9th of November was supposed to be his last day in office as Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), having competed his tenure. However, instead of bidding his staff farewell, Professor Mahmood Yakubu will be revving the engine to begin a new journey in the momentous task of overseeing the nation's electoral processes. Depending on which side of the political divide one is, Yakubu is either the best thing that has happened to Nigerian electioneering or he is the devil who has set the hand of the clock back and/or stunted its movement.
The years 2015 to 2020 have recorded some of the most history-making and calamitous events in Nigerian electoral history. And this is the period Yakubu took charge. Having served as Assistant Secretary of Finance and Administration at the 2014 National Conference organised by President Goodluck Jonathan, it was the vital interaction he needed to come close to Nigerian politicians. Jonathan later elevated him to his current office. Following the outcome of the 2015 presidential election in which Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), an incumbent president lost to Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC), many stalwarts of the PDP chastised Jonathan for choosing an enemy who did him in. But this is in the nature of politicians; as many of them are bad losers lacking the spirit of sportsmanship. In their calculation, they can only picture themselves as the winner in an electoral contest. And if some reason, they suffer a defeat, then the electoral umpire has denied them a deserved victory.
Assuming duty in an election year put all eyes on Yakubu. Under his watch, there have been11 End-of-Tenure/Off-cycle governorship elections in Kogi (November 2015), Bayelsa (December 2015), Edo (September 2016), Ondo (October 2016), Anambra (November 2017), Ekiti (July 2018) Osun (September 2018), Kogi (December 2019), Bayelsa (December 2019), Edo (September 2020) and Ondo (October 2020). There were Bye elections into 163 electoral constituencies comprising 15 senatorial districts, 47 federal constituencies and 101 state House of Assembly constituencies occasioned by the death of the incumbent and nullification of the original election by the Election Petition and Appeal Tribunals. There was also the FCT Area Council Elections in April 2016.
Deliberate novelty was introduced by Yakubu's INEC for the first time in the Bayelsa 2015 governorship election and that was the simultaneous accreditation and voting. Previously, these two exercises were split, leading to extended voting period. Again, many who were accredited never bothered to come back and vote.
In the the Anambra governorship election of 2017, INEC introduced what is now known as the Peoples Result, whereby results are announced and pasted at each Polling Unit. This allows observerz like Yiaga Africa and CDD to self-collate and be able to project the winner.
A major achievement of the Yakubu first tenure as INEC Chairman was raising implementation of Continuous registration of voters as envisaged by the law. Before his tenure, registration of voters only took place close to a general election. But in April 2017 registration of voters began and ran till August 2018, when it was suspended to prepare for the 2019 national elections. During the period, a record number 14 million new voters were registered, raising the total number of voters across the country from close to 70 million to over 84 million.
Of all these elections, the 2019 general election comprising the Presidential and National Assembly Election on February 23, Governorship, State Assembly and the FCT Area Council elections on March 9 deserve a special mention. It was the election in which Yakubu had come into himself and was ready to experiment with several suggestions and ideas put on board by different stakeholders in the electoral process. The election was the largest electoral undertaking in Nigeria's electoral history contested by 24,353 candidates nominated by 91 political parties for 1558 constituencies and with a voter population of 84,004,084 spread across 119,973 Polling Units nationwide.
Inauguration and institutionalisation of all-year-round Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) as prescribed by law at LGA and other designated level resulting in the registration of 14,283,734 new voters. Procurement of upgraded Direct Data Capture Machines (DDCMs) with fingerprint scanners and camera. Re-capturing of incomplete bio data of previously registered in previous CVR exercise. Quarterly display of claims and objections on Register of Voters during the CVR exercise nationwide. Increased transparency and accountability in the Permanent Voter Card collection processes. The reliability of this exercise has automatically elevated the PVC to one of the widely accepted means of identification in Nigeria.
We wish for a better Nigeria,we wish that our electoral system gets better.
Does he not deserve to be the INEC chairman for another tenure?