Mahmood Yakubu: Between sitting in the heat and standing like a rock

“Only gods and the dead can seem perfect with impunity”

–Robert Greene in “The 48 laws of power”

By CHIDI OBINECHE

since assuming the mantle of leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC on October 15, 2015, Prof Mahmood Yakubu has been assailed with a huge burden of surpassing the record of his predecessors. Faced with about 680 litigations in which the commission was joined, the professor of Political History and International Studies has been groping and galloping, creating myriad impressions in the minds of the people.
While 600 of the cases have been dismissed, 80 were upheld by the courts. The 80 were part of the reruns that have seized the commission by the jugular and forced a premature image of “inconclusive” on INEC. So far, he has concluded about 137 elections, 80 of which were re-run and the rest isolated polls like the ones in Kogi, Bayelsa governorship elections, including also the recent elections into the Federal Capital Territory, FCT and  the governorship poll in Edo.  Defending the label of an “inconclusive” INEC, Yakubu said, “ I can’t guarantee conclusive polls in 2019 because I cannot be pressured to step outside the lines of the constitution, the Electoral Act and the guidelines to impress anyone. I cannot second –guess Nigerians and I don’t know where they would head in 2019.”
“The Electoral Act envisages the commission to sufficiently comply. You can’t second – guess any election. You can’t conclude an election on behalf of the people. The Kogi elections came within two weeks that we assumed office and with its peculiar challenge. I don’t think anyone would blame the commission, but we found a way out.”
The just concluded governorship elections in Edo, which appeared to have laundered the “inconclusive” mess festooned on it, slipped into allegations of fraud and controversies, which INEC has so far been hard put to extricate itself from. The consequence is that the commission has come under a fusillade of criticisms in juxtaposition with its role as an umpire. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines umpire as “One having authority to decide finally a controversy or question between parties as (a): one appointed to decide between arbitrators who have disagreed.(b) an impartial third party chosen to arbitrate disputes …” The immanent situation has brought to the fore the real issues involved in election management, the pressures and perplexion of the persona in the saddle. The leadership of INEC transcends skill, vision and educational accomplishments to the ordinary issues of courage and mental toughness. When distilled down to these two models, things work and work. They are like pillars of granite in the sands of time. And they can never be more important than in these heady, uncertain times. The apex of history is when someone embedded with these canons walks the earth. Former US president, Thomas Jefferson once said, “and in matters of principles, stand like a rock.” An umpire is at his best when he stands tall in adversity, plow through uncertainties, overcome obstacles, and rebound from setbacks.
Before assuming the mantle of leadership at INEC, Yakubu was the executive secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund. He is an expert in guerrilla warfare, terrorism and counter terrorism. Born in  Bauchi in1962, he had his primary education at Kobi Primary School, Bauchi, before he proceeded to Teachers’ College, Toro between 1975 and 1980. He later gained admission to the University of Sokoto ( Usman dan Fodio University, Sokoto), where he studied History and graduated with first class honours, the first ever in history from the North. He travelled to London where he bagged a Doctor of Philosophy degree with specialization in Nigerian history. Both the Bauchi State Government and the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust Fund awarded scholarships to Yakubu for his studies at Oxford and Cambridge universities in England.