ThisNigeria newspaper has conferred its inaugural Gold Award in Public Service on the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, in recognition of his efforts to reposition the country’s electoral system for free, fair, credible, and inclusive elections, despite daunting challenges. The conferment took place at the newspaper’s well-attended Inaugural Lecture and Gold Prize ceremony, held at the Yar Adua Centre in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Two other individuals who also received Gold Awards were Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, for good governance, and the Registrar, Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Prof Ishaq Oloyede, for his contribution to the education sector.
The Catholic Archbishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Mattew Hassan Kukah, delivered a lecture on “National Cohesion for Sustainable growth and Progress,” with a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr Mike Ozekhome (SAN), and former governorship candidate of the Labour Party for Kwara State, Mr Issa Aremu as discussants. A former Director-General of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTRA), Dr Tonnie Iredia, moderated the discussion.
In his acceptance speech, Prof Yakubu dedicated the award to the Commission’s staff members, members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), and other critical stakeholders involved in elections.
He said: “We have just successfully concluded the Anambra Governorship Election. Next, we have to prepare for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Area Council election. We are preparing for two more governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun States. In between, we have seven bye-elections to conduct. So, it’s a hectic period for us.
“In INEC, we are used to more of condemnation than commendation. So, when commendation comes, especially from a friend like Eric Osagie, we genuinely appreciate it.
“This recognition is dedicated to all the hardworking staff of INEC. But I would also like to dedicate this to all those who have constructively criticized the Commission. We cherish constructive criticisms. As a teacher all my life, I know that there can’t be new knowledge; there can’t be progress without constructive criticisms.
“I would like to recognize the role of the National Peace Committee (NPC), chaired by our respected former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar. But let me also recognize a category of Nigerians that are hardly recognized. Yet, they play a very, very critical role in conducting elections in the country. I am not referring to the security agencies that also play a very good role. I am not referring to other stakeholders – political parties, the media and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), but I am referring to election duty staff: those young Nigerians on national service. I have said it over and over again that you (National Youth Service Corps members) are among the most educated, the most hardworking, the most readily available election duty staff in Nigeria. We cannot do without you.”
He added: “I recognized the critical role of the NYSC when we travelled to the Republic of Liberia for their election. The Liberian Electoral Commission was battling with where to get election duty staff. They were looking for teachers and other categories of staff. And the Chairman (Liberia Electoral Commission), who is my very good friend, turned around and said to me, ‘we know that in Nigeria, you have no issues at all. The number of young Nigerian serving the nation in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) is probably half of the population of the Republic of Liberia’. And so, in that respect, we have no issues with capacity.”
Governor Wike, in his speech, commended the Commission for conducting what he described as a “free and fair governorship election” in Anambra State.