The recent appointment of Amina Zakari as the head of the election collation centre for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the 2019 elections is one that has continued to dominate discussions and generate reactions across the political strata, ever since the announcement was made by the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, last week.
President Muhammadu Buhari has been put on the defensive since that appointment was made, trying to defend his relationship with Zakari, who is alleged to be the president’s niece. First to fire a salvo was the main opposition – Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The party had said Zakari could not be an impartial arbiter in an election involving her uncle and that Prof Yakubu, by virtue of the appointment, could no longer be trusted to conduct the 2019 general election.
Issues such as this are not new in an election period such as the one we are in, but how they are handled by those in charge, in a manner that does not erode public confidence in the process, is what matters at times like this.
We note that Zakari is not new to the job, having held several positions within INEC. She was former National Electoral Commissioner at INEC, once chaired the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) of the commission and was appointed chairman of the INEC Planning Monitoring and Strategy Committee in November 2014. At the end of the tenure of the former INEC chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega, she was appointed chairman of the commission in acting capacity, becoming the first woman to be appointed to the position. She is, therefore, not just qualified for the post she has been appointed to, but entitled to it as a Nigerian.
Be that as it may, within the African context, where family relationships are not only determined by blood but by other factors such as marriage, President Buhari’s admittance of a relationship with Zakari by marriage, whether through distant relations, therefore, makes her a judge in a matter involving her family member, as alleged.
While we note that she was not appointed into INEC by President Buhari, her relationship with him, whether by virtue of marriage, in an election he also has vested interest, makes calls for reconsideration of her appointment germane.
The appointment places a moral burden on President Buhari in view of the doubts surrounding Zakari’s neutrality in the election, especially that she is not the only national commissioner within the commission who also possesses the competencies she has.
It is our view, therefore, that the president, in line with his avowed commitment of giving Nigerians free, fair and credible elections, and in the interest of fairness and equity, directs that Zakari reverts to her previous role within the commission, and withdraws from playing any direct role in this election, in order to give the electorate and all political players confidence in the electoral process as the nation goes into election in February.
This, as we see it, is not just morally the right thing to do, but a sure confidence booster ahead of the election, as it will go a long way in assuaging the fears being expressed in many quarters.