Anxiety has enveloped the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) over who will replace Prof. Yakubu Mahmoud as Chairman of the Commission.
The anxiety stemmed from the fact that Yakubu’s tenure will expire on November 9, 2020 because the Senate confirmed him as Chairman of INEC on October 21, 2015, but was sworn in on November 9, 2015.
Although Yakubu is eligible for reappointment, he has not indicated interest. But all the same, he seems to have high chances of going back to the office.
It was gathered that his stewardship could give him a head start in the succession race.
Though a historian, he has introduced some technological innovations like the INEC election result website, an almost equivalent of online transmission of results, that has reduced tensions at election collation centres.
Analysts have also suggested that his conduct of the last presidential election, which returned President Muhammadu Buhari, increased the chances of Yakubu’s reappointment.
However, observers are divided on the governorship elections of Osun, Bayelsa, Kogi and Kano States and the 2019 Presidential election. While some believed that they were free and fair, other criticized them for being rigged. But despite the allegations, the courts approved most of these elections.
It is also not known yet how opposition political parties will react if he is reappointed.
The lukewarm attitude of Yakubu towards reappointment is fuelling the ambitions of some national commissioners to step into the shoes of Yakubu, if not reappointed.
The commission is being run by the chairman; 12 national commissioners – two from each of the six geopolitical zones and 37 Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) who are in charge of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The seven national commissioners whose tenure is not lapsing on November 9 are: Air Vice Marshal Ahmed Mu’azu (rtd), Malam Mohammed Haruna, Prof. Okechukwu Ibeanu, Mr. Abubakar Nahuche, Dr. Adekunle Ogunmola, and Mr. Festus Okoye and are all qualified for the top job in the commission.
So far, Prof. Maurice Iwu is the first national commissioner to be appointed the chairman of the Commission and that was during the tenure of the late Ambassador Abel Guobadia.
However, the appointments of three national commissioners- designate by Buhari last week has narrowed down the list of contenders as some of the commissioners who could have contested may be on their way out of the commission and would be replaced by the new appointees.
The names of Mrs. Lauretta Onochie (President Buhari’s Media aide); Mohammed Sani (Katsina); Prof. Kunle Ajayi (Ekiti) and Mr. Seidu Ahmed (Jigawa) have been Sent to the Senate for confirmation as National commissioners
With Onochie coming from Delta State, it is obvious that Mrs. May Agbamuche-Mbu, who is from Delta State, may be out of the race.
The appointment of Seidu Ahmad from Jigawa State has also neutralised the chances of Mrs. Amina Zakari, who is also from the state, as she may be on her way out of the commission.
Zakari had once acted as INEC chairman after Prof. Attahiru Jega left
Prince Solomon Soyebi had also acted after Iwu’s tenure elapsed.
The tenure of four national commissioners – Dr. Antonia Okoosi-Simbine (Kogi), North-central; Mr. Shettima Arfo (Borno), North-east; Dr. Mohammed Mustafa Lecky (Edo), South-south; and Soyebi (Ogun), South-west, will also expire on November 9.
Edo State has held the office of the national chairman of INEC twice. The Justice Ephraim Akpata died in office and was succeeded by Dr. Abel Guobadia, also from Edo State.
Tthere is a clamour that if the presidency will not reappoint Yakubu, there is the need to appoint a new chairman from the national commissioners who have the requisite experience of the workings of the commission.
The appointment will show political balance as the two immediate past chairmen of INEC are from the North.
Jega, from Kebbi State in the North-west, was succeeded by Yakubu from Bauchi State in the North-east.