Mahmood Yakubu, professor of Political History and International Studies, has been confirmed by the Senate as the new chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission’s INEC. . Mahmood, who was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari on October 21, succeeds Amina Zakari, who served as acting chairman. The Senate also confirmed the nomination of Solomon Adedeji Soyebi (Southwest); Mohammed Mustapha Lecky (South south), Amina Zakari (Northwest) Antonia Taiye Okoosi Simbine (Northcentral) and Baba Shettima Arfo (Northeast) as national commissioners
President Buhari asked the Senate to confirm them in accordance with Section 154(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
While responding to questions from the senators, Yakubu said he is ready to carry out his responsibilities without fear or favour. “It is too late for me to be intimidated in anything in this country. I have the character to do the right thing. Secondly, in the course of my public service, I have received many accolades, including eight honorary doctorate degrees with none from my state. I have reconciled myself to the service of Nigeria.”
Yakubu noted that early preparation for election is important, stressing the need to do away with the fire-brigade mentality in the conduct of elections. He promised improve on the registration and distribution of permanent voter cards, PVCs, adding that the 12.3 million PVCs that were not distributed before the 2015 general elections would be circulated next year. He said 70 million voters were registered, 56.6 million PVCs were distributed and 500,000 PVCs were not printed.
On electronic voting, he said one day the country would embrace electronic voting. He, however, cautioned that the country should tread cautiously; taking cognisance of the experience of other countries that embraced electronic voting without proper planning. The professor said the country was still grappling with the problem of infrastructure and should not rush into electronic voting, he said.
On the reforms he intended to bring, Yakubu hailed his predecessor, Prof. Attahiru Jega, for doing a great work in the commission. He said whatever is in INEC required consolidation and improvement for better performance. Yakubu described diaspora voting as desirable. He added, however, that fundamental reforms needed to be made, including constitution review of relevant sections before Diaspora voting could be done.
Yakubu was born in Bauchi in 1962. He completed his basic and secondary school education at Kobi Primary School and Government Teachers College, Toro respectively. He attended the University of Sokoto (now Uthman Danfodio University), where he obtained a first decree in History. He also has a Ph.D. in Nigerian History from University of Oxford, United Kingdom in 1991. He is a three-time recipient of the Overseas Research Scholarship and also won Commonwealth Scholarship from Association of Commonwealth Universities. Before his appointment, Yakubu served as the executive secretary of he Tertiary Education Trust Fund. Yakubu has received many local and international laurels.
Meanwhile, Prof. Attahiru Jega former chairman of INEC has affirmed the capability of Yakubu to do the job. He said this while delivering lecture titled, “Electoral Reforms in Nigeria: Challenges and Prospects” at the first University of Abuja Public Lecture Series. He however added that navigating the “minefield” of “do-or-die” politicians as an impartial electoral umpire required nerves of steel. “Compliance with the laws and insisting on same and respect for due process, as well as being non-partisan and transparent, helped the commission in navigating this ‘minefield’,” Jega said He adjudged the 2007 elections as manifestly the worst in the nation’s history. He said: “From my experience, I quite often say that Nigeria has a special breed of politicians (Nee: ‘Militicians’). They generally tend to believe that political power through elections has to be ‘captured’ and this has to be done by hook or by crook; and by any means necessary! To them, winning election is, literally, ‘a do-or-die’ affair.” Jega, who is now at the department of Political Science, Bayero University, Kano, said the sad development remained a formidable challenge for future electoral reforms. He said: “As long as politicians continue to have this unwholesome mindset, efforts at electoral reform and deepening democracy would remain constrained. “INEC faced perhaps its greatest challenge in containing the predisposition and reckless mindset of Nigerian politicians. Any wonder then, that our political arena increasingly resembled a bloody battlefield, with maiming, killing, burning, and unimaginable destruction of lives and property.” He advised government to ensure that security plays a wise role in future elections.
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