New broom at INEC: challenges and threats

The enthronement of a new chairman and national commissioners at the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC may have saved the country the troubles of having an ill-constituted commission conducting the forthcoming governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa. But beyond that is the challenge of improving on the legacy of the Attahiru Jega led commission.
By Jude Opara, Abuja
On Wednesday
, President Muhammadu Buhari finally decided to do the needful by reconstituting the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) when he presented to the National Council of States in their first meeting the names of a new chairman and five national commissioners for the electoral body.
Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, a former Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) was named as the Chairman while the erstwhile acting Chairman, Mrs. Amina Bala Zakari as member representing North West, Dr. Antonia Taiye Okoosi-Simbile as Commissioner North Central, Alhaji Baba Shettima Arfo, from Borno as Commissioner representing North East, Dr, Mohammed Mustapha Lecky from Edo as Commissioner representing South South and Prince Soyebi Adedeji Solomon from Ogun representing South West zones as National Commissioners of INEC.
Yakubu, new  INEC boss
Yakubu, new INEC boss
Recall that Amb. Lawrence Nwuruku representing the South East zone still has about two more years to the end of his tenure; hence there was no other nominee from the zone.
If the Senate confirms the list as presented by President Buhari, the first major task that will confront Yakubu and his team is the forthcoming governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States in November and December respectively.
By appointing this new set of commissioners, President Buhari has actually saved the country some impending stress because it is very clear that most politicians especially in Kogi and Bayelsa States would have resorted to the courts had the job of conducting the elections been left to Mrs. Zakari and Chief Nwurukwu.
Challenges: Conducting elections in a country like Nigeria where politicians see elections like a war is a daunting task for any electoral umpire, and for Yakubu, who may not have had any previous experience in conducting elections to assume such a responsibility just few weeks to the governorship elections is indeed significant.
Interestingly, the two states in question pose their own peculiar challenges given the fact that the two main political parties in the country, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are parading some of the biggest heavyweights as their candidates.
In Kogi State, the fight is a straight battle between the incumbent, Governor Idris Wada and the former governor, Prince Abubakar Audu. Wada is of the PDP while Audu is flying the flag of the APC. The same scenario also plays out in Bayelsa where the incumbent governor, Seriake Dickson representing the PDP is facing a challenge from another former governor, Chief Timipre Sylva of the APC.
In a situation like this where the contending candidates are more or less evenly matched, it is not always surprising to see losers claim that they were rigged out. Therefore, Prof. Yakubu and his team would be put to task to ensure that they pass the litmus test before them.
Litmus test
Another problem the team will likely have is the fact that the apparent high achievement of the immediate past chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, for which he was commended by the National Council of State on Wednesday, will surely be a yardstick to judge and measure their achievement. The various innovations introduced by that regime must be religiously followed to achieve the desired result, as anything contrary will not augur well.
Buhari

One other issue that will likely need extra care and tact from the new INEC is the controversial issue of creation of new polling units. Recall that the former Chairman, Prof. Jega wanted to create some 30,000 more voting units but that was mired in controversies as many people especially from the southern part of the country kicked against the idea because of alleged plot to favour the northern part of the country.
There was also a huge outcry when the Commission created more polling units in the Boko Haram ravaged areas than some other zones of the South.
The delimitation of constituencies which has not been done since the advent of the Fourth Republic is another issue that is bound to confront the new commission given constitutional imperatives of redressing the districts. The ploy to use it as a political tool should be avoided.
Opportunities: However, there are also some opportunities which are coming the way of the new commission. The first is that the National Commissioners are not entirely new. They have the privilege of having two former acting chairmen of the commission; Prince Adedeji Soyebi and Mrs. Amina Zakari as returning national commissioners. Also present is Amb. Lawrence Nwuruku who still has his mandate of about two more years outstanding.
The success of the last dispensation cannot be talked about without the contribution of Zakari and Nwuruku just as it will be remembered that Soyebi held forth at the Commission at the end of the tenure of the Prof. Maurice Iwu.
Also, the use of the Card Readers and the Permanent Voter Cards for the conduct of elections will be assets that the new commission would be bound to retain. The commission would, however, have to design strategies to perfect the system to the benefit of all.

CULLED FROM VANGUARDNGR