2019: The Amina Zakari fever

Nwangwu Uba

With barely one month and 10 days to the 2019 Presidential election , Atiku Abubakar, Presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, members of the Coalition of Political Parties , CUPP and Nigerians in general appear to have been caught up with the Amina Zakari fever.

 Atiku, CUPP and Nigerians may not be comfortable with the controversial appointment of Mrs. Zakari as the Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Committee on National Collation Center and Logistics, by Mahmood Yakubu, a Professor and Chairman of the Commission over her blood relationship with President Muhammadu Buhari.

  But the INEC Chieftain  has assured Nigerians that her appointment has nothing to do with  Buhari, insisting that there is no way she can influence the Presidential election to favour the All Progressive Congress Candidate, seeking re-election, for a second term in office as a” patriotic Nigerian”.  She maintained that she has done her job in the Commission without ”scandal and blame ” over the years and therefore would not want any person to rubbish her reputation now that elections are coming forward. ”I will continue serving my country to the best of my ability with the best of intentions”, she had said.

The INEC top shot  noted that she was in the Commission when Jonathan defeated Buhari in 2011 Presidential election and thus, challenged anyone  who had any wrongdoing against her to come forward with evidence, assuring Nigerians that” there was no cause to worry about the 2019  Presidential election being manipulated to favour Buhari, the APC Candidate”.

”I am a single person out of  16,000  staff and adhoc staff who will run the election. I can’t see how I can get powers to influence the election as a single individual”, she had said.

In a widely publicised interviews with the BBC, the   INEC,  National Electoral Commissioner declared,”, ”President Muhammadu Buhari  is my President as he is everybody else’s President”, stressing that he is not her Cousin or uncle as is been claimed” in some quarters.  She may have been forced to speak out to douse the tensions and growing opposition against her appointment to the Commission ‘s National Collation center and Logistics for the 2019 election in the country.

Buhari may have given room for people to suspect that there is something fishy about the appointment because of their close link since 2010 when she was appointed into the Commission by the then President Jonathan based on his recommendation.

Recall that the Bayelsa state born former President had requested him to nominate a name to be appointed into the Commission in 2010 and he recommended the Controversial Mrs. Zakari, who had worked as a Special Adviser to former President Olusegun Obasanjo .

Political watchers who are conversant with the Katsina state born President style of appointments since he assumed office on May 29, 2015, would attest to the fact that he will not appoint anyone into his government without a close link to the person or being recommended by a political associate. It is not surprising why Aisha the First Lady had accused him of not knowing ”45 0f the 50 of the people he had appointed into his government as ministers or Chief Executive Officer of Parastatals.

 Could it be said that the hand of the two or three most powerful people in the Presidency who the First Lady had said, had great influence on the President may have influenced the Mrs. Zakari INEC strategic appointment.  

Given the heat on the President over the appointment of Mrs. Zakari to Head the National Collation a Center and Logistics Committee of the Commission,  the Presidency has denied any involvement in the controversial appointment, describing the allegations of the PDP that it was a plot to rig the 2019 Presidential election next month in favour of Buhari, the APC Candidate. The  Presidency noted that the PDP appointed Mrs. Zakari into INEC when it was in power  and wondered why they should be crying over their past mistake in government.

Amina Zakari: Appointed Chairman, INEC Head of Collation Center And Logistics

 Yakubu, the INEC boss who feel worried over the reaction of Nigerians over the appointment of Mrs. Zakari to Head the Commission Collation Center and Logistics said there was no basis for it. According to him the woman has held several strategic positions in the Commission in the past prior to his appointment as INEC Chairman by Buhari in 2015 and no one had raised any opposition against her of going to work for Buhari or any other Presidential Candidate as at then. She was said to have been in-charge of Chieftain has monitoring between 2010 and 2014 and now in-charge of the Commission Operations, which may have qualified her to Head the INEC  strategic Committee for the 2019 Presidential election.

 He had corroborated  Mrs. Zakari claims that she is not in any way related to Buhari, stressing that she is from Jigawa , which was carved out from the old Kano state while the President is from Katsina, which was carved out from the old Kaduna state. 

Yakubu, may have told the leadership of the Academics Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, who had expressed their worry  that the 2019 Presidential election may not be free , fair and credible as promised with Mrs. Zakari  as the Head of the Committee in-charge of the Commission Collation center and Logistics on Friday, January 4, 2019. The former University Don may have initiated the meeting with ASUU officials to solicit for their support during the elections and to plead with them call off their Strike because of its implications to the elections.

Shedding more light about the appointment to the ASUU officials, the former University Don  said ,  the ”responsibility for managing  the venues of the elections  does not in any way  involve  the collation of results ” an indication that people have no reason to fear of the Presidential election being manipulated to favour Buhari, of the ruling APC government.

He had told ASSU officials: I am absolutely responsible for the Co-ordination  of the  INEC Secretariat for the collation of election results, adding that Mrs. Zakari was only appointed to Head the strategic Committee to ”prepare the venue for the Commission to collate results”.

He disclosed that the 1989 Constitution as Amended was very clear on who is in-charge of the Presidential election in the country. Under the Nigeria Constitution, ” I am the  Chief Electoral officer of the Federation and the Returning officer in Presidential election”, he said. Still talking Tough,  he declared ” I am not going to share my responsibility with anyone in the Commission”.

This may have gladdened the heart of ASUU officials to give their words to participate in the 2019 election and to call off their strike over unfulfilled demands by the government. There are indications that the Federal government may have met the demand of ASUU  half way by releasing N15.89 billion to the Universities last December. The deal was said to have been brokered by Yakubu, the INEC , boss, to ensure full participation of ASUU members in the 2019 Presidential election. But Biodun Ogunyemi, a Professor said the fund was for the payment of shortfall in salaries of Universities.

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