Just in: Amina Zakari and the burden of leadership - Comr. Muhammed Adoke - NewzEmpire

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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Just in: Amina Zakari and the burden of leadership - Comr. Muhammed Adoke

In Africa, there is still an entrenched mentality of male privilege and male domination (tied with a healthy dose of misogyny). In Nigeria we see this mentality rear its ugly head when women reach a high degree of accomplishment or status in society, the resultant effect is an attempt to smear, drag down or eliminate our most accomplished women.

We see the same modus operandi starting with rebukes escalating to physical, psychological and spiritual attacks, including outright defamation of characters. This is a sinister way of discouraging other rising stars among our women. Among several victims this include the former Director General of NAFDAC, Late Prof Dora Akunyili, renowned Economist and a two-time former Finance Minister, Dr Mrs Okonjo Iweala and a host of others.

Today, this same treatment is being meted out to destroy the hardly fought reputation of our present day Champion of Democracy,  Mrs Amina Bala Zakari. Her offence is, being a woman and her outright refusal to compromise with the enemies of the nation in a country of ‘men’!

On January 13th, 2018, at about some minutes past 11am, I had gone on a self-imposed mission to observe the Gwagwalada Central Ward Councillorship by-election at Sabon Gari Primary School, Gwagwalada Abuja. Voting commenced early enough and the atmosphere was serene. Adjacent to where I stood was a gentle woman, soft spoken, and giving orders to some INEC staffs while she played the role of an Electoral Monitor.

I was marveled at the level of efficiency of coordination of affairs at the voting center. However, the peace at the venue did not last long, as a young man in his early thirties came from no where and begun to rain abuses on the voters. His aim of course, was to cause commotion and disrupt voting. That made other young men to charge at the persona non grata. The security agents present were either too scared of reproaching the fierce looking individual, or they were unconcerned.

Instead, I overheard one of the security personnel advising the INEC Woman who had been monitoring the events, to leave the area, for safety purposes. Rather than cow to their advice, the soft-spoken woman walked to the middle of the crises, and talked to the young man. Whatever she may have told him, the man became quiet afterwards and voting continued.

Indeed, her skillful intervention saved the day, as the matter was becoming unbearable. I was marveled. That made me to ask one of the INEC officials, who the woman was. I was told that, ‘she is the INEC Commissioner, Hajiya Amina Zakari’! I had wondered why somebody of her status as an INEC Commissioner would even want to monitor a low-level election such as Councillorship. It could only take passion and zeal for work and democracy to see such a minor assignment (relatively speaking) being undertaken by someone of her level.

Ever since that first encounter, I became inquisitive about her and wondered why such a humble servant of the Nation would be so disparaged by some persons just for political vendetta and gains. Thus, my curiosity pre-empted my research into knowing more of the real Mrs Amina Zakari.

Mrs Amina Bala Zakari is certainly not an opportunist. She has risen through the cadres to her current position.

Her journey into the Civil service began in 1984 when she was appointed as a Senior Pharmacist at Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Kaduna.  Ever since, Amina Zakari has risen through the ranks and furthered her education in the areas of Pharmacy, Consultancy, Management, and Health Services at prestigious homeland and foreign institutions in London, New York, Amsterdam, to mention a few.

It is said that Charity begins at home, so, during my research I had gone to her former residence somewhere in Maitama, Abuja. I was sure that I would get better and unbiased insights about her true personality especially as she no longer lives there. So, I began to make enquiries right from the 30-units Estate’s entrance. From my description of her, she was easily remembered.

One of the security men at the gate, Illiasu Abu, told me how Madam Amina would always greet everyone she came across in the estate, not minding their status. In fact, he said “for a very long time we never knew who she was because she was so humble”.  Another neighbour in flat 25, who did not want her name to be mentioned, simply told me that “that woman is a free giver. She’s so generous and doesn’t have issue with any of us at all. We really miss her.”

