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INEC Posting And The Albatross Of A REC With Questionable Certificate

March 3, 2016

Professor Mahmud Yabuku, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has a job that not many envy because of its numerous challenges, which have made the office a mausoleum of reputations. He was not convinced of the huge challenges of his, saying on his first day in office that the job is a most simple one and wondering why people complain.


It is unlikely he still holds that view after the draining gubernatorial elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States as well as over 80 re-run elections he still has to conduct across the country.  Some of  the challenges include issues which, to be fair to him and his colleagues,  have no  power to determine. Examples are the establishment of an Electoral Offences Commission, which was pushed for by his predecessors, and amendments to the Electoral Act, a duty of the National Assembly.

Similarly, it is beyond him to resolve the issue of President Muhammadu Buhari's inability to properly constitute the Board of INEC, a body currently made up of seven members instead of 13 as prescribed by the constitution. He also cannot send a bill to the National Assembly for the amendment of the constitution to allow for staggered or piecemeal  composition of the board of INEC, an excuse dressed up as an explanation by Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State on why only six people were appointed to join a national commissioner, Ambassador Lawrence Nnwuruku, whose tenure was still subsisting.  Worse still, Professor Yakubu cannot appoint and fill the vacancies in the Resident Electoral Commissioners cadre, which has witnessed an unprecedented depletion in over 21 states, with the President being unable to make appointments to fill the vacancies in over eight months.

 Yakubu can only redeploy a few remaining RECs. This has had the consequence of limiting him to only those available. It is this situation that has compelled him to post a REC to the South- South extract zone, the consequence of which has been widespread anger by the people of that zone who have exposed his background and academic records as questionable. This makes him unqualified, given that Paragraph 14(2)(b) of the Statute requires electoral commissioners to be of "unquestionable integrity".

How Not To Serve Two Masters At The Same Time:

Regarding the REC in question, shortly after the news broke that there was a reposting of RECs, in apparent response to and anticipation of the Supreme Court judgments in respect of several states, politicians went to work to investigate the backgrounds of who has been posted to their various states. This  led to  digging up of profiles by key politicians  as well as by disaffected INEC staff,  who allegedly were worried about the circumstances resulting in the re-posting of some RECs like  Mr. Aniedi Ikoiwak and his hand-picked Administrative Secretary,  a certain Mr. Ongele, with whom he worked in Delta State. Both had controversies trailing them  prior to their current posting. INEC staff have been wondering why two key officials that served together  during the 2015 elections would be transferred to Rivers State, where a re-run election was anticipated.  It is alleged that their posting was done to help redeem their image after producing over a million of votes for the PDP and against the interest of the APC in the last presidential election in Delta State. The latter allegation is thought to have created an electoral outcome in the Delta gubernatorial election, which saw the APC not even having votes that are equivalent to its membership. Until the recent re-deployment, he was the REC of Delta State, but had previously served in the same capacity in Rivers State  and, in fact, conducted the 2011 general elections during which over two million votes were credited  to the PDP in the presidential election.

After the 2011 general elections, he was deployed to Delta State, where he conducted the 2015 elections. Nigerians are unlikely to easily forget his conduct while presenting the result at the National Collation Centre. At that occasion, Nigerians present at the venue or watching on TV were seized by fits of laughter at the demeanour of the returning officer. While in Rivers State as REC, he was and still appears to be, a friend to the key actors in the politics of River State when the going on was good between those. That was when  Rotimi Amaechi was governor and Nyesom Wike, now governor, was his Chief of Staff. With the two men falling apart, the REC was in a fix as to how to satisfy both mutually exclusive interests. He however got a major relief when Professor Attahiru Jega, former INEC Chairman, did a major reshuffle that saw him  transferred to Delta State.

During the presidential election, in which the two men sat on opposite benches, a key stakeholder in the politics of Rivers State confirmed that the REC had negotiated a determined outcome against the interests of the APC in Delta State, naturally to the shock of the Amaechi camp.

 Despite the REC's reported assurances when he was confronted with intelligence report that the Amaechi group allegedly brought to his knowledge, indicating that over one million votes were being  planned to be declared in favour of the PDP,  he denied the allegation. However, the same figures were eventually declared and since then the REC is reported to have been trying mend fences with the Amaechi camp. The expected Supreme Court ordered  re-run that eventually did not happen, would have provided opportunity for the REC to redeem himself. But notable politicians in the Wike camp were very much aware and had carried out detailed investigation about the grand plan he was coming to execute a and how they would petition the authority on his unsuitability for the position of a REC. This has what motivated a spirited digging into his academic records at the University of Benin, where he attempted securing a Law degree as part of the last set of the institution's part-time law program. As a 300 level student during the 2009/2010 session, he was involved in an examination malpractice, charged for internal examination fraud/impersonation and was expelled in 2010. Information also unearthed reveals, shockingly, that the school certificate results he presented for admission were questionable, as he did not show up for their screening and authentication. That was how he abandoned his bid to get a Law degree in his old age.

How is this REC, with no genuine secondary school leaving certificate and heavy moral deficit, be suitable for the sensitive  position of a Resident Electoral Commissioner representing a place like Akwa Ibom State? Are there not people with genuine certificates in the state?