Mahmood Yakubu: Day of the guerrilla intellectual 

Professor Mahmood Yakubu, INEC chairman.

By Steve Osuji 

PERHAPS, it’s not by chance afterall that providence made him an expert in the History of Guerrilla Warfare. It’s that arcane part in the vast study of human history that few venture into. But this seems the forte of Professor Mahmood Yakubu, incumbent chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

When he taught this genre of warfare in the Nigerian Defence Academy, NDA, little did he know that he would someday be in the trenches of guerrilla firefights too.

Today, Prof. Yakubu is faced with the biggest battle of his life and he would call in every tactics and strategies he ever learned about ‘cunny, cunny fighting’ to win this. Of course, if politics is warfare by another means, Nigeria’s politics would be jungle combat. And it stands to reason that the umpire in such an encounter must be a master of the art in his own rights. Yakubu is poised to supervise what promises to be an epic political battle for the very soul of Nigeria in just a few months’ time. 

Yes, the 2023 Presidential elections may make or mar Nigeria. This destiny-tweaking and indeed epochal event, rests largely on the shoulder of one man: Prof. Yakubu.

A first class History graduate and records breaker at the University of Sokoto (now Usmanu Danfodiyo University), he received a masters and doctorate from the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford respectively. 

Apart from his stint on the Faculty of the NDA,  Prof. Yakubu was Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFUND and he also played important roles during the 2014 National Conference. 

He has been chairman of INEC since 2015.

His appointment was however, underwhelming to discerning members of the Nigerian public.  First, he was the first electoral umpire since independence,  to come from the same ethnic group of the appointing president. Historically, there had been an unwritten balancing in the political zones of Nigeria’s president and the election boss.

His first major test came in the 2019 general elections. He could be said to have passed the political test but flunked the electoral exam. Understandably so. Elections are a balance of politics and polls. An umpire must be imbued with enough circumspection to know which one weighs higher for the specific moment in history.

2019 would have been easier for everyone if electronic gadgets had been allowed. But politics got the better of the moment as a desperate ruling party acted crazedly desperate. Kano State situation exemplified a sordid 2019 polls that is better forgotten. 

Let’s  say Yakubu was shackled by technology and crude politics on his first major outing.

But 2023 is Prof. Yakubu’s epiphany and destiny. He would have no excuses.

 In fact in the run-up from 2019 to 2023, Prof.Yakubu would earn excellent ratings in most of the by-elections so far conducted. Anambra,  Ekiti and Osun all held in the last one year and all turned out almost unassailable.

But even more notable, and indeed, noble,  is the gallant fight  Prof.Yakubu and his team put up on behalf of Nigerians to win us far-reaching reforms and transformations in our electoral system. 

When myopic politicians, especially of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, tried to use the National Assembly to scuttle the deployment of technology into the system, the electoral umpire showed the guerrilla streaks in him by quietly short-circuting the efforts of the enemies of electoral reforms. 

As if to redeem himself from the odious 2019 outing, Prof. Yakubu was resolute and indeed erudite in the pursuit of change. 

Hear him in one of the conferences to review the 2019 elections:

“We need to continue to deepen the use of technology for the integrity of elections. The Senate Committee on INEC has already shared with the Commission, the Electoral Act Amendment Bill for our input. We are excited by some of the new provisions concerning electronic transmission of results. We are glad that the electoral legal framework is removing some of the encumbrances to the full deployment of technology for improvement of electoral process in Nigeria, especially results collation and management. The Commission will work with the National Assembly for the expeditious passage of the amendment to the electoral legal framework so that work can begin in earnest to make future elections in Nigeria more technology based. It is long overdue, it is doable, it is achievable and it is inevitable.” This was Yakubu in 2019.

Today, in 2022, this feat has not only been achieved, it has been tried and tested several times by INEC to the applause of the world.

Though Yakubu may bestride his domain like a deity, fears persist and apprehensions lurk the mind of the people like a white waif.

Then last week’s expo by CUPP! 

Aha! Many had screamed, we had always known it that this INEC would never be able to hold out!

CUPP stands for Conference of United Political Parties. It is led by a feisty young activist/politician, Mazi Imo Ugochinyere. CUPP seems like a group of penny political parties that are often one man shows. But CUPP has been consistent over the years in its quest to sanitize the system.

Last week, CUPP  had called what it considers a world press conference and presented what it conceived to be an earth shaking revelation.

While many may want to dismiss CUPP as rabble,  the allegations upon scrutiny, are grave indeed.

One, it claims the ruling party had hijacked the voters registration process. That about 20 governors of the ruling party had captured some INEC registration machines and domiciled them in government houses where ove 10 million fictional names and pictures may have been generated. These would be loaded sometime, somehow, into the INEC voter register.

The CUPP allegations are a cupful. And they brandished papers and documents as proofs.

One of the documents is a court injunction already obtained in advance for the purpose of forcibly ousting Prof. Yakubu mid-process if he won’t play ball.

Curiously, the preemptive injunction was allegedly procured from an Owerri High Court just as a sample of the surborned INEC machines were from Imo State.

Remarkably,  Imo State may be considered the headquarters of election malpractices in Nigeria today, especially since the incumbent governor assumed office. Hardly any by-elections held there in recent times has come out untainted. INEC records reveal this fact. 

INEC responded swiftly to CUPP’S allegations, trashing them as junk. INEC voter’s register is intact and unassailable, the Commission said. No new names have been added yet to the register as the new registrants are still being processed. 

Fake names and photographs and mixed-up gender even if they found their ways into the database, would be found out during display of voter’s list, we are further reassured.

In conclusion, we hope INEC would make efforts to verify CUPP’S claims and pursue them to their logical ends –  and with the public in tow. That’s one way to wipe off the stain the allegations may have brought on its name.

Meanwhile, with barely five months to the BIG DAY, it’s Prof. Yakubu’s day in the sun.  Let’s call it the day of the GUERRILLA INTELLECTUAL. It’s his day to earn his spurs as a statesman and international nobility or to achieve eternal villainy and pariahood.

The choice is MAHMOOD YAKUBU’S.

*** Originally published in THE TRUE VISION NEWSPAPER.

A.I