Friday, February 4, 2011

Former INEC chairman, Abel Guobadia dies at 78

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Former Chairman of the Indepen
A former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Dr. Abel Guobadia, is dead.

The news of his death spread nationwide, just as prominent Nigerians gathered in Uromi, Edo State, to attend the funeral of another prominent Nigerian and nationalist, Chief Anthony Enahoro, who died late last year.

Mr. Chris Guobadia, younger brother of the deceased, told SATURDAY PUNCH in Benin City that the former INEC boss died on Friday morning in an undisclosed hospital after a brief illness. He would have been 79 in June this year.

The younger Guobadia did not give further details of the circumstances that led to the death of the former boss of INEC.

In his reaction to the event, the governor of Edo State Adams Oshiomhole, described Guobadia’s death as a big loss to the nation.

In a statement that was presented on his behalf by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Peter Okhiria, Oshiomhole said, “The death of Chief Guobadia is a sad loss. He was one of Nigeria’s senior citizens of outstanding worth. His death is even more painful as we still mourn the passage of another great Edo son, Chief Anthony Enahoro.

“We recall that he did creditably well at INEC and remains till date, the only electoral chief in the country to have completely served out his tenure. We will always remember him for his forthrightness and incisive contributions to national issues. While we commiserate with his immediate family, we pray God to grant them the fortitude to bear the loss.”

Until his death, Guobadia was an Officer of the Federal Republic and had served at different times as a diplomat, administrator, educationist, and civil servant.

Born in 1932, he was educated at the University College, Ibadan and the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, USA, where he was awarded a doctorate degree in Solid State Physics in 1966.

Guobadia worked with the National Universities Commission between the 1970s and early 1980s and rose to the position of Director of Academic Planning and subsequently, Executive Secretary of the Commission. In 1984, he was appointed the Commissioner of Education in the old Bendel State and three years later, he became Nigeria’s first resident Ambassador Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Korea.

But the string of appointments to sensitive public positions did not stop. In 2000, President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed Guobadia Nigeria’s Chief Electoral Officer to succeed Justice Ephraim Akpata. Shortly afterwards, he was confirmed as the chairman of INEC by the Senate in May 2000.

Guobadia retired from this position in May 2005 and thus became the first chairman of the electoral commission since independence in 1960 to complete his tenure in office, which many Nigerians believe was largely mired in controversy.

Guobadia will be remembered for leaving behind a legacy of ICT-powered elections in Nigeria. He was the one who, as INEC chairman in 2002, introduced the nation’s first electronic voter register. One of his earliest achievements at the helm of affairs of the electoral body was the establishment of its ICT department, which is today the largest in INEC.

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