The Southern and Middle Belt Forum(SMBLF) after a recent meeting, called for the removal of Professor Mahmood Yakubu as the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The forum hinged their call on the issues of Amina Zakari and under-aged voters’ names in the register and the alleged participation in the local government elections in Kano State.
It is a fact that the forum, based on the composition of its membership and even more, the pedigree of the men and women in the forum, Nigerians are likely to take its comments on national issues very seriously. It is from this standpoint that as stakeholders in the Nigerian project, it is important that they appreciate the need to cross-check their facts before going public with them, especially in situations where the matter in question is largely unsubstantiated.
This becomes even more pertinent when it is realised that the respect and credibility that define not just persons but associations are in most cases earned. We concede to the forum its right to express their views on issues of interest, it would be expedient and wise for them to collectively, or as individuals, think them over before going public with those views.
We are compelled to recall if ever there was need that INEC chairman is from the Northeast, Bauchi State to be precise, while President Muhammadu Buhari is from Daura in the Northwest. Furthermore, the issue of Amina Zakari surely must have been put to rest with the appointment of Yakubu as substantive chairman of the commission since 2015.
Again, calling to question the credibility of the chairman on the basis of the alleged use of under- aged voters in the February 2018 local government elections that held in Kano is, in our opinion, fortuitous.
It speaks volumes about the integrity of a group that lays claims to the entrenchment of justice and fairness to revisit a matter that has been widely discussed and on which report of findings of the investigative panel is out in the public domain. It is trite in our considered view to point out the limitations of INEC in relation to the statutes and legal limitations of of State Independent Electoral Commissions.
Pressure groups, such as the SMBLF, insist on being accepted as resourceful and knowledgeable on matters that relate to the polity. To this extent, therefore, the onus is on them to be educative agencies if they aim to make any impact or cause appreciable change.
Since the inauguration of the Mahmood Yakubu-led INEC administration, the commission has conducted over 180 re-run, end-of-tenure and bye-elections, including five governorship elections. It has embarked on the review and reconciliation of the Voter’s Register which, when successfully completed, will become one of the most credible, comprehensive national data assets in the country.
Between April 2017 and the end of the first quarter of this year, the commission added over nine million new prospective voters to the Register. As at today, INEC has over 70 million entries containing names, addresses, photographs, 10 fingerprints, and telephone numbers. And one of the most important things of note is that the commission ensures that every registered political party in the country has a copy of the national Voter’s Register.
We think that instead of the SMBLF making wild claims about aliens being registered, it is part of their patriotic duty to endeavor to access a copy, verify and draw the attention of the commission to any act of omission or otherwise. It has the Nigeria Immigration Service at its disposal if it needs help in its verification exercise.
While rumours and unverifiable allegations are rampant in the polity, it is not helpful for such a platform as important and perceptibly credible as the SMBLF to act on or help disseminate them. When that happens, it rubs off negatively on what it and its members stand for or want to be seen to represent.
It is our opinion that such calls at this time, with elections less than a year to go, come loaded with preconceived notions and goals not in tandem with the over all national goal and therefore calculated to distract from the nation’s collective aspirations for peaceful, free and fair elections.
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