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Opinion | Feb 18, 2019

Why President Buhari Should Suspend INEC Chairman

Okachikwu Dibia || Abuja, Nigeria
Why President Buhari Should Suspend INEC Chairman

It was early in the morning of Saturday, 16th February 2019, I learnt that the Nigerian general elections have been postponed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) under the leadership of Prof. Mahmood Yakubu. According to the various newspaper reports, he said:

Following a careful review of the implementation of its logistics and operational plan, and the determination to conduct free, fair, and credible elections, the commission came to the conclusion that proceeding with the elections as scheduled is no longer feasible

This led to the postponement of the elections, about six hours before the commencement. This means that millions of Nigerians who had travelled back home to their villages for the elections will no longer vote. Postponement happened despite all the consistent reassurance by INEC that it is ready and that the elections will hold as planned. This is deceitful corruption of the highest order. Therefore, the INEC Chairman should be suspended and prosecuted, not on legal grounds but on the grounds of morality.

The main reason Prof. Mahmood Yakubu should be suspended from the office is that he disappointed and failed Nigerians at a time that was too odd and acute to accept and he should take responsibility. This failure is gross misconduct. He had over three years to plan and execute the elections. He has enough resources to execute the elections.

Another reason is for President Mohammadu Buhari (PMB) to use the opportunity to remind Nigerians and the international community that the war against corruption is not a fluke, he means business and Nigeria is no longer business as usual.

Also, to suspend the INEC Chairman is to ensure that such action does not repeat itself again in the future before it becomes a horrible tradition in Nigeria’s political history. The former INEC Chairman did it under the last administration and it surely should not continue. Nigeria at this point when we are preaching anti-corruption to Africa and the World should not create and promote such a negative tradition.

To appease millions of Nigerians who suffered in cost, risk and inconveniences to travel for over distances that took then twelve hours and beyond or who had scheduled other activities for dates after the elections. One of my friends has to travel on Friday, a day before the elections, so that he can arrive Port Harcourt from Abuja that day and vote the next day. The cost was N8500 by road, which means N17,000 to and from Port Harcourt. He called me on Sunday that he is coming back to Abuja because of his job but will not travel back again this weekend for the same election. This way, many Nigerians may not travel back to their wards in their villages for the elections. This is systemic disenfranchisement. Is this fair to them? Thus the number of votes in the coming elections would be reduced. Is this what Nigerians should accept? Prof Mahmood Yakubu should pay a price for this: he should leave the office.

There is also the humility aspect of the postponement. Prof Mahmood Yakubu refused to apologise to Nigerians by arguing that the word “regret” used in his address to the media on that Saturday means apology. But in his first statement postponing the elections that early morning, he never apologised to Nigerians either by using the word “regret” or “sorry” or “apology”. Let me remind him that in Nigeria, we are not English people. To an average illiterate Nigerian, regret does not mean sorry or apology. What he or she wants to hear is sorry or apology. But for a Professor not to be humble enough to pronounce the word apology or sorry to his fellow citizens proved to me that our professors are not humble and humility is one cardinal attribute of that level of intellectuality. Not doing it smacked arrogance or pomposity and such professors should have no business in public service. Whether he is suspended or not, Nigerians deserve an unconditional plain apology from him. Regret is not apology in Nigerians’ understanding of English Language and that was why most media houses did not report that he apologised to Nigerians.

Finally, this postponement is hard to explain to the international community who was beginning to build hope that Nigeria is really changing for the good. How do I explain such a distasteful and annoying failure to my friends in Kenya, Botswana and Ethiopia? The truth is that the international community is bewildered, even though they may pretend they are not.

It is for these reasons I opine that the INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu be suspended from office with “immediate effect and automatic alacrity”. To continue the process, his second in command should quickly conclude it in three month’s time. The national assembly (NASS) should suspend any part of the law that makes it difficult for INEC to have more days to conclude this process.

I strongly believe that President Buhari has no hand in this awful failure. This matter is less in the legal parlance but more in the ethics of the process. If our President fails to suspend Prof Mahmood Yakubu, it means that the fight against corruption is fatally wounded.

Okachikwu Dibia


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