By Biola Adebayo
Hajia Amina Zakari, accused by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has described as false, the allegation that she is a relation of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Chairman of the INEC Committee on Collation Centre for the general elections, said: “President Muhammadu Buhari is my President as [he is] everybody else’s President.
“He is not my cousin, he is not my uncle as is being claimed.”
According to ChannelsTV, Zakari made a formal reaction to the allegation in an interview with the BBC on Saturday.
Since the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced her appointment on Thursday, PDP rejected it, insisting that she is related to Buhari and alleged that the move was part of the plot to rig the elections.
The Presidency and INEC Chairman Professor Mahmood Yakubu have separately denied the allegations.
Zakari explained that she had done her job diligently over the years without scandal or blame.
She pointed out that she was first appointed by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2010 and served as a Special Adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo prior to that.
“I have done my job conscientiously over the years as a patriotic citizen of Nigeria,” she said. “I don’t think I should be distracted now that elections are coming forward. I will continue doing my work. I will continue serving my country to the best of my ability with the best of intentions.”
She recalled that she had been part of INEC when Jonathan defeated Buhari in the 2011 Presidential election and challenged anyone who had any evidence of wrongdoing against her to come forward with evidence.
“I have been on this job since 2010 and this same President lost an election and the people that complained have worked closely with me. They have not in any way accused me of any wrongdoing over the years and I have done my work diligently.
“I was in charge of political party monitoring for four years – from 2010 to 2014. There was not a single scandal to my name and nobody can claim to have paid me or asked me to do anything wrong. And if they have, I would love them to come forward and prove it to the nation and to the world at large because this is getting into a global dimension.”
Zakari said it was impossible for her to influence an election monitored by thousands.
“I don’t think I should worry about this because I am one single person out of 16,000 staff, of about a million ad hoc staff that will run the election. I can’t see how I can get powers to influence an election as a single individual.”
The Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) had earlier urged politicians and parties to focus more on how to realise their electoral goals in 2019 rather than paying attention to unnecessary issues.
The Lagos State Chairman of IPAC, Mallam Shakirudeen Olofin, gave the advice in Lagos on Friday.
Olofin was reacting to Thursday’s appointment of Mrs Amina Zakari by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as its Head of Collation Centre for the 2019 elections and to the criticisms it generated in some quarters.
Olofin said that the criticisms trailing Zakari’s appointment were not necessary and mere distractions.
He said politicians and parties should rather spend time perfecting their strategies on winning the general elections rather than being pre-occupied by issues that should not concern them.
“We think the criticisms and controversies that have trailed the appointment of Zakari are unnecessary because it is not within the powers of political parties to appoint people for INEC.
“In a football match, the teams do not decide or bother about who the referee is. It is never done. Rather, they focus on how to win the match.
“The parties should be more focused and leave all these distractions. They should be on the drawing board planning for victory.They should leave INEC and Zakari to do their jobs,” he said.
Furthermore, Olofin said it was unfair to claim Zakari got the appointment because she was the president’s blood relation.
He pointed out that the she had always been in INEC where she even acted as the Chairman of the commission after the exit of Prof. Attahiru Jega.
Olofin added that IPAC believed Zakari’s appointment was not an aberration as she had also headed the commission’s ICT Department, which, he said, was related to her new responsibility.
Also, the presidency criticised PDP over what it described as another lie regarding the status of Zakari, a national commissioner with the Independent National Electoral Commission.
Malam Garba Shehu, the senior special assistant on media accused the PDP of publishing a mendacious press release, in which it made equally baseless accusations regarding Hajiya 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.
“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.