When a Nigerian civil servant tells you “my boss is incorruptible”, then you suspect he or she is telling you the truth: they surely know the denotative and connotative meanings of corruption on the account of what they see everyday.
Mrs Amina Bala Zakari, the woman who stepped into the shoes of Attahiru Jega who ended his tenure as chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Tuesday, comes highly recommended for her humility and honesty.
President Muhammadu Buhari is known to prefer people can vouch for – and so Zakari ticks the box, having worked at Afri Projects Consortium, consultants to the defunct Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund headed by Buhari from 1994 to 1999.
Zakari, whose appointment is subject to confirmation by the senate, is the first woman to be given the job of heading INEC.
It is one of the most difficult jobs in Nigeria. Not many electoral bosses leave with the same reputation they came to the job with. Jega was perhaps redeemed at the last minute by the 2015 general election which was won by the opposition, a first in Nigeria’s history.
Zakari has an arduous task ahead, but an INEC insider told TheCable, has “a strong distaste for underhand practices and values hard work”. She ticks another box then.
According to the source, who would not want his identity revealed, no case of corruption has been mentioned in relation to the new electoral chief since her time at INEC.
He said: “She is like a mother to us at the commission. I worked with her. She likes hardworking people because she is a workaholic. She works round the clock. If you see her from afar, you will think she is tough but when you come close to her, you will find out that she is very nice.
“Bala Zakari, her husband, was a top official of Union Bank. He died in 2000 and she has not remarried since then. He was also from Jigawa state like her and he held the traditional title of San-turakin of Jigawa.
“She is incorruptible. I can say this because she headed many committees, two of which I can recall at the moment are: EMS (Electoral Management Service) and EPM (Electoral Party Monitoring).
“We pray that she is confirmed as substantive chairman, so that she can look into the welfare of staff because those of us who have worked with her know that she shows interest in us and makes sure that we are not denied of our entitlement.”
Zakari was before her appointment a national electoral commissioner at INEC.
A pharmacist by profession, she obtained her first degree from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
Her career spans both the private and public sectors. Between 1983 and 1996, she worked in various hospitals.
She joined the services of the federal capital territory administration in 2004 and served as secretary of health and human services; secretary of social development and acting secretary agriculture and rural development until 2007 when she left.
Some of her qualifications are: certificate in managing drugs supply for primary healthcare from MHS Amsterdam (1997); certificate in project management (1998); certificate in senior management from Crown Agents London (2005); certificate in executive education in business management from Harvard Business School.