OPEN LETTER TO INEC CHAIRMAN – WITH EDO STATE GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION IN VIEW
By Alade Ngbede
Dear Professor Mahmood Yakubu,
The forthcoming Edo state governorship election would place you as INEC chairman, on either good or bad side of history. You must recognize the fact that you have a date with history in whatever you do with the management and conduct of the process. This is to infer that you are at liberty to choose whether you want history to be kind or harsh on you, by been neutral and committed to the conduct of free, fair, and credible election, without compromise or pandering to whatever interest.
As someone who is well lettered, it is not in doubt whether you are unaware of the judgement of history, as you are vast and well grounded in that order, having graduated top of your class with first class degree in History, and been bestowed with the highest university academic award of a professor. Though, there are those who might not care and ignore whatever that is left of history for younger and unborn generation to interface with, despite impressive academic qualifications and professorial titles. But I have no doubt whatsoever that you would not disappoint Nigerians and her genuine friends at the international community. But to deliver on your mandate as stipulated by electoral acts, by allowing Edo people’s votes to count, and give good account of yourself – to the satisfaction of larger numbers of Nigerians, as well as local and foreign observers.
As the days gradually ends and draw closer for the election in September 19, you must be conscious of the verdict of history that awaits you. In this regard, you should realize and be guided by the fact that Nigerians and international community are waiting to see the type of leadership you would provide. Your commitment to stay true without compromise or playing to the gallery would also shape and deepen the country’s democratic practice. It will further reassure the faith and win the trust and confidence of Nigerians in the country. That way, you would be playing the role of a role model of either good or bad to tens and thousands, and millions of Nigerians. That also means in a literal fashion that you have no choice and place to hide, but to play the role of an unbiase umpire that you ought to play. This is imperative you take cognizance, because Nigerians and other foreign observers who would be on the field to monitor the elections are highly intelligent and discernable. And besides, no secret is hidden under the sun. They can tell whether the election under your leadership is transparent or contrive through institutional conspiracy with active participation of security forces – laced with tactical formalities and calculations, and implemented by armed thugs.
Conscious of the verdict of history and considering your background as a historian, it would not be out of place to describe that you are most likely to prefer been on the good side of history. This is a sacred duty you owe the good people of Edo state, the Nigerian state as a whole, and above all, to God almighty. Now you have the uncommon opportunity to correct and rewrite your name with gold on the sand of time and to change whatever negative impression which some Nigerians might have about you as outcome of 2019 general elections.
However, the success of the election would depend on how you take ownership of the entire process. You must pledge your loyalty for the love of country. It would mean taking full charge by asserting your authority. This will require making tough decisions, as the gains would not come on a plater of gold without sacrifice and stepping on sensitive toes of desperate politicians, whose stock in trade is never a call to serve Nigerians. But to get into elective office at all cost so as to proceed and loot public funds on a scale of unimaginable proportions. These sets of politicians are guided by this dictum: LETS RIG FIRST AND BE DECLARED WINNER BY INEC AND LET THEM TAKE US TO COURT.
How to deliver credible election and to take ownership of the process is not impossible. As I have had reason in the past to put up defense and hold briefs for you in the public, even though I have never met you before. Among other things which I have argued was that the professor is doing his best, that all of his actions, inactions, and conducts, were been guided by electoral provisions. But, in view of some off-cycle governorship elections that were held in some states of the federation, there is need for you to review approach. In this sense, going foreword, and beginning with Edo state, there are two major aspects you should look out for: The first, is that, the INEC under your leadership should be immerse and subsume with good sense of judgment about popularity depth, acceptance spread, general pulse of the electorates towards major contending candidates, and support strength – of contestants for elective offices. The standard with which to view this considerations would require been unassuming and sticking to the truth, instead of relying on the courts by genuine winners when unpopular candidates rig elections into elective positions, which the Nigerian legal onus of proof on election matters is usually complex and difficult to attain. If INEC does not improve in this regard and purge itself of guilt and complicity in the eyes of the public, unpopular candidates with weak and low support base and acceptance would continue to take advantage of the legal loopholes. And perpetuate themselves in the positions of power, as against popular will of the majority.
