President Muhammadu Buhari and Amina Zakari
I am neither Buhari’s niece nor his cousin – Amina Zakari
By Soni Daniel, Northern, Region Editor, & Sunday Nwafor
As the furore over the emergence of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) National Commissioner, Amina Zakari, as the head of collation for next month’s presidential election rages, the INEC chief says she is neither the niece nor the cousin of President Muhammadu Buhari.
She spoke on a day northern politician, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, lambasted the Presidency for “trying to distance President Muhammadu Buhari from Amina” who, he claimed, to be a blood-relation of the President.
Mohammed, a Second Republic politician and member of the 2014 National Conference, told Sunday Vanguard that it was shameful for an aide of Buhari to try to distance Buhari from Amina Zakari.
A presidential aide, Shehu Garba, had said the INEC Commissioner is not related to Buhari.
Meanwhile, contrary to the thinking in some quarters, Sunday Vanguard established that Amina would not be involved in any way with the collation of result of the presidential election in 2019, or any other result for that matter.
The INEC chief, in an interview with BBC News Igbo, yesterday, distanced herself from the niggling allegation that she is related to Buhari.
Her words, “I am not his (Buhari) niece. I am not his cousin. I was appointed to this same particular job by ex-President Goodluck Jonathan in 2010. Prior to that, I was appointed an A.S to former President Olusegun Obasanjo and I did my job perfectly”.
Disputing her position, however, Junaid told Sunday Vanguard, yesterday, “For those who do not know, let it be known (and let me repeat it) that Buhari’s sister, who was married to a prominent Emir in Kazaure, in the present Jigawa State, gave birth to Amina”.
He added, “It is doubtful if Buhari himself can say that Amina Zakari is not his niece. I can say, without any fear, that Buhari cannot deny his direct sibling.”
Mohammed said that although Amina is a pharmacist by profession and had been working hard in many other places, it was former President Goodluck Jonathan who nominated her as a National Commissioner to represent the North-West, with some inputs from then Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, presidential candidate, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, at that time.
Asked to explain why Amina’s position in INEC is currently generating controversy after she had been in the commission for more than eight years without any linkage to Buhari, the northern politics said that Amina should step aside at once because of the perception by the public that she could unduly influence the outcome of the election for Buhari.
“In the political situation where we have found ourselves, whether she is a blood relation or not of the President, she has to step aside once there has been widespread perception that she’s related to Buhari”, he stated.
“She became the most senior person in INEC but she read pharmacy and cannot be said to be the most suitable for the job. I warned INEC chiefs over Amina’s position long ago and they decided not to do something about the dilemma they now have on their hands.
“It was a wrong appointment ab initio and she should quietly step aside because of her relationship with the President. Let her go because the job she is expected to do is far beyond her.”
Decline offer, Ikimi tells Amina
Last night, a former Foreign Affairs Minister, Chief Tom Ikimi, advised Amina to decline her position as Chief Collation Officer for the February presidential poll.
At a rally of the Edo Central of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the hometown of the late Chief Tony Anenih, several speakers also condemned her appointment which they said was aimed at rigging the election in favour of President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC.
Ikimi, a former National Chairman of the National Republican Convention (NRC) during the ill-fated Third Republic, told the crowd that it was inappropriate for the electoral umpire to appoint a relative of a candidate to collate results of the presidential election which is to be keenly contested between Buhari and his main rival, former Vice President Abubakar Atiku of the PDP.
He added, “INEC has a responsibility to conduct a free and fair election. It must be above board. Mrs. Amina Zakari must disqualify herself.
“INEC must listen to the voice of reason. It is clear that Nigerians say no to Mrs. Amina Zakari. Nigerians need a compassionate and experienced leader like Atiku and not Buhari who has pauperized the people “
Weare vindicated – PDP
On its part, the Peoples Democratic Party Presidential Campaign Organization, PPCO, said, yesterday, that Buhari’s admittance of an inter-marriage relationship with Amina had vindicated its stance that she could not be trusted with the collation of the 2019 presidential election results.
It tasked Buhari to respond to the criticism about Junaid Mohammed that he (President Buhari) pushed for the appointment of Amina to represent his interest at the commission.
