We laud the reappointment of Prof. Mahmood Yakubu as the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) by President Muhammadu Buhari and his confirmation by the Senate. Since our nascent democratic dispensation, Yakubu is unarguably the first chairman of the electoral agency to serve a second term. Others before him had served only a term of five years, each. Yakubu supervised the 2019 general election and off-cycle polls in Kogi, Bayelsa, Edo and Ondo states. He was first appointed INEC chairman in November 2015, and succeeded Prof. Attahiru Jega, who supervised the 2015 general election.
With his reappointment as INEC chairman, he is expected to ensure continuity and engender credible electoral process in the country. At the same time, Yakubu will do all within the powers of the Commission to give Nigerians free and fair elections in future.
Having spent five years on the job, it is believed that Yakubu has garnered enough experience to give Nigerians a credible poll in 2023. He must have learnt useful lessons from his past outings. It is public knowledge that INEC under him supervised elections that were criticised by local and international observers for some inadequacies. Some of the poor outings of the Commission under him were blamed on inadequate time for preparation and other logistic challenges. We hope that Yakubu will use his second term to correct the lapses of past polls. It is to his credit that the two most recent governorship elections in Edo and Ondo were adjudged relatively free and fair. He should build on these commendable outings and reposition the Commission for better service delivery.
To whom much is given, much is also expected. Yakubu should not disappoint Nigerians in 2023. His reappointment offers him enough time to reposition the electoral agency to conduct a credible poll. There is no doubt that election is an important aspect of any democracy. For our democracy to endure, there is need for free and fair poll. The last general election exposed some flaws in the country’s electoral system and hence the need for urgent reforms.
It is good that INEC under Yakubu is striving to introduce electronic voting (e-voting) in the country’s electoral system as well as other reforms. We urge him to use the off-season polls in some states to test-run the e-voting before the 2023 election. We believe that e-voting will substantially enrich our electoral process and make it more credible and resilient. As an emerging democracy, there is need for continuous improvement of the electoral process. We also need voter education. INEC should simplify the voting process and make it an enjoyable exercise and not one that Nigerians will dread. The electoral system will be made in such a way to eliminate electoral fraud and other infractions. We need an efficient electoral system that will make all votes to count and the wishes of the electorate respected. Nigerians would want an electoral system that will be resilient enough to check undue meddlesomeness and interference from some quarters.
The Commission can also learn from other countries workable strategies and innovations that make their electoral systems more credible and reliable. We urge the INEC chairman to borrow ideas from Ghana and advanced democracies such as the United States, which recently came out of elections, on how to conduct free and fair polls. There should no longer be inconclusive elections, malfunctioning of the card readers in future elections.
For the e-voting and other electoral reforms to take effect, there is need for enabling legislations from the National Assembly. The swift passage of the Amended Electoral Act is vital for a credible poll in the country. Therefore, we urge the lawmakers to ensure that this and other laws that will enable the commission succeed are passed before the 2023 poll.
With the date of 2023 presidential election already announced, the renewal of Yakubu’s second term offers the Commission ample time to start preparing for the exercise early. He must ensure that the 2023 poll will be better than the 2019 exercise. There will be no room for excuses. This is the time for Yakubu and other stakeholders to ensure that INEC is truly independent and free from undue external influences.