How has INEC Chairman Mahmood Yakubu fared so far?

Bayelsa state’s governorship election, which held over the weekend was declared inconclusive on Sunday evening due to INEC’s cancellation of results at the South Ijaw local government. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said there was electoral misconduct in the shape of snatched ballot boxes and staff intimidation. As a result, a supplementary election has been scheduled for a date that is yet to be announced. This decision follows a similar one taken last month during the Kogi state elections after the electoral body cancelled voting in some parts of the state and declared the election inconclusive. INEC has been tagged, “Inconclusive National Electoral Commission” while some are starting to question the competence of the new head of INEC, Mr. Mahmood Yakubu.

Mahmood Yakubu was appointed on the 29th of October this year as the INEC chairman, replacing Prof. Attahiru Jega who left in June at the end of his appointment. Between June and October, an interim chairman, Amina Zakari, was appointed by the president to lead the body. Although Attahiru Jega’s legacy as an exemplary leader makes his shoes hard to fill as he oversaw two free and fair general elections in 2011 and 2015, many were confident in the president’s decision to choose Mahmood Yakubu was a solid one. However, about a month in, it appears that INEC is already embroiled in controversy.

The Kogi state elections were declared inconclusive because votes were cancelled in 59 polling units due to “non-adherence to card reader usage, over voting, ballot snatching, violence and other irregularities.” Bayelsa state elections, too, were declared inconclusive yesterday for more or less the same reason. The cancellation of the election results in Bayelsa was hailed by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) while the All Progressives Congress (APC) called it an “attempt to manipulate the result in favour of a particular party.” However, while inconclusive elections are not good for democracy, perhaps it is better to be safe than to be sorry. INEC’s cancellation of results in those controversial polling unit suggests the institution would rather get it right, than announce contentious results, which is a good strategy. All in all, INEC and Mahmood Yakubu need to be careful not give people cause to question their neutrality and ensure that they develop preventative rather than reactive measures for free and fair elections.

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