I’m Neither Buhari’s Niece nor His Cousin, says Amina Zakari

I’m Neither Buhari’s Niece nor His Cousin, says Amina Zakari

…Tell that to the Marines, withdraw from Election Collation Mattars…PDP, Ohanaeze, Ezekwesili Newly appointed head of Election Collation Centre for the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for the 2019 elections, Mrs. Amina Zakari has stridently refuted having any blood relationship with President Muhammadu Buhari and candidate of the ruling All Progressive Party (APC). Her appointment

…Tell that to the Marines, withdraw from Election Collation Mattars…PDP, Ohanaeze, Ezekwesili

Newly appointed head of Election Collation Centre for the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for the 2019 elections, Mrs. Amina Zakari has stridently refuted having any blood relationship with President Muhammadu Buhari and candidate of the ruling All Progressive Party (APC).

Her appointment on Thursday to head the vital election centre has generated lots of furore with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) and other civil society organisations asking for her appointment to be reversed..

Speaking in an interview with BBC News, Zakari distanced herself from the allegation that she is related to Buhari.

Her words, “I am not his niece, I am not his cousin. I was appointed on this same particular job by Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan in 2010. Prior to that I was appointed an SA to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, and I did my job perfectly”.

The opposition has rejected the appointment, saying Zakari is a blood relation of President Muhammadu Buhari who had shown bias in past elections.

Explaining the appointment of Mrs Amina Zakari as head of its collation centre for the forthcoming presidential election on Channels Television Sunrise Daily, INEC’s Director of Voter Education and Publicity, Mr Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, said her role as head of the Election Collation Center Committee has nothing to do with actual collation of votes.

He said only the Chairman of INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu who is the returning officer for presidential election, would decide the validity of votes.

He said Zakari was appointed because she was in charge of welfare, and the role of the collation committee is to be in charge of the physical structure of the International Conference Center (ICC), Abuja, adding that “Zakari was suitable for the position having been involved in negotiating for the use of the centre in 2015.”

“The chairman of INEC by virtue of the Electoral Act is the returning officer of the country for the presidential election. It is he who decides the validity of votes and any issues in the election,” he said.

“The committee is primarily in charge of welfare. She was also very involved in negotiating with the ICC management in 2015 for the use of the facility so her duty is to ensure the facility is ready. She has no role whatsoever with the process of collation.”

Following Zakari’s appointment on Thursday, the opposition PDP and the Coalition of United Political Party (CUPP) released statements rejecting her appointment and demanding her removal.

Also, a former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Timi Frank, in a statement on Friday also alleged that Zakari’s appointment was sealed at a midnight secret meeting at the Presidential Villa. He called on the INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, to resign for being part of the alleged meeting.

But Osaze-Uzzi said the controversy was needless.

When asked if INEC was considering removing her, he said, “Removing her as the chairman of the committee to prepare the facility? That’s not an issue. It’s a needless controversy; not an issue at all”.

Also in a statement at the weekend, Mr Garba Shehu, the senior special assistant on media to the President, accused the PDP of publishing a mendacious press release, in which it made equally baseless accusations regarding Mrs Zakari, about her neutrality and integrity in next month’s election.

Shehu said Zakari in the first place was originally appointed by the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan and was only reappointed by Buhari.

Second, Zakari is not a blood relation of President Buhari as the PDP had claimed.

Said Shehu: “In their desperation, they forget that it was the PDP government that appointed her in the first place and they keep lying, as they have been caught doing on so many issues, by imputing a blood relationship between her and President Muhammadu Buhari.”

“President Buhari and Commissioner Amina Zakari don’t share a family relationship. An inter-marriage occurred in their extended families, so the imputation of blood relationship between the President and the electoral commissioner is a simple lie.”

“What is even more curious about all the fuss coming from the PDP is that they, as a ruling party picked Mrs Zakari, judging her by her own merit and made her an electoral commissioner.”

“She served so well with distinction as can be verified from the records that President Buhari approved the recommendation that she be reappointed, as he did other PDP nominees for second-term of four years.”

“PDP, therefore, has no moral right to keep harassing this hardworking mother unless they have a hidden agenda.”

“By this statement, the PDP is guilty of scoring an own goal and two, of harassing an innocent citizen on the basis of a lie, pure and simple”, Shehu said

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has however insisted that Mrs Zakari, is related to President Buhari.

Reacting to the clarification by INEC on the role of Zakari in the polls, the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan stated, “President Muhammadu Buhari’s admittance that he has an inter-marriage relationship with Mrs Amina Zakari has vindicated its stance that she cannot be trusted with the collation of the presidential election results.”

The party asked the President to respond to criticism by Second Republic Lawmaker, Mr Junaid Mohammed, about two years ago that he allegedly pushed for the appointment of Zakari to represent his interest at the commission.

