The Presidency is shopping for credible candidates as INEC chairman and Resident Electoral Commissioners.
Of the 13 National Commissioners, only four, including the Acting National Chairman, Mrs. Amina Zakari, remain in office.
But of the four,  two (Mr. Chris Iyimoga and Amb. Mohammad Ahmad Wali) will complete their five-year tenure today.
Zakari and Nwuruku will be left to run the commission.
Also, about six of the 37 Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) have finished their terms of office.
The development has heightened the lobbying for the commission’s chairman.
No fewer than 10 candidates are jostling to be chairman.
Some of those being  speculated are: Mrs. Zakari; two former National Commissioners (Lai Olurode and Nuru Yakubu); the Director-General of INEC Electoral Institute, Prof. Abubakar Momoh; Mr. Festus Okoye ( a human rights activist); Mr. Mike Igini and three unnamed candidates.
A retired Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Muhammadu Uwais, who was the chairman of an Electoral Reform Committee raised by the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, has been suggested for the job, but there is a snag: his age.
The top contender for the coveted seat is Mrs. Zakari, a princess of Hadejia, Kano State in the Northwest.
Besides coming from the same geopolitical zone with Jega, Mrs. Zakari is the first woman vying for the Chief Electoral Officer.
It was gathered that there were issues on whether or not the President should appoint the INEC chairman from the North or the South.
The last occupant of the office, Prof. Attahiru Jega, came from Kebbi State in the Northwest.
The North-South dichotomy has placed a burden on the Presidency and made the race to succeed Jega keener, The Nation learnt.
The geo-political breakdown of past INEC chairmen is as follows: Chief Eyo Esua (1964-1966)—Southsouth; Chief Michael Ani (1979)—Southsouth; Justice Victor Ovie-Whiskey (1983)—Southsouth; Prof. Eme Awa(1987-19890—South-East; Prof. Humphrey Nwosu (1989-1993)—Southeast; Prof. Okon Uya and Chief Sumner Dagogo-Jack (1994-1998)—-Southsouth; Justice Ephraim Akpate (1998-2000)—Southsouth; Prof. Abel Guobadia(2000—2005)—Southsouth; Prof. Maurice Iwu (2005-2010)—Southeast; and Prof. Attahiru Jega (2010-2015).
A source said: “Of the six geo-political zones, only three have produced INEC chairman. The zones yet to produce one are: Northeast, Northcentral and Southwest. This is why ethnic or geo-political politics is beclouding the lobbying.
“The decision will be tough for the President because his predecessor, ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, opted for a Northerner as INEC chairman. This is a template which cannot be ignored. Jonathan might have copied the template from former President Ibrahim Babangida, the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha; and ex-Head of State Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar.
“Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo however jettisoned the template when he appointed Guobadia and Iwu from the Southsouth and the Southeast.
”From the meticulous method Buhari has adopted in making appointments, merit and incorruptibility might be his yardsticks, irrespective of geo-political zones. Some of these candidates have started lobbying for the plum job. The search is, however, difficult by the standard set by Jega.
“As for geopolitical zone, as long as Buhari gets a competent hand, he can still appoint a new INEC chairman from the Northwest. If you look at past successive chief electoral officers, a Southsouth candidate has replaced another.”
Mrs. Zakari appears the aspirant to beat.
Those backing her, mostly gender advocates,  are flaunting “her rich career experience, devotion to duty, grasp of the electoral process and her tutelage under Jega”, a source said, adding that: “these feminine advocates have taken their agitation to some UN organisations and embassies on why a woman should lead INEC for the first time.
“But the reservations about her include her past service under a former FCT Minister, who is now a governor, her continued service in INEC after the expiration of her tenure on July 21, alleged illegality of her appointment as acting INEC chairman; opposition by PDP and mudslinging by some of her co-aspirants.”
A Presidency source said President was yet to discuss his nominees for INEC.
“So far, there is an acting chairman and contrary to some insinuations, the choice of Amina Zakari as acting chairman  is legal.”
Section 318(4) of the Constitution states that ‘The Interpretation Act shall apply for the purpose of interpreting the provisions of this Constitution.’
“Section 11 of the Interpretation Act empowers whoever can make a substantive appointment to appoint a person in an acting capacity. It is misleading to say that there is no provision for any acting capacity in INEC.”
As of press time, it was gathered that the President would need to consult with the Council of State before appointing the next INEC chairman.
“This means, President Buhari must do his homework very well in appointing the new INEC chairman and RECs. By Monday, only two National Commissioners will be in charge of INEC. Also, about six RECs are left nationwide,” a former National Commissioner said.
“Section 154(3) of the 1999 Constitution empowers the President to consult the Council of State before appointing INEC chairman and National Commissioners.
The section reads in part: “In exercising his powers to appoint a person as Chairman or member of INEC, National Judicial Council, the Federal Judicial Service Commission or the National Population Commission, the President shall consult the Council of State.”
Also, sections 14 and 15 of Part 1 of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution states: “The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) shall comprise the following members (a) a Chairman, who shall be the Chief Electoral Commissioner; and (b) twelve other members to be known as National Electoral Commissioners.
“A member of the Commission shall be (a) non-partisan and a person of unquestionable integrity (b) be not less than 40 years of age in the case of the chairman and not less than 35 years of age in the case of the National Commissioners
“There shall be for each state of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, a Resident Electoral Commissioner who shall (a ) be appointed by the President subject to  confirmation by the Senate (b) be a person of unquestionable integrity and shall not be a member of any political party and (c) not be less than 35 years of age.
“The Commission shall have power to (a) organise , undertake  and supervise all elections to the offices of the President and Vice President, the Governor and Deputy Governor of a State, and to the membership of the Senate, the House of Representatives and the House of Assembly of each state of the Federation.”