Most importantly, Hajiya Amina Zakari’s name became regular in the National domain from 2004 when Former President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed her as his Special Assistant and posted her to the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) as Secretary at various times in the departments of Health and Human Resources, Social Development, and Agricultural and Rural Development- all between the period 2004-2007.

As the Secretary of Health and Human Resources, Dr Amina Zakari recorded magnificent achievements. Her legacies live on. They include, but are not limited to the following: Construction of Health Theatres at Abaji, Kwali, Kubwa, and Kuje axis of the Federal Capital Territory. She also oversaw the construction of Orphanage Homes and Relief Care Centres in some parts of FCT. Among such are the ‘Save Our Soul’ Orphanage home in Gwagwalada Area Council, as well as the ‘Centre For Girls (From the Street)’ situated in Lugbe part of Abuja.

Her tenure as the FCTA Health Secretary saw a revamp in the Health Sector as hospitals, clinics and health theatres were well equipped and stocked with drugs to meet up with the standard requirements for the sector. According to Mrs Philomena Patrick who still works at the FCTA Health Secretariat, “when Madam Zakari was here, we were all well taken care of. Our salaries, allowances and other exigencies didn’t delay. Generally speaking, she cared about our welfare.

” After her stint as the Health Secretary, she was transferred to serve as the Secretary of Social Development. During my interactions with Mr. Idris Yahaya Atta, who worked as the Protocol Officer in the Secretariat as at that time, having taken over from one Mr Punfer Wuyem, he said

“Madam Amina Zakari was transferred to Social Development following the merger of seven relevant Councils and boards.

These include: Arts, Culture, Sports, Tourism, Gender, Youth, and Social Welfare.” Hence, it was a Herculean task for anyone who would spearhead such sector at it’s onset. And the person for such a job is the ever workaholic Amina Zakari! Expectedly, she didn’t fail, as she put in her usual best. Her tenure there as Secretary, ensured the appointment of over sixty-eight staff in the Social Development Secretariat.

In the words of Mr Idris Yahaya, “Amina Zakari is a woman of quality who revolutionized the Social Development during her stint here. She is someone who would put in her best in order to actualize the goals being set up for the progress of the sector”. On whether she’s partisan, he went on to say “She is a non-partisan goal getter, who values the opinions of her subordinates and she’s gifted with the uncommon skill of overseeing proper coordination”.

Some months into her appointment as Secretary of Social Development, she was given another responsibility to serve concurrently in Acting Capacity as the Secretary of Agricultural and Rural Development. Indeed, it takes the grace of God and exceptional qualities to be able to do all these effectively, and Amina Zakari did!

Based on her immense contributions to the public sector wherever she finds herself, coupled with her wealth of experiences and track record, it is not surprising that in 2011, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan appointed her as one of the INEC National Commissioners.

At INEC, Amina Zakari has held several positions. She was once the Head of Elections and Party Monitoring Committee, Head of Planning Committee, Head of INEC-NYSC Bilateral Committee on Recruitment and Mobilization among several other positions.

She served in all these capacities with diligence, humility and astuteness. In the course of research, this writer interviewed so many staffs within the INEC Complex as well as ex-corps members, and their remarks were notably in the affirmative.

“Madam Amina is a woman we all respect so much. She doesn’t tolerate nonsense. She’s incorruptible!” said, Barrister Humphrey.  Another staff who pleaded anonymity claimed that “Commissioner Amina Zakari is a strict and workaholic woman. She’s always early to work and closes late. Even some weekends, you will see her here!”

Again, I proceeded to the department of Recruitment and Mobilization, what I was told was more enticing.  “I got employed here without knowing anyone. Commissioner Amina Zakari is a woman of integrity. You can’t buy her, nor force her to compromise. She rewards hard work as much as she rebukes laziness” so said, Adaobi Okonkwo. But, I almost wept when she lamented “… But I can’t do what she’s doing.

