Inside details of how Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, secured reappointment for a second term in office have emerged.
Yakubu, who was first appointed as head of the electoral umpire on October 21, 2015 by President Muhammadu Buhari, had his first tenure come to an end in October this year.
But like many public officials favoured by the power blocs in Aso Rock Villa, Nigeria’s seat of power, he was immediately rewarded with another term of five years.
However, findings by SaharaReporters have revealed that securing a second tenure in office didn’t come cheap for Prof Yakubu as he had to part ways with huge sums of money to facilitate his reappointment.
According to a top insider, Yakubu paid at least N3bn in bribes to have his tenure as INEC Chairman extended by another five years.
“He paid a princely sum of N2bn to a group led by Senate President Ahmed Lawan and another N1bn to another group.
“These huge funds were deployed and mobilised by a civil servant and director in INEC, who is described as wealthy and in charge of a strategic department.
“The director was also aided by a contractor to the commission, Mohammed Sani Musa, who is presently a serving senator from Niger State responsible for the printing of INEC ballot papers used for elections under a company (Activate Technologies),” the source told SaharaReporters.
It was further gathered that the reappointment of Yakubu as INEC boss was further made possible with the deaths of President Buhari’s former Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, and Alhaji Isa Funtua, and the disappearance from public glare of Mamman Daura, a key member of a trusted group of allies Buhari relies on before making important decisions.
The absence of these men, it was gathered, created the perfect avenue for powerful government officials with vested interests to persuade the President into handing Yakubu a fresh term in office.
According to the source, the return of Yakubu as INEC boss was part of a larger ongoing tussle among power brokers in the country to have the agency under their firm control ahead of the 2023 general elections, which to a large extent will determine the fate of the ruling All Progressives Congress.
There are currently at least four power blocs within the APC all fighting to determine persons to occupy key positions in the agency ahead of 2023.
One group is said to be headed by Senate President Lawan, another by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, a third by Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omoagege, while the fourth group comprises key individuals in Aso Rock Villa alongside Bola Tinubu’s caucus.
“In the current struggle to take over INEC, the Aso Rock group took the lead very early to outsmart others when they forwarded the name of Ms Lauretta Onochie as a National Commissioner nominee to replace a South-South candidate, Dr Mustapha Lecky, representing the zone whose tenure elapsed on November 9.
“Unfortunately, Mr Lecky is the INEC chairmanship candidate being sponsored by the Deputy Senate President, Omoagege, hence he vehemently raised legitimate concerns about the credibility of Onochie even though in actual fact, he did that because of the implication of that choice for his own candidate, who is reputed to be the most corrupt national commissioner and a consultant to politicians.
“The Aso Rock group put Onochie forward even when a serving South-South candidate was from the same senatorial zone in Delta State.
“In the haste to extinguish the Deputy Senate President’s candidate, they failed to conduct the required onground diligence in Delta State.
“In any event, the action of the Aso Rock group also took the Senate President's group by surprise when the letter containing the nomination of the INEC National Commissioner nominees including Onochie was sent to the Senate President and it was read on the floor of the Senate.
“The shock and awe tactics by the Aso Rock group pushed the Ahmed Lawan group a few hours later to respond by riding on public sentiments against the nomination, hence, it was reported that the Senate caucus then wrote to the President requesting for another nominee to replace Onochie.
“This was done to enable the Lawan group to perfect their own ongoing compromised negotiations with Prof Yakubu, who was desperate to get a second term and was willing to meet any demands made on him to secure a second term.
“To pre-empt the AGF Malami group that had already pencilled their own chairmanship candidate, who is also a professor from the North, the Lawan group moved quickly ahead of the Malami group to get the nod of President Buhari and immediately Prof Yakubu's reappointment was announced in the media but no letter to the effect was read on the floor of the Senate.
“The procedural omission was to checkmate Malami's group that were also going to get an approval from the President.
“The tragedy of the Presidency at the moment is that any group that gets to the President first, gets endorsement.
“In fact, the recent strategy is to get your nominee for any appointment announced first in the media to commit the government and then get the President's signature on it later.
“That was how the Ahmed Lawan group triumphed for now before the Senate proceeded on recess to deal with the 2021 budget.
“Omoagege's group had been lobbying in the past few months to have Dr Lecky from Edo State as chairman using his Muslim faith to campaign to those around the President.
“Ironically, those who positioned themselves for the interest of Bola Tinubu have not been able to make meaningful in-roads to influence the choice of those to be appointed into the commission.
“As things stand, electoral integrity and the independence of INEC is gone and does not matter in the motivation of any of the contending groups and this portends a grave danger for democracy in Nigeria,” the source disclosed.
This development, according to findings by SaharaReporters, has cast a shadow of doubt over the integrity and fairness of the 2023 general elections under the APC-led federal administration in Nigeria.
On November 12, Hope Democratic Party, one of the parties earlier deregistered by INEC, filed a suit at the Federal High Court to stop the Nigerian Senate from screening Prof Yakubu for a second term in office.
A statement by Auwal Abdullahi for the National Chairman of the party, said that Yakubu’s reappointment did not follow due process as a meeting of the Council of State did not deliberate upon it and approve it as demanded by the 1999 constitution.
No date has been fixed for the hearing, however, Yakubu has stepped aside since November 9 pending his confirmation by the Senate.
Ahmed Muazu is currently heading the electoral agency as Acting Chairman.