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Interview: I’m not Buhari’s Man — INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu


Interview by Edmund Obilo

The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Professor Mahmood Yakubu in an exclusive  interview granted to IVOTES’ Editorial Board Chairman ,Edmund Obilo , has declared that he is not the president’s man. He spoke on a range of issues like the recent inconclusive elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states and the upcoming elections in Rivers state.

On coping since he assumed office…

“We are coping as well as we can. It’s a new commission sworn in on the 9th of December last year so we have been in office for basically four months. In the last four months, we have conducted more elections as a commission than any other electoral commission within a comparable period of time in the history of our democracy. We had Kogi governorship elections; end of tenure and shortly after we had the Bayelsa governorship election and in between we had a number of by-elections beginning with Kwam Pam in Plateau state and Jibia in Katsina state, then came the flurry of court nullified elections, eighty elections to be exact of which we have successfully conducted thirty-two elections”

The recent inconclusive elections…

“There is nothing new or strange about inconclusive elections. In 2011, INEC had inconclusive elections in Imo and Bauchi state. In 2015, we had inconclusive elections in Abia, Imo and Taraba state. Globally, I think elections are getting better. The results are almost neck and neck. Look at what happened in the last two weeks in two countries in our neighbourhood, Niger Republic and Benin Republic also had an inconclusive election so there is nothing unusual about an inconclusive election”

On the coming elections in Rivers state…

“What is happening now in Rivers is not different from what happened in Rivers ahead of the 2015 general elections. Rivers will present a challenge but unlike Bayelsa, most o f Rivers s not riverine so we might have chaleenges because of the size with over 20 local government areas as against Bayelsa’s eight. The topography is also different in the sense that virtually all the the local government areas except one or two accesible by roads. There is the challenge of insecurity, activities of militants, hoodlums and political thugs but the commission is ready to discharge its duties”

Feelings about Wike’s attack of INEC…

“I think it is part of the job. This is not the first time INEC is criticized by obviously interested parties and it’s not going to be the last time or even that the chairman of the commission is criticized. Once you accept to do this job, you should also accept the criticism that come with public service but we will not be deterred from doing what is right under the current circumstances”

On Wike’s allegation that the returning officers are APC agents…

“There is no way you can say university lecturers belong to a particular political party and that they are even agents of the party. What we have consistently done for the integrity of the elections is to go to federal not state, federal tertiary institutions to draw the collation and returning officers for the elections just as we use youth corpers for adhoc responsibilities during elections. The Resident Electoral Commissioner in Rivers wrote the Vice Chancellor of the University of Port Harcourt, he also wrote the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University Otuoke and the Rector of the Federal College of Education in Rivers. We have thosands of staff that we will deploy for elections, only  little over 200 are coming from the University of Port Harcourt and this was a response to a clear request by the REC to the Vice Chancellor and the Vice Chancellor submitted the list. It is an open thing and in any case, the names and telephone numbers of those who are involved in electoral duties are publicised and given to all stake holders so you know who is involved in what. There is nothing hidden, there is nothing untoward and there is no truth in the allegation that we recruited partisan people from the University of Port Harcourt”

Political class running rings around INEC…

“The political class are stakeholders in the sense that some of them are organizing political parties so they have interest but there is no way anybody can run rings around INEC. The impression created is that you run rings to incapacitate. There is no ring run around INEC. INEC is not under the mercy of the political class and there is no ring by the political class to constrain or muzzle us from exercising our constitutional responsibilities in managing elections”

On if he’s Buhari’s man…

“I am not anybody’s man. I am my own man. He didn’t pick me to carry out any planned action. I am an independent man with an independent mind. I understand the responsibilities of managing an election management body; very clearly spelled out in the constitution so as far as I’m concerned, Buhari is just one candidate so there is no difference between Buhari and any other person who is contesting in an election”

Are you related to Buhari…

“Well, I come from Bauchi, he comes from Daura. I come from the North East and he comes from the North West so you can put one and one together to see if we are related”

Is INEC bringing in new technology for 2019…

“As soon as the National Assembly provides for the use of the card reader by way of amendment of the Electoral Act, we want to carry it a notch higher to see if we can deploy technology not only in the accreditation and authentication of voters but also in the collation and transmission of results. Much of the difficulty that we have as a nation in managing our election is in the transmission of results from the polling stations to the wards through the local government and the collation centres but with new technology, we can transmit straight from the polling unit to the collation centre.”


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