By IKE ABONYI
“The way I see it, an umpire must be perfect on the first day of the season and then get better every day” – Nestor Chylak
Perhaps only two persons since the history of Nigeria have been able to conduct election and left with their heads high. They are Prof. Attahiru Jega and Prof. Humphery Nwosu, both political scientists. For Nwosu upon that his election produced the ill-fated June 12, history still record him well because he was able to conduct a free and fair poll even though the ruling junta then did not dispose themselves for such credible elections.
For Prof. Jega he was lucky that the man holding sway during his time President Goodluck Jonathan was very disposed for free, fair, transparent and credible election because as he said on marble “my ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian.” Even at that time the statement was seen as coming from a clueless, timid leaders but as it has now turned out, it has become a benchmark for all electoral matters in our country.
What a patriotic disposition you may say, but the man who hugely benefited from it was the then Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Jega, who rode to international limelight as a result. Prof. Jega conducted election where for the first time in Nigeria’s political history, an opposition party upturned a ruling party.
By that extraordinary electoral display, Jega left a very big shoe for his successor who happened to be the current INEC boss, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu.
If INEC chairmanship position was an issue of qualification Prof. Yakubu was as qualified if not more qualified than Prof. Jega, but the position demands more than that. It requires in addition to academics, a huge self-discipline, lion-like courage, will power and of course the cat-like demeanor to be able to navigate the crooked ways of Nigerian politics. Even as a former teacher on guerrilla warfare at the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Kaduna, Yakubu by now must have realised that he still require some tutorials on guerrilla politics as practiced in this clime if he is to effectively carry out his current national assignment.
Prof. Yakubu if he is to be honest can confess that his four-year career stopover at the INEC headquarters probably has done some rejigging on his person than ever. The delicate job he was called to do has been so challenging expectedly.
The by-elections he conducted so far have been characterized by all sorts of controversy. His coming brought in new lexicon into our electoral vocabulary, ranging from inconclusive to rescheduled polling.
The outcome of gubernatorial elections under his watch particularly that of Kogi, Bayelsea, Ekiti and Osun states did not leave him with much credit. All the by-elections which ordinarily should have helped to prepare him for bigger challenges ahead did not do that instead it opened up his flanks more for attack.
The electoral issues that arose from the Osun State gubernatorial election last September remains a big dent on the image of the electoral commission particularly the Commission’s Chairman after top international observers publicly scored it low.
A remorseful commission had hoped to use the general election of this year to launder their image damaged by the Osun outing. But from what happened last Saturday leading to the rescheduling of voting day on the Presidential and National Assembly four hours to voting, the hurdle for the commission to redeem itself has been raised even higher.
Even though the real issue that transpired that unholy Friday night may not be available in public domain immediately, but what appears to be very glaring from multiple sources is that Prof. Yakubu may have fallen victim of his poor reading of the political intrigues around him as it relates to the hawks locking around INEC. Why won’t they with the huge funds available to the commission for such a short period and moreover the fact that they could make or mar ambitions. What is evident even in the pretense around is that all is not well; this Electoral Commission is having issues among its critical players. In any game, politics not excluded, an umpire must not only be seen to be unbiased, he must show cause that it enjoys the needed unity to carry out such responsibility.
By mismanaging itself to result in shifting a general election few hours to voting, this commission has made history wrongly and by so doing put itself in a very precarious position going forward.
On Saturday February 23, 2 history will be beckoning on Prof. Yakubu. The pendulum would be dangling waiting to steady at the side to be thrown out by the election of that day.
Every election watcher knows as a fact that among electoral offenses on an Election Day politicians and their platform contribute more but an unbiased, organized and forthright umpire would still be able to navigate. A huge challenge for Prof. Yakubu and his team.
Who is this Mahmood Yakubu whose reputation is being put to question, whose competence President Buhari already slated for probe?
According to Wikipedia Mahmood Yakubu was born in Bauchi State, Northern Nigeria. He completed his basic and secondary school education at Kobi Primary School and Government Teachers College, Toro, respectively. He proceeded to the University of Sokoto (now Usmanu Danfodiyo University), where he became the first and, to date, only Nigerian from the North to obtain a first-class degree certificate in history. In 1991, Yakubu graduated from the University of Oxford with a doctorate in philosophy, specializing in Nigerian history. The Bauchi State Government offered him a scholarship to study at both the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford. He went on to become a three-time recipient of the Overseas Research Scholarship, and also won the Commonwealth Scholarship from the Association of Commonwealth Universities.
Yakubu was a lecturer, guerrilla warfare expert, and professor of political history and international studies at the Nigerian Defence Academy. Prior to his appointment as Chairman of INEC, Yakubu served as the executive secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, being appointed to office in 2007 by then-President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. During his tenure as secretary, a National Book Development Fund was established, supporting 102 journals of professional associations.
Yakubu also served as Assistant Secretary of Finance and Administration at the 2014 National Conference. In 2013 he was awarded an honorary fellowship to the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations. On 7 January 2019, he released a new voting system for the 2019 general election.