Yakubu’s new song at INEC



FEW remembered him by his real name, Moshood Folorunso Abiola. He was simply known as Prof. Peller. However, this enigma born in 1941 at Iseyin, Oyo State, was so adept at his trade that he would easily get a stadium-capacity crowd into a frenzy by his simply mesmerising acts. Prof. Peller, the magician was simply magical.

However, fate, that unseen, but powerful force known to control everything else, was to play the fastest trick on the man. He died on August 2, 1997, the same day death chose to take another legend, the Abamieda himself, the iconic Fela Anikulapo Kuti.

Very few people seemed to notice his exit despite the tragedy surrounding his end, having been shot in his Lagos residence by some gunmen. Newspapers, struggling to find a space to give all the perspectives of the late Afrobeat king, could only manage to tuck his story in one corner, while radio and television stations, simply mentioned the incident in passing, as they were all consumed by the Fela fever.

One recalls this event in the developments that played out a few days ago in Nigeria’s upper legislative chambers, the Senate and how they seem an apt replication of that episode, almost 14 years ago.

On Thursday, October 29, the Senate cleared Prof. Mahmood Yakubu as the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), alongside five other national commissioners of the electoral body. It was the same day that it also ended the Rotimi Amaechi saga, by confirming the nomination of the former Governor of Rivers State.

Perhaps, the jury is still out on which is more important – the issue of corruption, which is the crux of the drama in the Senate over Amaechi and that of the decades-old unsavoury electoral system, which has remained a sore point in the making of a great nation out of Nigeria.

The very media that gave scant regard to the screening of the INEC commissioners, enthusiastically dedicated all the time and space in celebrating the Amaechi saga. While virtually all the newspapers splashed headlines on the walkout staged by members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and how their All Progressives Party (APC), went ahead with the confirmation of the former governor, not a single radio or television station discussed the issues raised during the screening and, or even the quality of the INEC personnel. Even the social media looked away.

Thus, the media missed the very critical content disclosures by the INEC men on how they intended to transform the agency into an institution of hope; for the electoral emancipation of the country, and to create a pathway to a dream Nigeria.

Hear the new INEC: “I want to assure distinguished senators and Nigerians that no elections ever, under my watch, will be won and lost at INEC headquarters. If you want to win elections, go and canvass for the votes of the Nigerian people. We will protect the interest, integrity and sanctity of the decisions taken by the Nigerian people. Never again will elections be won and lost at INEC headquarters, at the headquarters of the state electoral commissions, and the EOs (Electoral Offices) at the local governments. This will be a thing of the past.”

These are words on marble, to be engraved in the minds of all Nigerians with which to confront the INEC boss, should he deviate from them. For INEC still remains a very big barrier to elections in Nigeria.

Yes, many people would easily roll out the drums today to celebrate Mahmood’s predecessor, Prof. Attahiru Jega, for the handling of the 2015 general elections. But that can only serve the purpose of those professing the glass is half-full philosophy. A quick look at the judgements of the electoral tribunals today, certainly appears not to make Jega’s INEC smell roses.
Incidentally, there is nothing in the stars that says that what the new INEC boss is saying is impossible within our shores.

The fact, therefore, that Mahmood, instead of living in denial, has decided to focus his attention on INEC first, means a major departure from the past. Besides, it is not difficult to place the new INEC helmsman at the commanding heights of the nation’s intelligentsia, who comes with a rich pedigree of performance in other positions.

But he is also a professor of history; supposed to be at home with historical antecedents, and expected to create his own history. President Muhammadu Buhari might have hit the bull’s eyes with his change mantra. The coming elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states, would be the first litmus test.

As the political gladiators plan their strategies towards becoming the chief executives of their states, Mahmood, must also plan his own victory – how to win the hearts of Nigeria. And with all at his disposal, it is a victory only he could lose.

• Igboanugo, a journalist, writes from Abuja.

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