Not a few Nigerians and, indeed, the global community were startled when the newly reappointed Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, decided to step down pending his clearance by the Senate. The rare development was, no doubt, a pleasant surprise to many observers of the Nigeria project, owing principally to the sit-tight syndrome plaguing among office holders in Nigeria, in particular, and Africa, in general.
Until his reappointment by President Muhammadu Buhari, Yakubu, who was first appointed INEC chairman in October 2015 but was officially sworn in on November 9, 2015, handy over at the expiration of his five-year tenure on Monday, November 9, 2020, to AVM Ahmed Mu’azu (rtd), as acting chairman.
Speaking at the handing over ceremony, Yakubu noted it will be inappropriate for him to remain in office beyond November 9 without confirmation by the Senate and swearing to another oath of office as provided by law.
“As you are already aware, our work as election managers requires us to enforce the law, regulations and guidelines. In doing so, we must demonstrate strict respect for, and compliance with, the Constitution of Nigeria and subsidiary laws. Consequently, it will be inappropriate for me to remain in office beyond today, 9th November 2020, without confirmation by the Senate and swearing to another oath of office as provided by law.
“Pending the conclusion of the statutory process, the remaining national commissioners have resolved that AVM Ahmed Mu’azu (rtd) will oversee the affairs of the commission. It is, therefore, my pleasure to hand over to him in the interim. We have worked as a team for the last four years. Therefore, there is nothing new to anyone of them,” he said.
He lauded the support of the members of the commission, the resident electoral commissioners, the secretary to the commission, the director-general of the Electoral Institute, directors, members of the technical team, heads of the various security agencies deployed to INEC and all staff of the commission nationwide, adding that he looks forward to working with them again.
In his response, the Acting Chairman, AVM Ahmed Mu’azu (rtd), thanked the outgoing chairman of INEC and his colleagues for the privilege and confidence reposed in him to oversee the commission. He assured that he will handle the affairs of the commission with all due diligence.
President Buhari had on October 27, 2020 reappointed Yakubu, a professor of political history and international studies, for another tenure of five years subject to confirmation by the Senate. In a letter to the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, Buhari said: “In accordance with the provision of Section 154 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), I am pleased to present for confirmation by the Senate, the nomination of Prof. Mahmood Yakubu for appointment as chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for a second and final term.”
Without a doubt, Yakubu had undertaken massive reforms of Nigeria’s electoral body, which are widely considered as revolutionary. These reforms have largely improved the country’s elections and deepened her multi-party democracy. On the perception among some Nigerians that he is being influenced by the president, Yakubu said: “For those who know me, with my antecedents in the places I have worked, it is too late to be intimidated by anybody. I cannot. For what purpose? To achieve what at this stage? Nothing! There is nothing I am looking for that God has not given me. I completed my PhD from Oxford at 29 and my father was a headmaster, so what does anybody want to give me now?
“The only job I prayed God to give me was to be a university lecturer and I am now a professor; any other thing I do is bonus. I do not think that there is anybody who can influence me. I headed the biggest funding agency in this country and at the end of it I went back to my teaching profession in the university. Directly or indirectly, I have not been approached by anybody to do anything entirely other than what is in the law. The best marker is to do an analysis of all the elections we have conducted and tell me which party won what; and then you can see our neutrality or otherwise.
Yakubu’s ample demonstration of statesmanship, patriotism and utmost respect for the rule of law and constitutionalism, sterling qualities and attributes that are very rare among Nigeria’s contemporary office holders, largely accounts for why President Buhari deemed it fit to reappoint him for a second and final term of five years. Yakubu’s reappointment is in itself a novel and historical development, being the first time an INEC chairman would be so reappointed.Blueprint joins other Nigerians to herald the new dawn in public sector administration and leadership in the country ushered in by Yakubu. Yakubu has, indeed, set the pace and lifted the bar which will not only be a reference point for qualitative and astute leadership, but which other public officers will be expected to uphold as they will be assessed by it. We congratulate Yakubu on his reappointment and wish him greater successes in his second and final term, when confirmed by the Senate.