In-laws Controversy: Yakassai Against Zakari
THE technical competency of Mrs. Amina Zakari to hold the office of chairperson of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was not in doubt.
Everyone would concede that five years on the job was adequate for a periodic assignment such as election supervision. What had been at issue was the morality of the President appointing her to the position of “acting chairperson” of INEC, an institution that may supervise elections that he or his party, may be involved in.
On Saturday, August 15, 2015, her published defence of this morally hazardous issue exposed her competency in the act of naturalistic discourse.
Her logic dented the public perception of her ability to hoist the flag of an institution for which a principal mandate is to educate Nigerians on the proper practices of democracy and good governance (see Section 2 of 2010 Electoral Act as Amended).
This exposition was inadvertently unshielded when she sought to controvert the understanding of the concept “in-law” as implied by the assertion of respected elder statesman, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai who declared, in regard to Mrs. Amina Zakari’s father the late Emir of Kazaure, that: “He (the late Emir), married the senior sister to Buhari and he (Buhari) started his childhood in the late emir’s house.
The mother of this woman (Amina Zakari) was either the first or second wife. Aside from that, Buhari stayed with him for some time in Kazaure.
I know that the relationship is true”. Alhaji Yakassai revealed that he knew the latter claim to be a fact because the late Emir, a friend of his for many years, worked with him as his Permanent Secretary before becoming an Emir.
But controverting the claim, Mrs. Amina Zakari averred that; she knew the President personally but that he was not her in-law (Punch newspaper August 15th 2015).
According to her definition; “I can’t say the General (Buhari) is my in-law. I am not married to his son. My daughter is not married to him. That is what I understand about being an in-law”.
Before examining the wider portents of this statement, the authoritative definition of in-laws should be set to rest. Most common authoritative dictionaries define an in-law as “a relative by marriage (or through affinity)”.
That Mrs. Zakari chose the relative by marriage, which suits her purpose, is either indicative of mischief or superficiality in dialectics. Portraying indifference for the appointment, Mrs. Zakari said that; “I did not lobby for it.
I had packed all my things out of INEC; I wanted to leave on the 30th (of June)”. This is curious considering that Mrs. Zakari’s tenure officially ends on July 21st 2015.
Why was she packing to leave on the day Professor Jega’s tenure and not hers was coming to an end? Was she given pre-knowledge that she will be ending her own tenure prematurely for her “acting chairman” mandate tenure? Might this flight from INEC one month prior to the end of her actual tenure be a mechanism, as the psychologist will suggest, to cover perceived disappointment that Prof. Jega may have given her coveted position to another person? What does the date 30th June have to do with her?
If it is superficiality in democratic dialectics, it characterises an inadequacy for the task at INEC that belies the many eminently qualified Nigerians who can combine the administrative acumen with a deep grasp of the democratic values, which embody the leadership norms that INEC must advocate for.
This deficiency is dangerous given the suspicion that she has familial relationship with the president.
Under those circumstances, a person would be expected to have very profound depth in the values and philosophy that underscore the task of leading INEC, to be able to adequately separate family obligations from national democratic ethos.
INEC, a critical institution in the consolidation of democracy, requires leadership from individuals with unquestionable commitment to its fundamentals.
The ideal of election management provides citizens the periodic opportunity to choose between competing policies and actors who can lead the delivery of such policies through political party platforms. It is thus a process for holding politically elected officers accountable for their actions.
In addition, elections help to give concrete symbolism to the power of the people over those they elect, which is the notional power of sovereignty.
It is, therefore, important that the chief advocate of elections in Nigeria must be someone with better than a superficial grasp of the essentialism of public discourse as a forte of democratic norms.
Given Mrs. Zakari’s expression on “in-laws”, how can Nigerians lightly surrender the peoples’ institution for expressing sovereignty to one who given her affinity to the president, will be unable to provide a platform for free public discussion, or guarantee free opportunity of choice between competing policies and actors in an election.
Looking back now at her five years in INEC, one cannot find any public interview, article or body of work, where she succinctly advocated democratic ideals or practices to advice that she has competencies to contradict the perception of a superficial grasp of democratic advocacy inherent in that office.
To leave INEC to her is to surrender our hard won democracy at a time that it should be consolidated. • Dr. Ade Rotimi writes from lbadan.