After all the efforts and sacrifices as an INEC staff, it is insult you will receive from Politicians. And people will just sit somewhere placing judgement on you in their assumptions. If I get another job, I will leave here” she declared, looking sad.

I proceeded to interact with a young man who told me his name was simply Tanim. In confidence, he told me “the short period I worked under her at  the Consolidated Health Services sharpened my drive to hardwork and result oriented stand. She never compromise her stand to any excuses. On so many occasions, I go to her office for consultations and she never decline to help me out”.

Furthermore, having seen the impeccable qualities which former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan respectively had seen in her, on July 30th, 2015 President Mohammadu Buhari appointed Dr Mrs Amina Zakari as the Acting Chairman of INEC following the departure of Professor Attahiru Jega.

However, the opposition People’s Democratic Party picked on it, and embarked on a wailing spree against her appointment. Their excuse, mischievous as it may be, was that there was some sort of ‘ties’ between the President and Amina Zakari emanating from ‘inter-marriages’.

Little wonder why the PDP failed to dig out the ‘ties’ she may have had with Presidents Obasanjo and Jonathan while she served in both PDP led administrations! Unfortunately, the President succumbed to pressures and rescinded on his decision, by appointing Professor Mahmood Yakub as substantive Chairman of the Commission even though, Mrs Amina Zakari had all the criteria and qualifications. Her only crime was, though

Instructively, the hullabaloo emanating from the Opposition Party about Mrs Amina Zakari’s New position at INEC should be adjudged as a useless exercise.  If the then aspirant General Buhari could lose in 2011 election even though his supposed ‘relative’ was an INEC High Commissioner, why the present fuss from political pessimists?  In 2014, Amina Zakari, in the spirit of fairness and to avoid disenfranchisement owing to possible malfunction of the electronic devices (Card readers), spearheaded the campaign for the use of Incident Forms against the initial stance of the INEC Chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega.

It is on record that the People’s Democratic Party, especially in the Southern States, were the most beneficiaries of the use of incident forms introduced by Mrs Amina Zakari.  Succinctly, in Akwa Ibom and Rivers States, about 90 per cent of voters used incident forms, compared to the Kano and Kaduna States of the North where only 20% use of incident forms were recorded.

Tentatively, now that Commissioner Amina Zakari is appointed (actually relegated to the background) to take charge of facilities at the Presidential Collation Centre, this writer had expected that as civilised people, the Opposition Party would realize that she has no role in the Collation of results. If truth be told, we all would recall vividly that President Goodluck Jonathan called Candidate Mohammadu Buhari to Congratulate him even before the final results were announced.

That was possible because each state already had their records which cannot be tampered with overnight!  Indeed, it is shameful for any political party to think that out of the 12 national commissioners, 37 resident electoral commissioners, 38 returning officers and dozens of people that would be at the collation centre, Live On Air, a woman, with supernatural powers would use her magic wands to determine the outcome of the Presidential election.

Finally, taking a retrospective look at the selfless services which Mrs Amina Zakari had offered the nation, and the resultant consequences of her steadfastness, commitment, humility and diligence, one would begin to wonder if it is fair to allow some persons to continue to hide behind smokescreen, deliberately tarnishing her reputations.

If the above is uphold, then we are gradually building on bad precedence. The future of the average Nigerian girl child remains oblique if we continue to treat women who have contributed so much to our country with total disregard. As a widow who had to raise her five children all alone since the year 2000, she defied all odds in her services to the nation for the sake of patriotism and national consciousness.

Therefore, she deserves to be recognized for the heroine that she is, rather than otherwise. We must henceforth, stop giving way to politicians to dictate to us, as citizens, to think and act the way they want. By so doing, people like Adaobi and millions of Nigerian women would be encouraged to work hard and rise to the peak, just as Amina Bala Zakari has done! May the sun rise tomorrow…

Comrade Adoke, a social commentator and activist, is a Media Assistant at Northern Nigeria Initiative For Peace, Unity and Development (Northernnipudev).-muhammedjamiuadoke@gmail.com

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