By Chinwe Ogbuka (Assistant Director)
Hajiya Amina Bala Zakari is one of the few female National Commissioners in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). She can be described as a woman of substance, who knows her onions. Hajiya Amina Zakari is intelligent, versatile and unassuming.
She is in a terrain that has nothing to do with her academic discipline. Amina Zakari is a Pharmacist and has other academic qualifications, which include Certificate in Project Management, Certificate in Senior Management from Crown Agents London, Certificate in Executive Education in Business Management from Harvard Business School.
Prior to her appointment as National Commissioner in 2010, Hajia Zakari worked with Afri-Project Consortium, Abuja and served as Senior Consultant/Chief Pharmacist for many organisations and agencies. From 2010 when she assumed office, the professional pharmacist left her cherished profession of many years and joined an entirely new and different field working with politicians. Without Politics or Political Science background, Amina Zakari worked assiduously with other members of the Commission led by then Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega to reform the Electoral Process in the country.
She was in charge of one of the most critical aspects of the Commission’s operations. The Commissioner among other functions was the Chairperson of a Bilateral Committee on INEC and the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). The Bilateral Committee, under her supervision prepared a robust Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between INEC and NYSC, which spelt out clearly the partnership agreement with the two organisations.
The Bilateral Committee formalized the process of selecting and appointing suitable personnel for ad-hoc duties with particular reference to Corps Members for the conduct of elections.
Hajiya’s Committee with her leadership prowess ensured timely sourcing, recruitment and training of ad-hoc personnel before the commencement of the elections, which was said to be part of the success recorded during the 2011 General Elections. Based on the successful engagement of Corps members as ad-hoc staff in the 2011 elections, the same approach was adopted by the Commission during the 2015 General Elections.
With her managerial experience, the ‘Pharmacist Politician’ was also in charge of Political Parties and effectively supervised the activities of the Political parties including the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC). She was the Chairperson of the then Political Parties Monitoring Committee among other duties and handled her responsibilities very professionally.
She is hardworking, articulate, intelligent and exhibited her managerial acumen when she acted as Chairman of the Commission. With her wealth of experience, and firm knowledge of the workings of the Commission, Amina Zakari immediately set up and inaugurated Special Committees on key recommendations from the INEC Post-Election Retreat.
They include Committee on Review of Electoral Forms and Materials, Committee on Management of Election Petitions, Committee on National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW)/INEC Memorandum of Understanding and Composition of INEC/NYSC Relations and Other Ad-hoc Matters Committee.
Hajiya Amina Zakari has deep knowledge and experience in Politics, having worked closely with Politicians and understands the plight of women in politics. For women to play active role in politics, the National Commissioner suggested a review of electoral laws to give some advantage to women, even if not direct.
In her views, Representative laws should be reviewed to earmark certain percentage seats for women and only women are to take part in primary elections for those seats. Realizing the fact that this change cannot be gotten on a platter of gold, Hajiya Zakari urged women to ensure gender mainstreaming in all aspects of government policies.
Interestingly, most women join politics to change the face of politics in the world. They are passionate about global issues such as maternal health, education, food, social security, economy, and when these are properly addressed, the nation will be better for it.
According to her, women are not in politics to enrich themselves but to be relevant and help formulate and propagate policies that are favourable to women and children.
She advised Women’s NGOs to “make more noise, mobilize women at the grassroots. Ensure mainstreaming of gender issues in electoral laws. Work with women, starting at the local level, sensitizing them to the need to support women who will represent their interest well in the National Assembly.”
The National Commissioner is optimistic that Nigeria will one day have female president but women have to work for it. They should first believe in themselves, have political base by starting as Councillors to local government chairmen and grow to National Assembly level where laws are made and “keep perfecting the base.”
For women to excel in politics, they must believe in themselves, have right strategies, do their home very well, build a network of like minds, and provide an environment where people can work together, trust each other and above all, BE resilient. The future is bright for women politicians in Nigeria.