The director of voter education and publicity at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mr. Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, has reacted to the rumpus caused by the appointment of President Muhammadu Buhari’s niece, Mrs. Amina Zakari as the chair of the electoral body’s advisory committee and presidential election collation centre committee.
It would be recalled that INEC chairman Prof. Mahmood Yakubu appointed Zakari to head the committee on collation centre, one of the two committees for the election which he commission inaugurated on Thursday in Abuja.
Speaking during the inauguration, Yakubu, INEC said the committee shall be responsible for the national collation centre – the ICC – from where results of the presidential election will be announced.
“Today, the commission is taking another step in our determination to ensure seamless preparations for the 2019 General Election. As we move closer to the elections, the Commission has decided to set up two ad hoc committees to drive important components of the electoral process.
“The first committee is responsible for electoral logistics. The commission is aware that the conduct of a general election is the biggest and most complex logistics operation a nation can undertake. Sensitive and non-sensitive materials procured by the commission must be delivered to almost 200,000 locations nationwide, ranging from the polling units to the various ward, local government, state and the national collation centres for the 1,558 constituencies into which elections will be conducted,” he said.
Speaking on Channels Television programme on Friday, Osaze-Uzzi said dropping her as head of the collation centre will not affect actual collation 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) which is the collation centre.
Zakari’s committee is basically in charge of the physical structure, (the ICC which is the collation centre).
“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.
“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,” he said.
Osaze-Uzzi described as needless controversy the call for her removal.
“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,” he remarked.
Reacting to Zakari’s appointment, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in a statement signed by the director of media and publicity, PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation (PPCO), Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan faulted the appointment saying it is as a “direct violation against the presidential election.”
“The PPCO vehemently and unequivocally rejects, in its entirety, the appointment of Mrs. Amina Zakari, President Buhari’s blood relation, as head of the collation of results in the same election in which her uncle, President Buhari, is a candidate.
“The appointment of Mrs. Amina Zakari constitutes a direct violence against the presidential election and the PDP will not, in any way, whatsoever, accept it.
“This is the same Amina Zakari who headed the ICT Department of INEC. It will interest Nigerians to note that this is the same Amina Zakari that was alleged to have played some roles in the 2018 governorship election in Osun state.
“In appointing Mrs. Amina Zakari to head the collation of this Presidential election, Prof. Yakubu has confirmed that he has been compromised.
“We, therefore, call on all Nigerians and particularly the National Peace Committee to note that with the appointment of Amina Zakari as head of the collation of presidential results, the INEC chairman is setting the stage for a very huge political crisis, which is capable of derailing our democratic process.
“We also urge the United Nations and other global democratic institutions to take note of this appointment by the INEC chairman.
“If the INEC chairman wants a peaceful presidential election, he should, with the speed of light, reverse himself on this appointment.
“The PPCO reiterates its position that, for us to have a peaceful election, Mrs. Amina Zakari should not be seen anywhere near any of the 2019 election processes, not to talk of being involved in the collation of presidential results
“The PDP remains committed to a peaceful and credible process, but we will never, in any way, allow anybody to use any means, under any guise whatsoever, to rig us out in this election — not after it is clear that Nigerians have attained a consensus to rally behind our presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, as their next president.
“All we ask for is a free, fair, credible and transparent electoral process in which the votes of Nigerians will not only count but will be seen to have counted,” said the party.
Also speaking the president general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Chief Nnia Nwodo called on Nigerians to hold INEC and the federal government responsible should anything happen to the nation’s democracy
Nwodo who called for Zakari’s resignation as a national commissioner in INEC because of her blood relation to President Buhari said it was bad enough that she was allowed to continue to serve in INEC and worse by appointing her into the new position.
“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 having come to power through a free and fair election conducted by another president, they should not destroy the history,” he said.
Also reacting, one of the spokespersons of the party’s presidential campaign council, Mr. Kassim Afegbua, said Zakari’s appointment would go to confirm that the 2019 election is programmed for rigging.
“I wouldn’t believe this; but if it turns out to be true, it will go to confirm our fears that the 2019 election is programmed for rigging. We have raised series of concerns over the unholy strategic roles that Amina Zakari had played in previous election and why we had accused INEC of working from answer to question.
“This new position if confirmed to be true is a further confirmation of the subterranean plots being masterminded by INEC to ensure that vote figures are manipulated in favour of President Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC), reason why the APC has not been campaigning,” said Afegbua.”
Similarly, the Advocacy for Integrity and Economic Development (AIED), called on the INEC chairman resign his appointment over over the Zakari affair.
In a statement issued on Friday and signed by AIED’s director of publicity, Mr. O’Seun John, the group said Zakari’s appointment is the “final straw in what has already been a partisan relationship between the expected independent commission and the government in power.”
“What we have witnessed today in the appointment of Amina Zakari by Mahmood Yakubu is the final straw in what has been a partisan-laden commission.
“INEC as we know it no longer exist, instead it has become another arm of the presidency and the ruling party with the chairman of the commission taking orders from the office of the chief of staff.
“The neutrality and unbiased standing of INEC has been eroded with the appointment of a blood relative of a major contender into a pivotal role for the presidential election.
“But this is not the only crime of the Mahmood Yakubu-led tenure; rather, it is one of the many steps toward rechristening the commission into a ‘Buhari Electoral Commission’.
“We all witnessed the abysmal defense of constructive criticism by the media aide of the Chairman written in tenses that suggest it was crafted by Lai Mohammed and only passed to INEC for signature.
“We also witnessed how INEC, in spite of the international and nationwide condemnation of the electoral fraud disguised as election in Osun gubernatorial election, defended the gigantic antidemocratic process and allowed same to stand.
“It is with these evidences that we strongly believe that an INEC under the leadership of Mahmood Yakubu cannot conduct a free, fair and transparent election and thereby demand that he tenders his resignation letter. Doing otherwise will only interpret to a presidential election determined before it commence.
“If Yakubu decides to be unpatriotic and delay his resignation, it is only manly of him to then issue a certificate of return to President Buhari and forgo the plan of wasting huge resources and precious time in conducting any election,” said AEID.