. In fact the presidential election of June 12 1993 was annulled. Professor Okon Edet Uya from Oron, Akwa Ibom state, the hometown of my friend, Senator Victor Akan, who took over from Professor Nwosu, was not able to conduct any election before he was removed when General Sani Abacha assumed power. Professor Okon Edet Uya later became Deputy Vice Chancellor and acting Vice Chancellor of the University of Calabar. The last undergraduate course he taught was Atlantic Slave Trade.
Under Chief Summer Karibi Dagogo-Jack (90) from Abonnema, Akuku-Toru LGA, Rivers State, there was no presidential election. The commission under him conducted elections for the local government councils and the National Assembly but overstepped its bounds of its authority in some cases. He too was sacked after General Abacha died.
The only consolation is Professor Attahiru Muhammadu Jega (63) who is free now. If we are to believe in the Kebbi born professor, he is now talking about restructuring.
Except Professor Nwosu, who is equally a friend of Chief Fab Uche, a friend of mine, none of these men wrote their memoirs.