The groundswell of outcry over the continuing stay of acting chairperson of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Hajia Amina Bala Waziri in office may appear to be waning in the media, but the spirit of the people I must underscore remains adamant. They query her continuing stay there and want her out pronto.
As an enlightened commentator on public affairs, I must confess that I have nothing against a female being the country’s INEC boss. When countries have had female elected presidents with popular mandates; when governments have had females superintend over ministerial matters that consequently made positive differences in the peoples well being, the place of that unique gender of God’s creation in the affairs of nations can never be in doubt. But the antecedents and circumstances of the appointment of Hajia Waziri by President Muhammadu Buhari last June 30 present a picture in complete opposite of the foregoing.
When Professor Attahiru Jega retired from office on June 30, he handed the reins and everything there is about that very important office to Dr. Ahmed Wali in acting capacity. But before observers could spell W. A. L. I, President Buhari via a terse statement from Aso Rock presidential villa appointed Hajia Waziri as Jega’s successor.
Whatever bad blood that development may have created which was of course obvious, no doubt still troubles INEC and will continue in the countdown to 2019. But worse still is the continued stay in office of Hajia Waziri against the spirit and letters of natural justice, equity and good conscience.
Only last month, Waziri’s fellow directors retired from office having been due for such. But remains there today just as INEC acting chairman, And considering the usual excuse that will soon be thrown by the interests she represents, the argument would soon arise that since Bayelsa and Kogi state governorship elections are around the corner, it makes netter reason for her to stay back to superintend over the processes as against getting a new appointee who may need some time to study INEC before he/she can confidently conduct the said elections.
Once that pulls through, the next argument would then be, a “just allow her to continue,” refrain. And then the president would send her name to the Senate for confirmation as substantive chairman of INEC. That would be end of discussion.
Before I am accused of a different agenda, I must state that the allegations of Waziri’s closeness to Buhari long before today, makes her continuous stay at INEC questionable.
Said one commentator recently:
“How else would you describe the shoddy change of guard we witnessed at the INEC last week? On 30th June 2015, Jega’s tenure ended and he handed over the mantle to a National Commissioner, Ambassador Ahmed Wali to hold the forte until the president appointed a new Chairman. Eight hours later, Buhari meddled in the affairs of the Commission by reversing Jega and appointing Hajiya Amina Zakari as Acting Chairman. This move smacks of a sinister political footwork. Why would the president dabble into routine internal affairs of the Commission when he should be submitting the name of the substantive INEC Chair to the Senate? Why did he ignore Jega’s letter reminding him of the imminent end of his tenure? Why did he wait for Jega to hand over to Wali before intervening? Did someone whisper into his ear the need to key Zakari in as a prelude for further action? Will Buhari take the clumsy step of looking for another Acting Chairman pending the Senate’s approval of his nominee for Chairman? It does not make sense at all. It is, therefore, safe to speculate that Buhari is probably poised to submit Hajiya Amina Zakari’s name to the Senate as the next INEC Chairman! The implications are grave for the survival of our democracy. It will signal the return of the electoral body to the dark days of being tied to the apron strings of (a) the ruling party and (b) the president. Amina Zakari is one of the Northern hawks at the INEC. She is strongly linked to the APC, and she is a known close ally of the party’s top hats such as Nasir el Rufai and President Buhari whom she calls “Uncle”. Along with el Rufai, she was part of the Afri-Projects Consult, which carried out contracts for the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) which Buhari headed under General Sani Abacha. As the head of hiring in INEC she has been reported to have favoured the North with staffing during the Commission’s major programmes. More importantly, she is an ardent proponent of the discredited 30,000 extra polling units that nearly tore the North and South apart before the 2015 general elections. Such an officer, if appointed as substantive INEC Chair, can be used to entrench the APC against the wishes of Nigerians. We may see an end to the trend of losers congratulating winners which was beginning to take root under Jonathan. We may see an upsurge of violence and vicious ligations watered by corruption at electoral tribunals.”
I hasten to join the camp of many who fear that unless the anomaly in Hajia Waziri’s appointment as it stands today is addressed, it would mean that the presidency’s deaf ear to this reasonably popular demand is a ploy to prepare INEC to influence 2019 general elections in whatever direction it so pleases.
But methinks that a listening government would make hay while it still shines by addressing this Hajia Waziri wahala head-on and move on to the next page.
Already, there are insinuations in certain quarters to underscore the foregoing. Many ask why there is no longer any mention of Dr. Ahmed Wali who Jega handed over the reins of INEC business to in the official website of INEC. After all, he acted for a few hours before the presidency threw up Waziri’s name. Courtesy and known protocol norms support this view.
Another puzzle is the fact that many opinion articles posted on the internet that posited the need for Waziri to be replaced are disappearing from the worldwide web. For instance, there is this material that made headlines last week about a lawyer that asked a court to sack Waziri. Check the internet; it is gone; and too soon at that. Who are these desperate to sweep the controversial matter of Waziri under the carpet and out of our collective consciousness?