At INEC, Yakubu, Terrorism Expert Takes Over

The appointment of Prof Mahmood Yakubu as chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission came to many as a surprise. Not that the Bauchi State-born is not suitable for the office, but there has been so much furore on Mrs. Amina Zakari who until yesterday was serving as the acting head of the national electoral body.

At the emergency meeting of the National Council of States, yesterday, President Muhammadu Buhari got the body of all governors, leaders of the legislative arms and judiciary as well as ex-heads of state’s endorsement of not only Yakubu, but five others.

Their names will be forwarded to the Senate for approval as national commissioners for the electoral body. Before his new appointment, Yakubu, a professor of history and international studies, was the executive secretary of Tertiary Education Trust Fund and later served in the defunct National Conference that former President Goodluck Jonathan hurriedly put together to stave off political crises in 2014.

Yakubu, the new head of INEC comes to the job after earning a place in the academic pantheon for his research interest and expertise on guerrilla warfare, terrorism and counter-terrorism which will make him a hard nut to crack for indolent politicians whose use of underhand tactics have become legendary.

Yakubu’s expertise will help me to deal with issues of subterfuge – a tool Nigerian politicians are adept at. Now INEC headquarter will have a boss who like Attahiru Jega is known for discipline, integrity and competence. If the Senate approves his nomination as INEC boss, the next five years will be interesting at INEC.

Yakubu’s record of achievement as a teacher and researcher in both Cambridge and Oxford Universities, where thought War and Society in Pre Colonial Africa, attest to his exemplary finesse as scholarship. He is also an administrator of prodigious hue.

Yakubu record speaks volume about his competence. When in 2007, he was appointed the Executive Secretary of the Education Trust Fund (ETF) now known as Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), he emplaced a National Book Development Fund that supports one hundred and two (102) journals of professional associations, and the the nation has, for the first time, a National Research Fund domiciled in TETFund.

Over five thousand, two hundred (5200) lecturers from tertiary institutions nationwide benefitted from the scheme in which, TETFund sponsors for postgraduate studies to support human capital development in our institutions of higher learning. This is the most aggressive training of lecturers in tertiary institutions in the history of education ever in Nigeria.

This is a deviation from the usual practice before him where the only effort made to sponsor academic staff for postgraduate studies was a one-off allocation of N1.75m to each University.

Some have attributed this to luck because under him the TETFUND witnessed a meteoric rise in the collection of Education Tax Receipts when it collected the sum N284.9 billion between 2008-2010 as against the N178.0billion collected between 1994-2007.

What they didn’t factor into that achievement was Yakubu’s development of more imaginative ways of collection of Education Taxes in active collaboration with the FIRS learned from his lived experiences in various Universities in the United Kingdom.

Respite seems to have come to INEC which has been buffeted with crises since the last election. INEC has been accused as a protégé of the Presidency Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose and the opposition People Democratic Party (PDP). While Fayose said Zakari is the president’s in-law, and should never have been appointed to such sensitive post. PDP branded Buhari as harbouring “a hidden agenda”, adding that he (PMB) handed a script to her (Zakari) to act “given that we (PDP) have cases in the tribunals in addition to the forthcoming elections in Kogi and Bayelsa.”

They anchored their misgivings on the fact that the immediate past INEC chairman, Prof. Atahiru Jega handed over to Mohammed Wali when his tenure expired on June 30, but Buhari reversed it within 24 hours

Also the civil society groups and activists like the irrepressible human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana have put INEC and the President on the spot by insisting that INEC as presently constituted lacks the power to fix dates for election and conduct them.

True, the current crop of electoral commissioners had been largely depleted by term-limits. Of the 13 national commissioners of INEC, only two – inclusive of the acting National Chairman, Mrs. Amina Zakari – are still in office; the others having completed their five-year tenure. Also, six of the 37 resident electoral commissioners have completed their terms in office. And Section 154(3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) empowers the president to appoint the INEC chairman and the national commissioners after consulting with the Council of State while section 14 and 15 of Part 1 of the Third Schedule of the Constitution states clearly: “The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) shall comprise the following members (a) a Chairman, who shall be the Chief Electoral Commissioner; and (b) twelve other members to be known as National Electoral Commissioners.” But perhaps more striking in the constitutional requirement is that a member shall be non-partisan and “a person of unquestionable integrity.”

Now with Yakubu on the saddle the gubernatorial elections due to hold in Kogi and Bayelsa States on November 21 and December 5 respectively, will have become legal. But the professor of War Studies will have to imbue his commissioners with the staying power to fight the war against electoral thieves and unscrupulous political buccaneers.

He has new commissioner-designates: Amina Zakari, northwest; Anthonia Okoosi-Simbine, north central and Baba Shettima Arfo, northeast as well as Soyebi Adedeji Solomon, Southwest and Mohammed Mustafa Lecky from the South-South to help him run the show.

Born in Bauchi in 1962, Yakubu graduated with a First Class Honours Degree in History from Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto, becoming the very first person from the whole of Northern Nigeria to have obtained a First class Honours Degree in History. He later schooled at the prestigious University of Oxford where he bagged a PhD.

A recipient of the Bauchi State govt Scholarship to study at both the Cambridge & Oxford Universities in England and his outstanding intellectual artistry at Cambridge further earned him the scholarship of the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust. Yakubu was a three time-time winner of the over Overseas Research Student (ORS) Award by the London-based Committee of Vice- Chancellors of UK.

Happily married with children, Prof Yakubu had two siblings according to an obituary of his mother, Hajiya Amina, popularly known as Yelwa, who died at 80 on Friday, January 17, 2014.

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