The INEC chairman Professor Mahmood Yakubu, on Friday, abdicated office, pending approval of his tenure extension by the Senate.
The upper house is considering holding an emergency session to confirm Yakubu’s reappointment or at the very least, refer him to the Senate Committee on INEC as part of measures to expedite his confirmation.
But, from all indications, not all the pending by-elections in some parts of the country would hold this year since Yakubu could no longer act in a substantive position, a situation compounded by his pending confirmation by the Senate.
The commission has already begun to mull new dates for the elections. While other elections might hold later this year, that of Lagos and Imo States might not hold till the first quarter of next year as Yakubu intends to personally oversee those two.
Another meeting where the decision on the by-elections would be taken has been slated for tomorrow, Monday, with the stakeholders and the acting chairman also appointed to oversee the other by-elections apart from Lagos and Imo, which the chairman intends to supervise by himself.
Sworn in on November 9 2015, Yakubu’s tenure officially ended November 9 2020, and has since been re-appointed for a second term. But he is unable to assume duties until his approval by the Senate.
President Buhari, had on October 27 2020, reappointed Yakubu as INEC chairman for another five-year term.
The disclosure was made public by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, in a statement titled: ‘President Buhari nominates Prof Yakubu as INEC chairman for a second term in office’.
According to the statement, “President Muhammadu Buhari has presented the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, for a second term in office.”
Yakubu’s reappointment by the president followed the expiration of his first term in November, a development, which necessitated his stepping down last Friday in fulfillment of relevant extant laws, after allegedly holding his last official meeting with some of his senior management staff the previous day, where pending critical issues were said to have been considered.
Top on the agenda at the meeting held on Thursday before stepping aside on Friday was the need to consider possible new dates for the pending by-elections, whose initial dates were unavoidably moved as a result of the #EndSARS protest, which held the country down towards the end of October.
However, pending the much-awaited Senate screening of Yakubu, the question of who takes over the affairs of the commission has arisen, even though the lot is expected to fall on the next most senior person in line.
Curiously, INEC had lined up a number of activities to herald the National Assembly and State Assembly bye-elections in no fewer than 11 states, originally beginning from Tuesday before the #EndSARS protests that stalled its plans.
At his last official meeting on Thursday, the management under him had outlined a series of activities from Tuesday, but the implications here include the fact that whoever is acting in his capacity pending senate confirmation is the one to preside over activities of the electoral umpire.
Interestingly, since he was nominated alongside national commissioners like Dr. Antonia Taiye Okoosi-Simbine (Kogi), North-central; Alhaji Baba Shettima Arfo (Borno), North East; Dr. Mohammed Mustafa Lecky (Edo), South-south and Adedeji Solomon Soyebi (Ogun), South-west, none of them is eligible to act as chairman, because they were expected to have also exited the stage with him on November 9, 2020.
Thus, the choice of the acting chairman of INEC falls on the second group of INEC national commissioners nominated on December 5, 2016.
These are Professor Okechukwu Ifeanyi, who is the commissioner in charge of Electoral Operations, Mohammed Haruna, Air Vice Marshal Ahmed Muazu, who chairs INEC Tenders Board, Dr. Adekunle Ogunmola, the INEC chairman on Outreach, Partnership and Civil Society (OPC), Mrs. May Agbumuche Mbu, and Abubakar Nauhuche
But Nauhuche is out of the race as he has resigned a few days ago on account of ill health.
On the other hand, Festus Okoye was appointed a national commissioner on July 21 2018 and is not in consideration apparently, because of the date of his nomination.
Given this scenario, the choice of acts pending Yakubu’s confirmation should naturally fall on any of Ibeanu, Muazu, Ogunmola and Mbu.
But, again, Ibeanu may not be around as he is said to be on leave. Unless he is called back to take up the task, the position then goes to the trio of Mauzu, Ogunmola and Mbu as a result of seniority.
From all indications, the final analysis, the position might fall on either of Muazu or Ogunmola as the most suitable of those in line.
The Senate is already being seriously lobbied to reconvene and sort out Yakubu’s appointment once and for all especially that his leadership at a time the commission is believed to be doing well in the discharge of its duties given some of its recent outings.
Also, the Senate leadership is not averse to considering Yakubu’s matter but in a tight corner as a majority of its members are currently saddled with the 2021 budget, which they are determined to pass before the end of the year in fulfillment of the new January to December cycle.
Even at that, the Senate, insiders hinted has agreed to give priority to Yakubu’s confirmation so he could be effectively involved in planning for some of the pending by-elections in different parts of the country.
In view of this, the Senate is considering on or before November 24 to deal with Yakubu’s case in nation’s interest.