The National Council of States held its first meeting since the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari as the 5th elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the 21st October, 2015.
One of the major resolutions taken at the meeting, attended by the President, Vice-President, Chief Justice of Nigeria, former Presidents and Heads of State, Speaker of the House of Representatives and the 36 States Governors was its approval for the constitution of the Independent National Electoral Commission, after the expiration of the term of the former INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega.
Consequently, President Muhammadu Buhari nominated Professor Mahmoud Yakubu and forwarded his name with Six National Commissioners to the Senate for confirmation as provided by the Constitution.
However the nomination of Professor Yakubu as the Chairman of INEC has attracted uncharitable, ascetic, inflammatory and divisive comments from Governor Fayose of Ekiti State who alleges that the appointment made by President Buhari shows him to be a Sectional Leader. Nothing can be farther from the truth.
It is clear that the comment of Governor Fayose is intended and calculated to whip up emotions and inflame ethnic and sectional passions and feelings in the country for purely partisan motives and reasons.
I want to place it on public record that if Professor Yakubu, a distinguished academic with dazzling and impressive credentials, is eventually confirmed and resumes office, he would be the second Nigerian from the Northern part of the country to head the Independent National Electoral Commission since 1960.
The successor in title of the Independent National Electoral Commission was the defunct Electoral Commission of Nigeria. The first Chief Electoral Commissioner of the Electoral Commission of Nigeria was Chief Eyo Esua from the present South/South Region of the country. He was Chief Electoral Commission from 1964 to 1966.
In 1978, late Chief Micheal Ani, from the present Cross River State was appointed the Chairman of the defunct Federal Electoral Commission (FEC) to conduct the general election to usher in the first election in the Country since 1964. Chief Ani was succeeded as Chairman of FEDECO by Justice Victor Owie Whisky. He was from the old Bendel State (now Delta and Edo States).
The 1983 General Election was conducted by Justice Whisky. On the 31st December, 1983, the democratic order in the country was toppled in a military coup that led to the suspension of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1979 and all democratic structures including the Federal Electoral Commission.
In 1986, the military regime of President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida promulgated and enacted several legislation to bring about a political transition programme in 1989 to return the country to democratic civil rule. One of these initiatives was the constitution of a National Electoral Commission headed by late Professor Eme Awa.
He was in office from 1987 to 1989. He was a professor of Political Science from the present South East. He was succeeded by Professor Humphrey Nwosu who conducted the 1993 General Election that ended in a fiasco and nearly plunged the Country into a political crisis after the Presidential election widely believed to have been won by Chief Moshood Abiola was controversially cancelled by the military government.
Professor Nwosu was removed from office as Chairman of NEC after the cancellation of the1993 election and was succeeded by late Professor Okon Uya from Akwa Ibom State, South/South.
Under the transition programme introduce by the then Federal Military Government headed by General Sani Abacha, the Chairman of the then National Electoral Commission (NEC) of Nigeria was Chief Sumner Dagogo-Jack (1994-1998).
The Independent National Electoral Commission was established in 1998 by the then Head of State, General Abdul salami Abubukar to conduct the General Election expected to herald the transition programme put in place to end military rule.
The first Chairman of INEC was the late Justice Ephraim Akpata. He was from Edo State in the South/South. He conducted the General Election to usher in the present democratic order in the Country.
After the demise of Justice Akpata, then President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed another an Edo man, Dr Abel Guobadia as Chairman of INEC. He was confirmed by the Senate in May, 2003.
He conducted the 2003 General Election and left office in 2005 when he retired. . He was succeeded by Professor Maurice Iwu from Imo State, South East.
Professor Iwu was in office from 2005 till 2010 when he was removed from office by former President Jonathan after the criticisms that greeted his conduct of the 2007 General Election which late President Umaru Yaradua admitted was fundamentally flawed leading to his constitution of Justice Mohammed Uwais Commission on Electoral Reforms.
The first person from Northern Nigeria to head the Independent National Electoral Commission was Professor Attahiru Mohammed Jega. He was appointed Chairman of INEC by former President Good luck Jonathan in June, 2010, and his tenure expired in July 2015.
From the above, it is clear that in 55 years, only two Nigerians of Northern extraction have headed the Independent National Electoral Commission.
But does it matter which part of the country, the Chairman of INEC Comes from? I therefore refute the assertion of Governor Ayo Fayose that President Buhari is a Sectional Leader. On the contrary, President Buhari is the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who has so far demonstrated that he belongs to everybody. Just two days ago, President Buhari appointed Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita Ekanam as the Head of Civil Service of the Federation and visited Cross River State to flag the construction of a Super Highway despite the fact that the State denied him the use of its Stadium to campaign and did not really vote for him in the last election.