by Yemi Adebowale
One major thing I am expecting from President Muhammadu Buhari is a free, fair and credible electoral process, starting with the Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections with effect from this year. To achieve this, the electoral umpire must be unblemished, non-partisan and impartial.
This must start with the appointment of a non-aligned person to head the umpire, followed by that of dispassionate National Electoral Commissioners. For the sake of our fragile democracy, justice and fair play, anybody occupying the position of chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission either on acting or full capacity must have no links with the political parties or political actors. This is not the case with Amina Zakari, who was recently appointed acting chairperson of INEC by President Buhari. The appointment itself is an illegality.
There is no provision for the position of acting INEC chairman in our constitution. Forget about all those trying to manipulate the constitution of our land for their selfish interest. These are the people telling Buhari to keep Amina in acting capacity. The secretary of the commission should have been simply allowed to take charge pending the appointment of a substantive chairman. Buhari knew well in advance that Attahiru Jega was leaving, yet, he failed to do the needful. Now, the nation is still waiting for the appointment of a substantive chairman for INEC. The speculation now is that Buhari would allow Amina to stay on as acting chairperson to conduct the Bayelsa and Kogi States governorship elections. The President should perish this thought for the sake of our democracy. Amina Zakari is anything but neutral.
The story in town now is that Amina’s late father, the former Emir of Kazaure, was married to Buhari’s elder sister, and that Buhari lived with, and spent a significant part of his early years in the home of Amina’s father. Nobody has debunked this story. This is enough evidence of pleasantness between Zakari and our president whose party – the All Progressives Congress (APC) will be contesting governoship elections with other political parties in Bayelsa and Kogi states this year. Clearly, Amina must not be allowed to conduct the elections. She must not even have her tenure as a National Electoral Commissioner renewed to avoid an integrity crisis for the elections.
Still talking about Amina’s geniality with Buhari and the APC; I stated a few weeks ago that for over three years, this madam worked directly with Nasir el-Rufai, a chieftain of the ruling APC and the current governor of Kaduna State in the Federal Capital Territory administration.
She served as secretary for health and human resources in the FCT between 2004 and 2006. Amina was secretary for social development between 2006 and 2007 also when Nasir el-rufai was still the FCT minister. She was also acting secretary for agriculture and rural development. Again, she had direct links with Buhari when she worked as head of health and social sector for Afri-Project Consortium, the consultant to the defunct PTF when Buhari was its chairman. Obviously, Amina can’t be an unbiased umpire.
She has links with APC chieftains and must in the interest of fair play, not be allowed to remain in INEC. Deep down, Amina knows that it would be unfair for her to continue running the show at INEC with the Bayelsa and Kogi governorship elections around the corner. Buhari should search his conscience and allow Amina to go home. Conscience is best nurtured by truth. Some people have argued that some previous INEC chairmen had links with political actors and parties. Well, we should not be talking about that now because we are in an era of “change”. Our dear president should reflect the “change” in INEC.
Again, as things stand today, INEC is technically incapacitated. It cannot form a legitimate quorum for its meetings according to section 159 (1) of the constitution because there is only one legal and legitimate National Electoral Commissioner left in the agency – Lawrence Nwuruku. INEC requires at least five members to form a quorum for its meetings. The tenures of ten other National Electoral Commissioners ended months back. The five years tenure of Amina, in line with Section 155 of the Constitution, also ended on July 21, 2015. She is simply hanging around illegally. So, Buhari has to swiftly give this nation an unbiased substantive INEC chairman and 11 new unprejudiced National Electoral Commissioners. Again, some people have argued that some elections were conducted in the past without a quorum in the INEC leadership. I will simply say again that we are in an era of “change”. Things must no longer be done with latitude.
Yemi Adebowale is a columnist with Thisday Newspapers, where this article was first published.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.