The second aspect, is that, you should request for adequate and formidable deployment of mobile police and military men at strategic but not visible locations, (in order not to create panic in the minds of electorates) where there are swinging votes or largest numbers of voters, and where armed or unarmed thugs cannot gain access into, or close to the pooling units. You could commence the process now, by dispatching some officials of the commission alongside security men to carryout physical assessment of all the pooling unit centres so as to map out the locations. With the election venues well fortified with security presence, you should ensure INEC concludes the election at the first general round without going into inconclusive – to a run off election. But even if it requires declaring for run off election as required by law, the commission must be cautious, as the motives and circumstances must be genuinely informed. This aspect is salient and instructive for you, and you should pay attention and take heed to the admonition with all seriousness, because INEC must avoid those acts which might, either by omissions, create security bridge, raise suspicion, and cast doubt, about the commission’s credibility. The culture of INEC feigning helplessness while multiple stuffing of ballot boxes, shootings and killings, and dispersal of voters by hired thugs, and election results are declared or otherwise, with security agents been elusive or looking the other way. And in some instance, even prevent voters from coming out to vote candidates of their choice, in good conscience, should be stopped, forthwith. For it is the only way to dissociate the commission from complicity, which might arise from security interruption and bridge of the election.
Mr chairman, it is also imperative on the strength of the above – it is on record and an established fact before you took over as INEC boss, and in most countries of the world where democracy is been practice – that winning of election from areas with swinging votes is usually a pattern and tradition, and must not be unusual under your leadership – where areas with history of low and insignificant numbers of voters, would suddenly determine the winning votes. If there is anything untoward as against what is the norm, it would raise eyebrows and cast doubt on your integrity. If the submission here is strange to you, then it should serve as expo and useful information for you, so as it doesn’t lead to the road for Edo, Ondo, and other future elections in Nigeria.
Professor Mahmood, in good conscience, and as someone with your stellar academic standing, how would you grade a PhD thesis as supervisor and in exchange in the light of the elections which were conducted under your watch, especially in gubernatorial elections in some states, before and after general elections of 2019. Would you have graded such doctoral student below average, on the average, or above average. And could such thesis have won an award for the best academic research work?. l live you to introspectively provide answers to those questions. And I also hope you would someday have to provide convincing, sound, and logical answers, in a gathering of intellectual discuss, during paper presentation in seminars, and as an invited guest in conferences. Or, even in the class room, if you choose to return to the university for your teaching profession.
Prof., the dawn of everyday is a mystery and special gift from God with events that comes with it without the prompting and influence of any creature. Is it the slow transformation of droplet of a semen into human being in the womb, the birds that flies in the skies, the flowers that grows in the forest, or green grass on the hillside, and the breaking of the day that ushered every night? This mysteries and gifts of God are also manifested in different ways and in whatever position one may hold in life, including the one you currently occupy. Therefore, in the light of this context, choosing the path to free, fair, and transparent election in Edo state without the prompting of any individual or group, no matter how powerful or highly placed, should be the least you should ever contemplate. Let the thoughts of majority over minority votes through sanctity of the ballot which is the basis for democracy take centre state of your heart at all times. You should also consider drawing up visible reforms and measures that majority of Nigerians can attest to, believe in, and be proud of, living behind this trail: That you consolidated on the gains and achievements of your immediate predecessor, and left the commission better than you met it.
At it is, prof., the sincerity with which you would bring to bare on the Edo state governorship election would subtract or add credence to the perception about Nigerian professors as tools been used to rig elections for politicians. You are the last scholar standing, to validate or invalidate such negative perception.
From the accounts which your CV mirrors to the world, without flattering or carrying out PR campaign and any shadow of doubt, one could tell that nature through the grace of God has been very kind to you at every stage of your life. It is never in doubt that God has blessed you with great intellect, impressive and tall academic standing, having studied in top Western universities, written many academic books, headed the department of History at NDE, and led TETFUND until your present appointment. You have also headed various reforms committees for Nigerian universities. Prominent among your enduring legacies, was the development of infrastructures and human capacity enhancement, a turning point in the physical infrastructural development of Nigerian public tertiary institutions, and deft move which initiated the idea for the government sponsored academic programs – of lecturers overseas – for optimum performance.
Your salaries and allowances from your service to the nation, plus proceeds from your intellectual works, with moderate lifestyle of contentment, beyound whatever sentiments or considerations, is enough to sustain you for the rest of your life. Therefore, you have no regrets and nothing to loose, if you don’t carve in as willing tool in the hands of politicians or any individual, to conduct transparent election in Edo state and in future elections. It is achievable and you can make the difference, more so, because you have a background with the academic community. And most academics, especially those in the social sciences, law, humanities or arts, which you belong, are vocal and expressive, and critical, and averse to disconnect between leaders and followers, bribery and corruption, all of those, which most Nigerian political leaders are notorious for.
Conclusively, prof., as long as the forthcoming Edo state governorship election is concern, and because of the two major contenders, from the ruling and main opposition party, the exercise would receive special attention by international community, NGO’s, the press, political and public affairs analysts, and majority of Nigerians, from within and outside the country. You are therefore once again on the spotlight of integrity test and public scrutiny, whether INEC under your leadership would perform well or not.
All the best, prof., as you take on, on this onerous and daring task of national assignment, and may INEC under your leadership succeed. May the verdict of history also be kind to you.