By Jane Agboko, Abuja
As the nation prepare for its 2019 general election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is faced with stiff criticism over appointment of one of its Commissioner, Mrs Amina Zakari as head of Collation centre in the general election. The appointment of Amina Zakari as head of collation centre in a two ad-hoc committees by the Independent National Electoral Commission Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu sparked discontent in no small measure from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The PDP became paranoid immediately the announcement was made and alleged attempt by Muhammadu Buhari led government that APC would rig elections with Mrs Zakari as head of collation panel. The party at a press conference in Abuja, penultimate week, by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiya alledging that Mrs Amina Zakari is a niece of President Muhammadu Buhari. Ologbondiya accused the ruling APC of surreptitious moves to rig election in favour of President Muhammadu Buhari by strategically positioning Mrs Zakari as the collation officer in the forthcoming presidential elections.
Mrs Zakari, a pharmacist, who was appointed as INEC Commissioner by the former President Goodluck Jonathan administration was the only surviving electoral officer, hence, the umpire decided to count on her wealth of experience in electoral matters for the election job. A statement from INEC indicated.
Another leading voice against the appointment of Mrs Amina Zakari by the electoral umpire is the Ohaneze Ndigbo, a socio-cultural and socio-political group of the people of Southeast Nigeria. President General of the group, Chief John Nnia Nwodo warned that the Independent National Electoral Commission be held liable, if anything untoward happened to the nation’s nascent democracy. Affirming allegation that Mrs Zakari was President Buhari’s niece, Nwodo said, the appointment has worsened INEC’s bad situation as the nation faces election early next month. He called for the resignation of Mrs Zakari in order to restore confidence in INEC as an impartial electoral umpire, adding that Mrs Zakari’s appointment could truncate the hard earned democracy. He urged the ruling All Progressives Congress to recall how they came to power through free and fair elections, adding that Mrs Zakari being a blood relation of Mr President would rubbish the necessity of fairness, justice and equity in the presidential polls.
“I expected that the APC government having come to power through a free and fair election conducted by another president, they should not destroy the history.”
“I call on Amina Zakari to honourably resign. Whatever happens to our democracy tomorrow, they (INEC) and federal government should hold themselves responsible.”
“With continued membership of Mrs Zakari in the Commission, the corporate personality of INEC is seriously whittled down; making her head of collation panel worse than anything anybody could imagine”, Nwodo opined.
Reacting to Mrs Amina Zakari’s ‘trade tackle’, the Independent National Electoral Commission has insisted that she was not related to President Muhammadu Buhari in any way. Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu explained that President Muhammadu Buhari hails from Daura in Katsina State, while Mrs Zakari, who is a widow hails from Jigawa state. The Chairman further explained that Mrs Zakari was not in a position to manipulate elections in favour of anybody, insisting that he (Yakubu) is the Chief Electoral Officer as empowered by law.
“Under the Nigerian Constitution, I am the Chief Electoral Officer of the Federation and the Returning Officer in the presidential election. I am not going to share that responsibility with anyone in the Commission.”
“I am absolutely responsible for the coordination of the secretariat for the collation of results. But somebody has to prepare the venue for us to collate results.”
Meanwhile, the presidency through its spokesperson, Mr. Femi Adesina accused opposition PDP as responsible for Mrs Amina Zakari’s appointment as INEC Commissioner in the last administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
The lawmaker representing the embattled Borno South Senatorial district and former Senate leader, Senator Ali Mohammed Ndume called on Nigerians to discountenance allegations by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party that Mrs Zakari was President Buhar’s blood relation.
He lampooned PDP for cooking spurious and unsubstantiated allegations to hoodwink Nigerians into believing that APC was a bad political party. Speaking at the State House in Abuja last week, the lawmaker said, the opposition PDP has resorted to what he called “CCC”.
“PDP is now concentrating on what I call the CCC instead of doing what is right. They are concentrating on complaining, criticizing and contradicting themselves instead of campaigning.”
“We in the APC; we said it initially and we even have a manual of campaign and that is to discuss issues, ideals, integrity and things that will move this country forward but as usual is the main opponent now; that is what makes it easy for APC.”
“PDP ruled this country for 16 years; instead of giving Nigerians democracy; they were practicing kleptocracy; and after Nigerians tasted three years of democracy now, they are struggling to take us back to the period of their kleptocractic governance and Nigerians will not accept that.”
“This election is going to be the choice of Nigerians; to choose either to go back to the government of kleptocracy or continue with government of democracy”, the lawmaker stressed.