By Eric Teniola
As expected the tenure of Professor Mahmood Yakubu(58) as chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, ends on Monday November 9. Then came the announcement by Professor Yakubu that the presidential election will hold February 18, 2023, that is 885 days away. It is the first time Nigerians have been given 885 days notice for a presidential election.
The announcement came 26 days before Professor Yakubu’s tenure as Chairman of INEC ends. One would have expected the INEC Chairman to 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. No doubt, he is qualified for reappointment, he is 58. He has served as the Executive Secretary of 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. 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 Buhari 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 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 appears 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 elections of December 20, 1964 and the October 11, 1965 elections 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 idolise the outstanding qualities of Chief Esua till today in Calabar.