It alleged further that in addition to the relationship by affinity, President Buhari has not denied that he started his early childhood in the house of Zakari’s father.

“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,” the PDP said.

“Even in the judiciary, judges recuse themselves in cases involving parties they have an affinity with. Mrs. Amina Zakari must, therefore, recuse herself, if the 2019 presidential election must be credible.”

The opposition party queried why the President supposedly insisted that Zakari must be in INEC if there was no ulterior motive being pushed.

It, therefore, challenged President Buhari to allow INEC to have a free hand to conduct the elections, to test his popularity among Nigerians.

“Nigerians expect her to quietly resign from INEC,” the PDP said.

Prof Farooq Kperogi, a fierce critic of the buhari government said Mrs Zakari lied about her relationship with Buhari

Said he: “That’s flat-out mendacious. And it puts a huge question mark on her honesty, probity, and trustworthiness. A person who can lie this casually about something as basic and as verifiable as her relationships is disreputable and unworthy of the responsibility she’s been entrusted with at INEC. So what is the truth?”

Arguing further, Kperogi said, “In a December 27, 2018 article, Mohammed Haruna, former Daily Trust columnist and current INEC commissioner, confirmed that President Muhammadu Buhari’s biological sister was once married to Mrs. Amina Zakari’s father. That makes Amina, Buhari’s niece. This is the definition of a niece in the Oxford English Dictionary: “A daughter of one’s brother or sister, or of one’s brother-in-law or sister-in-law.” Amina’s father was Buhari’s brother-in-law. So Amina IS INDEED Buhari’s niece.”

“But that’s not all. At some point in his youth, Buhari, who lost his father at a young age, came under the guardianship of Amina’s father, the late Alhaji Hussaini Adamu, who was emir of Kazaure, Daura’s “next-door neighbor.” I had the pleasure of interviewing Mrs. Amina Zakari’s brother, Alhaji Najib Hussaini Adamu in early 1999 shortly after he became emir, when I was a reporter for the Weekly Trust. I stayed at the palace for days. So I have some familiarity with the family.”

According to Kperogi, “Buhari has never severed his relationship with Amina’s father’s family even after Buhari’s sister’s death. When he was chairman of PTF, he got Amina a consultancy contract with Afri-Projects Consortium (APC), the sole manager of the PTF projects.”

Adding that “In Ray Ekpu’s widely shared June 2018 article titled “Petroleum Trust Fraud,” we learn that the late Salihijo Ahmad, the Adamawa-born boss of APC and relative of Buhari’s current wife, “admitted to Newswatch in an interview published by the magazine in its April 19, 1999 issue that it was APC that wrote the proposal which defined the mandate of the PTF.”

The Apex Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo has also told Mrs Zakari to resign her role in the 2019 general election.

“I call on Amina Zakari to honourably resign. Whatever happens to our democracy tomorrow, they (INEC and Federal Government) should hold themselves responsible,” President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Mr Nnia Nwodo, a former information Minister said.

Nwodo said Zakari’s appointment was one of many ways the Buhari government aims to cripple the nation’s democracy.

He alleged that it was impossible for INEC and the federal government to ensure the 2019 general elections are free, fair and credible with a relative of the President serving in the capacity of collation officer.

Nwodo said, “It’s like Rangers VS Kano Pillars and Kano Pillars is allowed to nominate a referee. It’s impossible for justice to be done. In a civilized clime, Amina Zakari should have resigned.”

“I expected the APC government has come to power through a free and fair election conducted by another president, they should not destroy the history.”

“With continued membership of Mrs. Zakari in the commission, the corporate personality of INEC is seriously whittled down; making her head of collation committee is worse than anything anybody can imagine,” Nwodo said.

The Presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili, has also asked the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mamoud Yakubu, to reverse Mrs. Zakari as head of Collation Centre Committee saying, “The INEC chairman appears to have bowed to pressure from the Presidency.”

She described Zakari’s appointment as political corruption, “considering that having a relation of the President who is a contestant in the February 2019 presidential election amounts to an apparent conflict-of-interest situation. Such repugnant deployment of Zakari to the collation centre suggests a brazen attempt to ease rigging for the APC’s candidate in the elections.”

To ensure peace and give all the candidates a level playing ground, the ACPN presidential candidate asked INEC to restore confidence in the management of the collation process by reversing Zakari’s appointment as chairperson.

“Zakari can be assigned another task farther away from tasks that can hinder electoral integrity,” said Ezekwesili, adding that the latest development compounded doubts about the President’s interest in presiding over a credible 2019 elections, when he refused to assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill 2018.

“Worse still, under President Buhari, the public has been alarmed at the gross misuse of security establishments to compromise elections in places like Osun and Ekiti states. Any attempt to repeat such abuse of state institutions in the 2019 elections for the ruling APC’s benefit must be averted to avoid throwing the country into political crisis,” she said.

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