In a statement, the PPCO’s Director of Media and Publicity, Kola Ologbondiyan, urged the President to speak more on his relationship with Amina.
The statement read in part: “It is now clear that in addition to the relationship by affinity, President Buhari also has a consanguinity relationship with Amina Zakari and has not denied that he started his early childhood in Amina Zakari’s father’s house.
“President Buhari’s admittance has effectively established that the PDP has not been crying wolf on the impropriety of involving Mrs. Amina Zakari in the collation of Presidential election results, let alone being appointed to head the final determination of the Presidential election.
“It is totally unethical and immoral for an umpire to insist on officiating a contest even when her impartiality is called to question. Even in the judiciary, judges recuse themselves in cases involving parties they have affinity with. Mrs. Amina Zakari must therefore, recuse herself, if the 2019 presidential election must be credible.”
Collation Centre Committee’s Role
In a related development, Sunday Vanguard learnt that Amina Zakari “will only be in charge of the collation centre, with her duty basically on issues around the administration of the venue at the 2019 polls.”
A source at INEC Headquarters in Abuja said: “She was recently redeployed as Chair of INEC’s Welfare and Health Committee.
“The committee provides water, electricity, briefing rooms, ushers, internet facilities, etc for the collation centre.
“There is the results collation committee/secretariat which is separate and headed by the INEC Chairman.
“The Collation Centre Committee has no role in processing results collated from the states and presented to the Chairman by Vice Chancellors who serve as Collation Officers”.
Just after the 2015 general elections, INEC strayed into troubled waters.
When Professor Attahiru Jega, the immediate former National Chairman of INEC, wrote to Buhari about the imminent end of his tenure, the appropriate thing expected from the presidency was to invite him for a parley. That parley would have enabled the President to tap into the well of wisdom, knowledge and know-how of the election management body. But the President ignored Jega.
On Tuesday, June 30, 2015, Jega had no option but to do what he thought was wise within the context of information available to him, his globular understanding of INEC as well as the sentiments and sentimentalities of the National Commissioners he was leaving behind and, therefore, handed over to Ambassador Mohammad Ahmad Wali, to act as Chairman of the Commission.
That Jega chose Wali, above Amina Zakari, having worked with them, speaks volume about that choice. But Mr. President overturned it – even when his relationship with Zakari was in public domain.
Firstly was the issue of the expiration of her tenure as INEC Commissioner. The Head of Service issued a letter terminating her tenure for June 30, 2015 as against what it ought to be, July 21, 2015, the date that marks the end of her fifth year for which the tenure was meant to run.
The duration of office of both National and Resident Commissioners is 5 years under Section 155(1)(c) of the Constitution.
The removal from office before the expiration of 5 years can only be done in accordance with Section 157(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; and not through an unconstitutional letter that her tenure ended with Jega on June 31, 2015, having not been appointed at the same time. The 1999 Constitution is clear on that score.
Amina Zakari is related to Jibrin Al Sudan – Keyamo
Secondly, the condition precedent for termination of tenure is the inability of the member to discharge his or her functions. The mode of removal is by the President acting on an address supported by 2/3 of the majority of the Senate.
Amina was never known to law or administrative perception to have erred and, therefore, the letter that stated that her tenure should be deemed as completed with those of Jega and others, whereas her tenure was meant to come to an end on the July 21, 2015, was unconstitutional, null, void and of no effect.
Add to these the fact that, in appointing any commissioner, it ought to be done in consultation with the National Council of State subject to Senate confirmation”
Then came dirty politics.
Olisa Metuh, then Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, charged at Buhari for replacing Ambassador Wali with Amina as Acting National Chairman of INEC. He insinuated nepotism, an allegation that 2019 elections were the target, with a view to making her appointment permanent.
It did not take long for Mallam Bashir Yusuf to respond on behalf of Coalition of Progressive Political Parties, COP3, warning that “any interference by political parties in the appointment of INEC officials is tantamount to politicising the process and the Commission itself, which is capable of creating dangerous schism in the Commission and generating unnecessary tension in the country.”
It is this cocktail of issues that continues to create the controversy around Amina whenever she’s mentioned at her post in INEC.
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