Mahmood Yakubu, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has revealed that Attahiru Jega, his predecessor, ran to him when he was under pressure.
In an interview with Daily Trust, Yakubu said the announcement that he would be succeeding Jega came as a surprise.
He also spoke on some of the challenges, which the commission had been experiencing under him, and the steps taken to address the situation.
“Jega and I have been friends for some time. While I was serving as executive secretary at TETFUND, he (Jega) was chairman of INEC and whenever he came under pressure, he would rush to my office because we lived on the same street,” he said.
“He was a man of few words… In some cases, I would call to encourage and urge him to soldier on whatever the pressure was. But as you know, nothing in INEC happens quietly; it is always in the public domain.
“Now I have moved to INEC and he is not at TETFUND for me to rush to because he has gone back to the Bayero University, Kano. So it is a huge challenge and I understand the full import of serving as INEC chairman and managing elections in a developing country.”
Yakubu also commented on the nature of elections in the country, saying INEC derive no pleasure in declaring elections inclonusive.
“Let me first explain what inconclusive means because unless we understand what an inconclusive election is, we cannot really assess what happened in Kogi or elsewhere,” he said.
“In the past, politicians used to disrupt elections where they were not strong so they could win on the basis of the votes of their areas of strength. In response, INEC said if you disrupted election anywhere the people would be ultimately given another opportunity because every vote in Nigeria must count. It is the votes that Nigerians cast that can determine who becomes their leader.
“This principle was applied not once. In 2011, if you could recall, the governorship election in Imo was inconclusive and INEC had to do a supplementary. In the same year the governorship election in Bauchi State was inconclusive and INEC had to conduct a supplementary election in two LGAs -Ningi and Misau. In 2013, the Anambra governorship election was inconclusive in 16 LGAs and INEC had to go back there to conduct elections.
“ In 2015, Imo was again inconclusive and INEC had to conduct a supplementary election there. Abia and Taraba elections were also inconclusive in 2015.
“We also had constituency elections that were inconclusive. The whole purpose is to give people the opportunity to cast their votes and that these votes must count. Having said that, why do we have quite a number of inclusive elections? One, there has been a revolution in our elections in 2015, particularly with the introduction of technology, but still we haven’t come to grips with reality. For the first time in our elections, we had the lowest margin of lead in a presidential election; 2.5 million is the lowest since 1999.
“Second, we were used to landslide victories because we would have one major political party and many smaller ones. Now you have, at least, two strong political parties.
“Third, you have very competitive elections. If we take the case of Kogi, it was the incumbent governor versus a former governor, formidable candidates from two strong political parties. In Bayelsa, it was a former governor versus an incumbent governor, and to some extent in Rivers State as well during the re-run election, it was the incumbent governor versus a former governor. So, you have a situation where you have two strong political parties and strong candidates.
“In addition, the elections are getting better and votes are counting. The margins are getting slimmer if you consider the results. Take the case of Bayelsa: when the incumbent governor was elected for the first time, the margin between him and the runner-up was 417,500 votes. Four years down the line in the last election conducted in January this year, the margin shrank to a little over 50,000. So you can see how competitive the elections are becoming. In the case of Kogi, we had difficulty mainly in Dekina LGA arising from violence and disruption.
“It appears to me that while INEC was trying to put the onus back in the hands of the voters to determine who becomes their leader, the politicians also seized that opportunity to create inconclusiveness by organizing disruption not only where they were not strong, but also where they were strong. We have seen evidence of organized disruption sowe would be compelled to declare election as inconclusive and call for re-run.”
He explained that without violence elections will end within the shortest possible period and winners will emerge.
The INEC boss cited example of how a bye-election was conducted without any glitch in the village of Abubakar Shekau, leader of the Boko Haram sect.
“On Saturday last week, we had a bye-election in Yobe and the constituency includes Charmuwa which includes Shekau’s village. We conducted an election in that particular village, in Shekau’s village, and there was no violence,” he said.
“We conducted an election in Gulani local government recently liberated from Boko Haram and, interestingly, by 1am a winner had emerged. We had no issues at all. But where you have violence, it is impossible for the election to be conclusive based on the provisions of our own guidelines.”