On Thursday, the 3rd day of January, 2019, the Independent National Electoral Commission-herein after referred to as INEC-announced Amina Zakari, a supposed niece of President Muhammadu Buhari, as Head of Collation Centre Committee for the 2019 elections. This announcement has instigated a lot of criticisms from members of the public and political parties.
While some oppositions led by the Peoples’ Democratic Party-herein after referred to as PDP, have described the appointment of Zakari as an attempt by the ruling party i.e. All Progressives Congress-herein after referred to as APC (the political party from which the current President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria-Muhammadu Buhari had emerged as the country’s President) to rig the 2019 Presidential elections, some other persons view this development on her appointment as unnecessary. This paper is of the views and submissions that her appointment, so far she is in one way or the other or by blood relationship or marriage among other relationships that can make an average layman or electorate or aspirant to an elective office to suspect a political manipulation, foul play and suspicion, is a stylish war against democratic system of Nigeria.
First and foremost, ‘democracy’ as propounded by the one-time President of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln was defined as ‘government of the people, by the people and for the people’. According to Ese Malemi in his book ‘The Nigerian Constitutional Law’, Princeton Publication Co., 2006, Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria, at page 30, ‘To be a true democracy, the government must be: 1. A government made up of the generality or representatives of the people; 2. A government formed and installed by the people. And 3. A government that exists for the welfare of the people.’. Therefore, in my humble view, if true democracy is to be realized, then there is need for a free, fair and credible election into elective positions, such as the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. And this is why the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended)-herein after referred to as the Constitution- has established the Independent National Electoral Commission-herein after referred to as INEC-under section 153(1)(f) of the Constitution. Though, the President is conferred the power to appoint the Chairman of the Commission i.e. INEC by virtue of section 154(3) of the Constitution, INEC by section 158 of the Constitution in exercising its power to make appointment or to exercise disciplinary control over persons, is not subjected to the direction or control of any other authority or person, which (in my view) by implication, includes the direction and control of the President of Nigeria who appointed him, except that the Chairman of INEC may only be removed by the President acting on an address supported by two-thirds majority of the Senate praying that he be so removed for inability to discharge the functions of the office (whether arising from infirmity of mind or body or any other cause) or for misconduct, by virtue of section 157(1) of the Constitution. Therefore, it is clear that the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, does not have control legally speaking, over the INEC in the appointment of Amina Zakari as the Head of Collation Centre Committee.
Furthermore, I am of the view that if the Constitution has guaranteed the independence of INEC to conduct elections into various elections under the Constitution, then, it means that all its officials and or members too must act independently as though INEC because they are agents through which INEC acts or performs its Constitutional and statutory functions. Therefore, I humbly submit with due respect to INEC that a situation where the Head of the Collation Committee that would collate all the electoral votes together especially regarding the Presidential post, is related to the current President of Nigeria, notwithstanding the argument that it is the INEC Chairman that would collate all electoral results, could imply that justice is prejudiced against other Presidential aspirants.
Furthermore, I have read a post published on the www.TheNigeriaLawyer.com with the title ‘QUESTION: Can Amina Zakari, Buhari’s ‘Relative’, Influence 2019 Election Results?. I have also considered the following views submitted in the said article as follows
‘What Is Collation?
Collation is the tabulation or summation of the votes cast during an election. It is a graphic reflection of the decision taken by the electorate who have exercised their franchise at the poll. There are various levels of collation depending on the type of elections. However, for the sake of credibility, at each level there is always an announcement of votes scored by each party participating in the election.
Levels of Collation
There are various levels. Results are collated and/or declared at a number of levels depending on the type of election. These include:
Registration Area (RA) Ward
Local Government Area (LGA)
State Assembly Constituency
Federal (House of Representatives) Constituency
Collation and declaration of presidential election result at national level
How Significant Is Collation?
For an election to be successful and credible, it demands proper planning and efficient conduct. The outcome of an election is a culmination of five processes: accreditation, voting, counting, collation and results declaration. Though the first three processes are important, the last two are the critical stages. They can make or mar the whole electoral exercise. If either of these two processes stalls the essence of the exercise might be jeopardized. It is during collation that the results of an election can be doctored to satisfy selfish end and defeat the purpose of election.’. Now, in my humble opinion, with due respect to INEC, if one is to consider the importance of collation in electoral matters and especially in the forthcoming 2019 Presidential Election, then, it means other political parties’ candidates for election can be prejudiced. They all have interests to protect though, in the country’s and party’s interests. So, INEC ought not to have made Amina Zakari who is known to have a relationship in one way or the other with the current President of Nigeria as Head of Collation Centre’s Committee, else, there is a suspicion that the election would be rigged or unfair or not credible, which would therefore defeat the doctrine of democracy.
Furthermore, one has to consider the political and democratic history of this country. Considering the election conducted at the end of the Second Republic of Nigeria, in 1983 Presidential election with the intention to lead to the Third Republic, where the election was nullified and reckoned with with alleged electoral fraud and giving rise to the taking over of the democratic system by a military dictatorship led by Major General Muhammadu Buhari who is by fate the current President of Nigeria. So, it would be wrong and dangerous to conduct the 2019 Presidential election with all the suspicion. This might give rise to a situation that should the APC political party win the 2019 Presidential election, no matter the merit, the election and or its results cannot acceptable by the opposition political parties to be free, fair and credible to any or all of the other opposition parties. So, making the Amina Zakari as the Head of Collation Centre Committee, could have rendered the independence of INEC questionable in the eyes of ordinary electorates. Therefore, justice would prevail if INEC would listen to the cries and advice of Nigerians not on the part of criticism or political antics but on the need for natural justice, equity and good conscience as well as that of the interest of the public. The situation might also give rise to a situation where the office of the President could be declared vacant by the Court giving rise to litigation and avoidable waste of public funds.
I know and believe that President Muhammadu Buhari (though cannot subject INEC to his control) is a man of integrity and an anti-corruption crusader. He would not permit anything that would defeat the free, fair and credible nature of democratic election in the 2019 elections.
Also, as a human rights activist, I am of the humble submission that the appointment of Amina Zakari as the Head of the Collation Centre for the 2019 Presidential election is likely to be suspected to deny Nigerian electorates of their electoral rights or franchise to elect candidates of their choice into the Presidential office, as the elected aspirant of their choice from other political parties might be denied his right of the Presidential office. Nevertheless, I am not saying that APC or INEC would rig the 2019 Presidential election, at all, rather, it is better for INEC to avoid any suspicion to the facts that the election was rigged by virtue of the position of Amina Zakari and her alleged relationship with the current President in power, should the APC win the election.
Furthermore, I am of the submission that the best decision for INEC to do is to cancel or withdraw the appointment of Amina Zakari as Head of Collation Centre for the 2019 elections and then appoint a neutral person to head the Committee. Also, Amina Zakari too is advised to resign from her appointment from the said office voluntarily for her to have peace from all the allegations against her from members of the public and to protect her integrity and interest of the Nigerian democracy. Also, there is the danger of a situation where there would be a change in the Nigerian politics where another government in power or INEC would appoint a friend or blood relation of another President or political party’s chairman relying on the precedent laid down by INEC in this dispensation.
Finally, it is my humble submission that if Amina Zakari is to remain the Head of the Collation Committee, then, there is a stylish war already initiated against Nigerian democracy, the situation which we all have to prevent. Challenging this act of INEC in court by any of the interested but aggrieved political parties to nullify the appointment in the interest of the public and the protection of Nigerian democracy is equally recommended. And in all, INEC should allow manifest justice to prevail in the 2019 elections.
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