Mon, 13 May 2024 Feature Article

Rivers State Pain: Where is Professor Yakubu?

A Psychologist’s Urgent Plea: INEC Chair Yakubu Must Champion Democracy Amidst Rivers State Crisis
INEC Chair YakubuINEC Chair Yakubu

As Nigeria traverses a critical phase in its democratic journey, especially in the politically volatile region of Rivers State, the role of Professor Mahmood Yakubu, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), is paramount. With his extensive background as a professor of history and international studies, Professor Yakubu is endowed with a profound understanding of governance dynamics and the grave consequences of electoral malfeasance. It is crucial, therefore, that he leverages this expertise to steadfastly maintain the integrity of his office amidst significant political pressures.

At this crucial juncture, Professor Yakubu's leadership is vital in establishing a benchmark for upholding democratic values and ensuring fairness in the electoral process. His role demands that he transcend personal fears if any and political affiliations to act decisively in the interest of national integrity. His responsibilities extend beyond merely overseeing elections; they encompass restoring and sustaining faith in the electoral process itself. It is imperative for Professor Yakubu to affirm INEC’s autonomy, demonstrating its capacity to make impartial decisions based on fairness and justice.

Currently, INEC’s silence amidst the ongoing political turmoil in Rivers State has prompted widespread speculation about whose interests the Commission is truly serving. This scenario echoes a similar situation in 2022, when the Federal High Court in Abuja dismissed 17 members of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly for defecting from the PDP to the APC, underscoring that lawmakers cannot transfer the mandate they received from the electorate to another political party. This precedent underlines the need for INEC to act decisively and adhere strictly to the constitution. The actions of the Federal High Court should serve as a guiding framework for INEC. The court’s decision to issue a mandatory injunction compelling INEC to accept replacement candidates from the PDP for the sacked lawmakers sets a clear expectation for INEC to enforce constitutional mandates impartially.

Similarly, the recent prohibition of certain members from the Rivers State Assembly by the High Court, along with the notification of 27 vacant seats, mandates INEC to act swiftly and transparently to fill these vacancies according to the law.

Professor Mahmood Yakubu is tasked with ensuring that all electoral activities, particularly in contentious areas like Rivers State, are conducted with the highest levels of transparency and diligence. Despite numerous ongoing legal disputes over legislative issues—such as the defection of lawmakers from the PDP to the APC, which legally necessitates vacating their seats—Yakubu's role is critical in addressing any irregularities and actively preventing electoral fraud. It is vital for him to publicly clarify the legal stipulations regarding such defections to reinforce the separation of powers and ensure compliance with court mandates that state authorities, including the Governor, Attorney General, and Chief Judge, cease all official interactions with the ousted lawmakers.

This action by INEC will not only safeguard the legislative process from undue influence but also uphold the integrity of the electoral process. Furthermore, if the Nigerian Police were effectively performing their duties, these lawmakers who are now illegitimately occupying their seats would not be able to convene within the state or participate in legislative activities. This situation highlights the ongoing apparent undue influence from figures like Nyesom Wike, suggesting that his influence might still extend into Abuja, affecting how national resources and authorities are wielded to sway state-level political dynamics. In this intricate and charged environment, it is imperative for Professor Yakubu to prioritize the constitution above all, affirming INEC's independence from influential political figures to maintain the sanctity and impartiality of the electoral process. This commitment is essential not only to navigate current challenges but also to fortify trust in Nigeria’s electoral integrity.

By adhering to judicial precedents and acting in accordance with constitutional provisions, Professor Mahmood Yakubu and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) possess the capacity to significantly alleviate the political unrest in Rivers State. Their proactive engagement and unwavering commitment to legal standards are imperative in establishing a robust precedent for electoral integrity and the rule of law. Such dedication ensures that political transitions within the state are executed smoothly and without undue influence or interference, safeguarding the democratic process.

The imperative for Professor Yakubu is both clear and urgent: to embody boldness, embrace fearlessness, and maintain an unyielding stance in defense of democracy. He is called upon to heed the profound lessons of history, to honor his accountability before Allah, and to consider the judgment of posterity. This challenging period demands exemplary leadership, where the commitment to uphold democratic principles must surmount personal fears and political pressures. As the nation watches and waits, there is a collective hope for a leader who will not only navigate Nigeria through these turbulent times but also emerge as a steadfast guardian of democratic integrity and fairness.

Professor Yakubu's actions in this pivotal moment are crucial. He must rigorously enforce INEC policies and adhere strictly to the constitution to address and quell the ongoing conflict in Rivers State. Such actions are essential not just for restoring immediate peace but for preserving the democratic future of the region. In doing so, Professor Yakubu will demonstrate that the sanctity of the electoral process and the stability of democracy in Nigeria are paramount, setting a vital example for future governance and strengthening the trust of the Nigerian people in their electoral system.