Is there an ethical and political morality against Mrs Amina Zakari if the allegation of consanguinity relationship with the President is true?
Election season very often provides an unusual opportunity for understanding the interplay between the struggle for power/politicians’ vested interests and the institution charged with the conduct of elections. At such frenzy times like we are in now, come controversies of unusual nature. From that very day, April 9, 2018, when President Muhammadu Buhari announced that he would seek reelection in 2019, followed by his rejection of electronic results transmission on September 3, 2018, nothing associated with the 2019 polls has come without controversy.
But, by far, the most visible and most recent is the appointment of Mrs Amina Zakari, a national commissioner at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), as Chairperson, National Collation Centre for the Presidential Election which holds on February 16. Her new appointment which was announced last week by the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakuku, expectedly has attracted powerful voices like claps of thunder. There’s no let up in the opposition camps. It’s not for nothing. This is not the first time that Mrs Zakari has been in the eye of the storm. But for sure, the latest controversy swirling around her appointment as Chairperson of the crucial Presidential Collation Centre is unlike the previous controversies she had generated in the political hardball.
No surprise she’s an ongoing factor in the 2019 presidential election. The furore centres around the allegation that she (Amina Zakari) is a blood relation of President Buhari. If that is so, as those asking her to step aside, recuse herself from the assignment have argued, it’s inappropriate for INEC to appoint a relative of the President who is a candidate in the election, to be in charge of collation of results of the presidential election. Would she use her position to influence the outcome of the result? Does she has the power to “change” things to favour who she wants? Will other political parties and presidential candidates accept the result if the incumbent president wins? Is there an ethical and political morality against Mrs Amina Zakari if the allegation of consanguinity relationship with the President is true? There are a lot of other ifs in this matter against Mrs Zakari.
But let’s hear her own side of the story. She says she’s neither the niece nor the cousin of the President. Neither is the President her uncle. According to her, Buhari is just her President like the rest of us. In an interview she granted the BBC News, Igbo Service that was aired few days ago, she denied any blood relationship whatsoever with the President. She said in 2010, she was appointed into the same position by former President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, and before that, held an advisory position to ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo. She sees the present attacks on her to step aside as a distraction, claiming that in all her previous appointments, “I have done my work conscientiously and no single scandal to my name”.
Every story, they say, has two sides. First, the presidency admitted last week that there was indeed an intermarriage relationship between the President’s family and that of Amina Zakari, but no blood relationship. But Dr. Junaid Mohammed, a second republic lawmaker, who claims to know both families, has punched holes in that claim by the presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu. This is what Junaid said: “For those who do not know, let it be known that Buhari’s sister who was married to a prominent Emir (Royal father) in Kazaure in the present Jigawa state, gave birth to Amina”. It’s doubtful, Junaid further argued, “if Buhari himself can say that Amina Zakari is not his niece. I can say that without any fear, that Buhari cannot deny his direct sibling”. Over to you, Mr. President.
Many other stakeholders aside Junaid, have asked Mrs Zakari to step aside. Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, a presidential candidate in the February 16 election has described Amina’s appointment as a “political corruption”. Another presidential candidate, Prof. Kingsley Moghalu describes it as ethically and morally wrong. I think it’s inappropriate for her to insist on remaining in that post, no matter whatever tremendous moral strength or talent she may claim to possess. In this matter of election, with the stakes as high as they are, talent is not enough, tremendous moral strength won’t do it either. Anything that should bring the integrity of the election into question should not be permitted. Not because the PDP is crying foul over her appointment. If Zakari remains, she will be the undesirable virus that will infest the presidential poll, and perhaps the other elections on March 2.
And, I ask: Why would Yakubu plan this ‘coup’ against himself when he knows that when anything in these elections fails, he would be the scapegoat? The moment of great reckoning is almost here with us and the INEC boss shouldn’t be behaving like someone who is bewitched. I have defended this man many times in this column because I know the burden that awaits him needs our support. But he’s beginning to lose me. How can he forget that perhaps never in our contemporary political history have we seen an electoral agency and its leadership so maligned, their integrity so impugned as it’s done these days, so fiercely that it has become the past time of many politicians to gain a lot of oxygen of publicity by attacking INEC. And now, Yakubu seems to have given his enemies the ammunition to cause confusion using the Amina Zakari saga. Truth is that the concerns being expressed about her appointment is legitimate. It merits a reversal with immediate effect. It’s in national interest.
Whatever good intentions either Yakubu or Zakari may have, her appointment has the potential danger in the election, irrespective of who wins. I don’t see how the President or INEC will want to convince Nigerians and the international community of non-interference and a free, fair, credible and transparent elections when key public figures like the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Ibrahim Idris, and now, Amina Zakari, will play important roles in the elections against public disapproval. It’s important to either listen to voices of reason and let her step down, or behave as if no one else’s opinion matters. It goes back to the questions many Nigerians have been asking for sometime now: Can we trust INEC under Prof. Yakubu to deliver a free, fair, credible and transparent elections? Can we believe the assurances of President Buhari that his government will not rig the elections? Again, good intentions are not enough. Promises are mere empty words when they are not fulfilled.
The world is watching Nigeria. Mr. President and Prof. Yakubu must realise that history will judge them by the outcome of the forthcoming elections. And trust is all about leveling with the Nigerian people before the elections and after the elections. Trust is not shading words just to appeal to a separate audience. You earn trust. It comes from conviction, what you believe in. That the alarm bell is going off over Amina Zakari should be seen as early warning to INEC to be impartial and not to compromise the elections. Nothing less will do.