Another egghead, Professor Mamoud Yakubu, was on Wednesday, named new helmsman at the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC). This was sequel to the approval of the nomination of President Muhammadu Buhari by National Council of States at its first meeting since Buhari assumed office on May 29.
The announcement could not have come at a more auspicious time given the heated debate and condemnation that the appointment of Mrs. Amina Zakari as acting chairman had generated across the land following the non-renewal of the appointment of erstwhile chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega.
Beyond the legal, constitutional and moral reasons raised by the most vociferous opponents of Zakari as acting chairman, the tasks before the new helmsman are onerous but not insurmountable given the intimidating credentials of Prof. Yakubu.
Of immediate attention is the forthcoming governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states slated for November 21 and December 5, 2015, respectively which is barely four weeks away.
How he is able to successfully conduct these elections in so short a period will determine his fate as chairman of INEC. Thankfully, the erstwhile acting chairman, Zakari was retained as a National Commissioner. Before becoming acting chairman, she had completed her five-year term as National Commissioner. In essence, there would be no problem in terms of continuation as Zakari had gone far with the arrangements for the polls.
Other issues begging for attention are the calls for a review of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) as re-echoed recently by Zakari with a view to addressing the shortcomings and improving on the processes of the commission. The new INEC chairman will need to work in concert with the National Assembly to get the amendments approved in order take care of the lapses and lacunas in some of the clauses requiring amendments.
Another issue that needed to be tackled is the constitution of the INEC appointments which should be made up of 13 national commissioners. At the moment, with the new appointment by President Buhari, the commission has only six commissioners instead of 13, but with this number, would it be legal to conduct the forthcoming polls?
Some of the challenges also facing the commission that needed to be addressed include lack of internal party democracy, challenges in the control and monitoring of party finance and expenditures as well as election-related violence which has been part and parcel of elections in the country.
The unresolved issues over the Permanent Voters Card and the Electronic Card Reader which was the main challenge in the last general election are other important matters that Prof. Yakubu must address as the countdown to the election draws near.
Besides, the Electronic Voting procedure which has been on the drawing board for some time now would also need his urgent attention. He should not find it too tasking.
Former chairman, Professor Jega, was able to stamp his authority on the electoral process in the last general election which was adjudged credible, free and fair by many local, foreign and international observers.
As Prof. Yakubu comes on board at this decisive moment, Nigerians would expect nothing less from him. He must prove his mettle and not misplace the trust reposed in him by the President who appointed him and the Council of States that approved the appointment.
All eyes are on him; he must not fail!
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