By Abubakar Jimoh
A Group of civil society organizations has condemned in totality the ongoing anti-gender politics and needless negative comments from the opposition party against the recent appointment of Mrs. Amina Bala Zakari as the Acting Chairman of Nigeria’s foremost Independent National Electoral Commission after the expiration of Prof. Attahiru Jega’s tenure.
In a press conference organized on Tuesday in Abuja, the group, which comprises: CISLAC, Women Aids Collective (WACOL), State of the Union (SOTU), Accountability for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in Nigeria (AMHiN), Advocacy Nigeria, Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA), Women In Nigeria, Women Advocates’ Research and Documentation Center (WARDC), West Africa Civil Society Forum(WACSOF-Nigeria), Federation of Muslim Women Associations of Nigerian (FOMWAN), Centre for Democracy and Development, Partners on Electoral Reform, and Centre for Information Technology And Development (CITAD), decried the hue and cry over what it described as “well-deserved appointment by President Muhammadu Buhari”.
The group said, “It must be noted that Mrs. Amina Zakari has been a serving commissioner with the INEC and has shared in the successes of the Prof. Jega led administration which is marked by transparency, fairness and free electoral process. She has also distinguished herself as she is among the six (6) commissioners penciled out for the proposed position of Chairman/chairperson of INEC.
“The President’s act of appointing Mrs. Zakari has been characterized as nepotism but as gender activists, we believe that judging by Mrs. Zakari’s antecedent, she was appointed based on merit. It is noteworthy that the integrity of the Acting Chairperson has not been questioned which should be the major consideration given the delicate and politically sensitive role of the institution. Hence, we applaud the effort of the President Muhammed Buhari for taking the first step toward fulfilling his electoral promise to empower Nigerian women. Therefore, the appointment of a woman to head this great institution that has successfully conducted two general elections in 2011 and 2015 is not only unprecedented but shows sensitivity to gender equality.”
The group bemoaned the claims that Mrs. Zakari’s appointment overrules the mandate of Prof. Jega, stating that it is the constitutional right of Mr. President to appoint whoever he wishes to steer the hallowed tide of INEC as an acting chairman/chairperson. “In the same vein, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria can also appoint the Chairman of the Commission as a constitutional mandate. Therefore the appointment of a woman to head this great institution that has done Nigeria proud with two elections conducted since 2011 to 2015 is not only unprecedented by shows sensitivity to gender equality,” it explained.
It added: “The fear that the appointment could lead to tinkering with electoral processes should be allayed as the former Chairman of INEC made great effort to set up strong institution that any attempt by future leaders of the commission to thwart the processes will be easily detected. It is obvious that Mrs. Zakari also has impeccable record that has not been faulted by any including the opposition party.”
The group therefore, called for gender inclusion in governance to compliment effort of President Buhari at fulfilling campaign manifesto, and improve social development. It further commended and encouraged the President to fulfill his promise to increase the number of women in positions of authority.