National Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Hajiya Amina Zakari, yesterday joined in the controversy trailing her appointment as head of the election collation centre and declared that she is not President Muhammadu Buhari’s cousin as being speculated in some quarters.
“I’m not his niece, I am not his cousin; and, on this job, I was appointed since 2010 by President Jonathan and prior to that, I was appointed as SA (special assistant) to President Obasanjo and I have done my work conscientiously over the years as a patriotic citizen of Nigeria,” Mrs Zakari told the BBC.
She said she would not allow the controversy over her appointment distract her from performing her duties to the nation.
“I don’t think I should be distracted now that elections are coming. I will continue doing my work. I will continue to serve my country to the best of my ability, with the best of intentions.”
She added: “President Muhammadu Buhari is my president as everybody else’s president.
“He is not my cousin, he is not my uncle as is being claimed; but I know him as my leader and the leader of the nation.”
She spoke, 24 hours after the Presidency dismissed as a lie, claim by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that Zakari is a blood relation of Buhari.
The Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the President, Mallam Garba Shehu said Buhari and Mrs Zakari “don’t share a family relationship.”
He said: “In another mendacious press release, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has continued their baseless accusations regarding Hajiya Amina Zakari, a commissioner in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) accusing her of partiality and casting doubts about her integrity as an electoral commissioner.
“In their desperation, they forget that it was the PDP government that appointed her in the first place and they keep lying, as they have been caught doing on so many issues, by imputing a blood relationship between her and President Muhammadu Buhari.
“An inter-marriage occurred in their extended families, so the imputation of blood relationship between the President and the electoral commissioner is a simple lie.
“What is even more curious about all the fuss coming from the PDP is that they, as a ruling party picked Mrs Zakari, judging her by her own merit and made her an electoral commissioner.
“She served so well with distinction as can be verified from the records that President Buhari approved the recommendation that she be reappointed, as he did other PDP nominees for second-term of four years.
“PDP, therefore, has no moral right to keep harassing this hardworking mother unless they have a hidden agenda.
“By this statement, the PDP is guilty of scoring an own goal and two, of harassing an innocent citizen on the basis of a lie, pure and simple.”
The Chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, in a separate statement on Friday also denied that Buhari and Mrs. Zakari are blood relations.
The Commission’s Director of Voter Education and Publicity, Mr. Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, also speaking on the matter said Zakari would not be dropped on account of the opposition to her appointment, saying she would have nothing to do with the collation of results or validity of votes.
He said Yakubu, by virtue of his position as INEC chairman, is the Chief Electoral Commissioner and Returning Officer for the Presidential Election and will not delegate the responsibility to anyone