The reappointment of Professor Mahmood Yakubu as Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for a second five-year term by President Muhammadu Buhari evokes mixed feelings. He is the first person to ever enjoy that privilege, and this conforms to Buhari’s well-known personal tradition.
Buhari is the leader to retain Ministers, Service Chiefs and personal aides for a second term. This obvious security of tenure, instead of the high turnover rate we are accustomed to, serves the strategic purpose of extracting deep-seated personal loyalty from these appointees.
On the other hand, prolonged stay of election managers in office, especially in a developing democracy such as ours, allows them to grow on the job and overcome the nightmarish challenges of poll management on election days.
The Chairman of the Electoral Commission of Ghana, ECG, and other Commissioners, for instance, have no limits to their terms of office. They enjoy the same conditions as judges. This has enabled the ECG Chairman, Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, to serve across regimes for a steady improvement of service delivery.
Yakubu’s reappointment lays to rest the apprehensions that President Buhari could appoint his controversial National Commissioner nominee, Lauretta Onochie, as the next INEC Chairman.
It is sad that the President has continued to sideline the clamour to improve the independence of the electoral umpire as canvassed by the Muhammadu Uwais Panel and supported by well-meaning Nigerians. It is supposed to transfer the power to appoint the Chairman and National Commissioners from the Executive to the Judiciary. There is no way that an umpire controlled by one of the players would be fair to other players.
Coming from the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFUND, in 2015 with glowing credentials of performance, Prof. Yakubu’s first tenure was chequered. Though he has showed great spirit in pushing for electoral reforms and more transparent transmission of election results, his tenure has been sullied by the highly-expensive “inconclusive election” syndrome.
As he settles down to his second term, we hope that the general pats on the head that the Commission received after the Edo and Ondo off-cycle elections will spur it to a greater commitment to improved performance.
Prof. Yakubu must use the uncommon opportunity of his reappointment to, like the Ghana electoral umpire, operate above board. The elections that will gradually see off the Buhari dispensation will be an opportunity for the INEC to prepare for a future of freer, fairer and more accountable polls to foster democracy and good governance in Nigeria.