Rotimi Oyekanmi, Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof . Mahmood Yakubu, in this interview speaks on the rumours that there is mounting pressure on his principal to reverse the redeployment of Mrs Amina Bala Zakari. He also denied the existence of any crisis in the commission. TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI brings the excerpts:
There are reports of an alleged rift between Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, chairman of INEC and Mrs Amina Zakari over her redeployment from Director of Operations to Healthcare. Don’t you think this will affect the commission’s preparedness for the 2019 elections?
There is no basis for any acrimony between the INEC chairman and the INEC National Commissioners representing the six geo-political zones. They work together as a family. The law states clearly the functions of the National Commissioners vis-à-vis the functions of the INEC chairman and they are supposed to work together for the good of the commission.
The commission works on the basis of committees. There are several committees and it is the prerogative of the INEC chairman to appoint who will be in which committee. It is also his prerogative to change the membership of any committee as he deems fit.
Commissioner Amina Zakari was never Director of Electoral Operations. She is a National Commissioner in charge of Electoral Operations. She has performed excellently well since her appointment till the time she was transferred to Health Services.
We have conducted about 190 elections, rerun, bye elections and end of tenure elections, which is another word for governorship elections. Amina Zakari has been the one in charge of Electoral operations that provides the core activities of all those elections where we had a good run in the last two years. The chairman has his own reasons in the best interest of the commission by deciding to move some national commissioners from their committees to other places. So, it is not as a result of any acrimony.
Number two, it is also not true that Mrs Amina Zakari is unhappy with her current position in INEC. Don’t forget that she is a pharmacist and she will do very well where she has been posted which is Healthcare Committee. In fact, it was not only her that was moved. Remember Prince Solomon Soyebi was also moved from Information and Voter Education Committee to Electoral Institute, which is the intellectual arm of the commission. They are the ones that do all the training of ad-hoc staff including our staff and carry out research. It is an extremely important arm that is not for a dullard. So, if they are putting you in that place, then you must be a very intelligent person. So, I think the information that there is acrimony between the INEC chairman and any of the national commissioners is not true. We are all united for the good of the commission. Yes, we can have individual differences which is allowed but the goal of the commission is to organise free, fair and credible elections in 2019 and that is what the INEC chairman and all the national commissioners are working towards achieving.
How true is the report that there are pressures on the INEC Chairman to reverse the posting of Mrs Zakari and return her to her previous committee?
That is not true. There was no pressure at all. In fact, a lot of people may not believe this but the presidency distances itself from the commission as much as possible in order to avoid these type of issues. Infact, the only time when the INEC chairman, who is also the President of ECOWAS Electoral Body, he led members of the electoral management bodies that came on the visit to the Vice- President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo for discussions. I was also present and I remember during that discussion, the Vice-President told those people that came from West African countries that they normally stay very far away from INEC because they don’t want Nigerians to read meanings into it and that they don’t interfere in whatsoever that INEC is doing.
I think the problem in this country is that we are so suspicious of ourselves. People are very suspicious of whatever you say or do and as such they introduce some things that are not supposed to be introduced. If the INEC chairman goes to meet the President now, some people will interpret it to mean that the president wants him to rig the elections for APC. Presidency is one of the critical stakeholders that INEC must have interactions with and it is normal for us to meet. Don’t forget, these meetings are taking place during the day, yet they will say they are secret meetings. So, if they can call a meeting held during the day secret meetings, what will they call the one held in the night? INEC is an independent, neutral electoral umpire and we will be fair and just in the discharge of our duties. It is also not true that there is no acrimony either between the INEC chairman and Mrs Amina Zakari or any of the national commissioners. We are just a couple of weeks to the general elections and so all hands are on deck to ensure that we organise a very successful election for the good of the country.