By Ifeanyi Nwoko
Some pressure groups and non-governmental organisations have commended President Muhammadu Buhari’s appointment of Mr Kenneth Ukeagu, an election logistics strategist, as INEC’s National Commissioner.
The groups in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday in Abuja, pointed out that the appointment was a bulls-eye feat, preparatory to the 2023 general elections.
Alhaji Aminu Alkali, Chairman of the National Integration Forum (NIF), said that the appointment was indeed commendable as for the first time, a staff of the commission who had the wealth of experience was being appointed to hold such an important position.
Alkali said the new commissioner had gained diverse experience in his 30-year period as a staff of INEC, pointing out that the appointment was therefore not a political move but purely based on experience.
“Ukeagu’s appointment is unique being the first member of staff or an insider to be so appointed by any president; President Buhari needs to be commended for the innovation and sense of judgment.
“Aside being a round peg in a round hole, the appointment is an indication that hard work pays and it will encourage members of staff of the commission to look up to scaling to top of the ladder as well as usher in unfettered commitment that will boost the nation’s nascent democracy.
“This appointment is a further step taken to discourage corruption in electoral system as well as a step taken in the President’s usual manner of refining the system,” he said.
Also commenting on the appointment, Mr Hakim Afolabi of the Centre for Transparency and Accountability, said that the appointment was based on national interest and devoid of politics.
He said the appointee would indeed make critical and substantial inputs into the electoral process because of his institutional experience.
“President Buhari has thus set a precedent in the history of the Commission, a goal which no one can fault.
“This is hope rising for other employees and an energiser for more commitment, honesty, hard work, integrity. It is now in the mind that there is brighter future and not vain toil.’’
“Ken, as he is popularly known, will not be required to go through the ropes on the job because he is in his original turf. Time is of essence because elections are here.
“NASS should regard this appointment as dramatic injection of reforms and an encouragement that will give birth to a better tomorrow,” he said.
For the National Vanguard for the Nigerian State (NVNS), it held that election management was a practical thing and thus, required one with vast experience.
National Coordinator of the vanguard, Dr Andrew Asemota further pointed out that election management could only be efficient when professional experience, logistic and technical knowledge as well as data analytic skills came to play.
“All these Ukeagu had acquired over the last 30 years as an insider in INEC,” he said.
He said that election management required special skills, innovation and vast experience and knowledge that would assist the process when driven by professionals.
“You cannot know more than the person who has been in the scheme and system for more than 30 years,” he added.
He added that with less than 14 months into the very important 2023 general elections, the likes of Ukeagu, a sociologist by training are needed to boost the system and ensure hitch-free conduct.
Also, a Kaduna-based social media influencer and political analyst, Mr Alex Ibrahim, posited that Ukeagu’s appointment should be seen as neutral and devoid of political and ethnic encumbrances.
NAN reports that 56-year-old Ukeagu is the first serving or even retired INEC employee to be appointed as National Commissioner since the commission was created in 1999.
Ukeagu, from Abia , aside being a sociologist, has acquired many trainings in electoral management both within and outside Nigeria, including in the U.S.
His career in INEC spanned over 30 years, cutting his teeth as a member of the National Youth Service Corps in the commission from where he rose through the ranks to become an electoral manager especially in electoral logistics.
He worked on several election rounds as Electoral Logistics Officer at the INEC Headquarters, Abuja.
He was Director Logistics in Electoral Operations and used his technical experience and electoral managerial skills to assist to ensure the smooth conduct of general elections in 2011, 2015, and 2019.
To his credit, Mr. Ukeagu developed logistics plans for procurement and delivery of materials required for electoral activities including those used in the 2003 general elections.
He also developed the transportation plan for the nationwide deployment of men and materials for the conduct of voters’ registration exercise and the 2003 general elections.
Ukeagu designed ballot papers and result sheets used for the conduct of the 2007 general elections and successfully handled deployment of men and materials for the elections.
He also developed Advisory Architecture for securing men and materials deployed for the 2007, 2010 and 2015 general elections, among many other achievements.
Some members of staff of INEC expressed confidence that Ukeagu would bring his wealth of experience and knowledge as an election manager in logistics and procurement of election materials to the fore.
They attested that Ukeagu remained a man of character and principles; a man of vision; a detribalised Nigerian; a thoroughbred disciplinarian; humane and believed in well-being of others; as well as highly innovative, mobile, hardworking and apolitical. (NAN)