Hajiya Amina Bala Zakari: A Quintessential Public Servant and Electoral Umpire
Born on June 23, 1960, to the late Emir of Kazaure, Alhaji Husaini Adamu, and Hafsatu Jibir, Amina Bala Zakari, is an accomplished public servant and pharmacist. Amina Zakari, who hails from Jigawa State, was a former Acting Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC): Nigeria’s apex electoral management body.
Her appointment, on 30 June 2015, took effect with the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari, following the expiration of the tenure of then INEC boss, Prof. Attahiru Jega. She was the first woman, in the nation’s history to be appointed to the position of the leadership of INEC.
Educational Background and Qualifications
Amina Zakari, completed her primary education at Shekara Girls Boarding Primary School, Kano State, in 1971. She would later proceed to the prestigious Queens College in Yaba, Lagos State, where she obtained her senior school certificate in 1976. While at Queens College, she was a member of Girls Scout, Red Cross Society, and Social Club.
Done with her secondary education, she proceeded to Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) in Zaria, Kaduna State, and studied pharmacy. She graduated with a Bachelor of Pharmacy as the best graduating student in 1980. She was also elected Treasurer of the Pharmaceutical Association of Nigerian Students (PANS).
Her other academic qualifications include a Certificate in Managing Drugs Supply for Primary Health Care from the International Drug Agency, MHS Amsterdam, in the Netherlands; 1997, ‘Project Management’ 1998; ‘Senior Management’, Crown Agents London 2005; and a Certificate in ‘General Management Programme’, Executive Education in Business and Management’ at Harvard Business School (HBS) Cambridge, Massachusetts, in USA 2006.
Multifaceted Career, Matchless Exploits
Zakari did her compulsory National Youths Service Corps (NYSC) one-year service programme at the Federal University of Technology, Bauchi, between 1981 -1982, where she set up the Pharmacy and Drug Dispensary unit at the newly established University clinic.
After completing the National Youth Service, she worked as a Professional Pharmacist in various hospitals from 1983 – 1996. She then moved into the consultancy field to serve in various capacities as a consultant in Health and Social Sectors from 1997, up till her appointment as National Commissioner, INEC.
Zakari, began her professional career at the Sokoto University Teaching Hospital (UDUTH) in 1983, then ABU Zaria Teaching Hospital (ABUTH) in Kaduna, as a senior pharmacist,1984 to 1987. While at ABUTH, she was elected Treasurer, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) Kaduna Chapter.
Being a dedicated wife and mother, she accompanied her then-husband to the USA where she pursued her professional carrier by sitting for NYS licensing exams and worked briefly at a CVS retail outlet from 1993 to 1994. On returning to Nigeria, she joined Consolidated Health Services, Abakpa, in Kaduna, where she was employed as chief Pharmacist/Consultant from 1996 to 1997.
She then joined the defunct Afri-Projects Consortium, where she was the Lead Consultant to the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) as a Senior Consultant/Chief Pharmacist in the Health Sector, managing the health sector interventions of the Fund, especially the PTF Assisted Drug Revolving Fund and Bamako Initiatives Programme from 1997 up to the subsequent fold up of the Fund in 2001.
Zakari’s enviable career, as a pharmacist and consultant, saw her work with the National AIDS and STDs Control Program (NASCP), at the Federal Ministry of Health in 2002. She was a project director for the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) in 2003 engaged to monitor the Supply of Drugs and equipment to newly built Primary Health Centres, and also, the project coordinator for the FCT chapter of the Federation of Muslim Women’s Organization (FOMWAN) workshop on HIV/AIDS 2003. Zakari was also a national consultant for the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) in 2004 on Rational Use of Drugs and Pharmaco-vigilance.
She was introduced to public service when she was appointed as a Special Assistant to the President during President Olusegun Obasanjo administration and was posted to FCT where she served, from 2004 – 2007, as Secretary of Health and Human Services, Social Development, and also, Agriculture and Rural Development.
Her stint as the FCTA Health Secretary saw a revamp in the Health Sector, as several hospitals, clinics were not only equipped but stocked with assorted drugs to meet up with the standard requirements for the sector.
The FCT Drug Revolving Fund was revitalized to grow from N80m to N300m in the 2 years she served as Secretary Health and Human Services,
Her legacies, which live on, include, but are not limited to the equipping and commissioning of surgical operation theatres and laboratories at Abaji, Kwali, Kubwa, and Kuje axis of FCT to improve Maternal/Child health and ensure the territory attained the MDGs. She supervised the first successful hospital concession to the private sector (Garki Hospital). She provided the blueprint for the FCT Health Insurance scheme as well as Mental Health treatment and care. Her background in monitoring ensured an opportunity to enforce ethical practice in FCT private hospitals through active registration and inspection.
She served in all these capacities with unsurpassed diligence, outstanding humility, and exceptional astuteness. Her tenure there as Secretary ensured the reorganization and recruitment of much needed human resources in the Social Development Secretariat, even as she had recorded tremendous achievements during her time as the Secretary of Health and Human Resources.
Likewise, she also oversaw the construction of Orphanage Homes and Relief Care Centres in some parts of FCT. Among such is 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 career as a Pharmacist Consultant, also saw her working as Lead Consultant/Project Manager, Songhai Medical Centre Limited 2008; Consultant, Complete Medicare Limited and Accessible Managed Care Limited 2008; Consultant to SOS village on domestication of the Child Rights Act in Nigeria; and Consultant, for the Millennium Development Goal Office 2008, working on Conditional Grants Scheme for states.
Amina Zakari has also supported many women- and children-based NGOs including Patron of Development In Action (DIA), an NGO working with young girls in Jigawa State.
Foray into INEC
Former President Goodluck Jonathan appointed Mrs. Zakari as one of the National Electoral Commissioners, representing North West in July 2010. She was an integral part of the Professor Attahiru Jega-led Team that worked assiduously to bring about the successes recorded in the 2011 and 2015 General Elections.
During that period from 2010-2014, with her impeccable managerial experience, the soft-spoken and methodical Zakari was in charge of the Political Parties Monitoring Committee, charged with the responsibility for party system consolidation. She effectively supervised the activities of the parties, including the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), ensuring the Commission’s support to activities of the IPAC and seamless transfer of leadership of the Council.
She introduced Regulations and Guidelines for Political Parties, Political Party campaign guidelines, improved political party registration, and monitoring, and emphasized capacity building for Political Parties, leading to the successful conduct of primaries and conventions for the 2015 General Elections. She also supervised the revision of the 2006 and 2010 Code of Conduct for Political Parties for the 2011 and 2015 elections respectively.
She was the pioneer Chairman of Planning, Monitoring and Strategic Committee (PMSC) 2014- 2015, and under her watch, the Election Management System (EMS) was introduced to monitor the 2015 general elections through an electronic dashboard.
After the Expiration of Professor Attahiru Jega’s tenure in June 2015, she was appointed Acting Chairman on June 30, 2015.
Amina Zakari, a hardworking, articulate, and intelligent amazon, brilliantly 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, she immediately set up, and inaugurated Special Committees on key recommendations from the INEC Post-Election Retreat in 2015, to further improve the electoral process.
These include the 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 the Committee on Review of INEC-NYSC Relations amongst others.
She handed over to Professor Mahmud Yakubu on 9th November 2015 after her re-appointment as a National Commissioner. She is one of a few National Commissioners to be reappointed to a second tenure back-to-back.
She was appointed Chairman Electoral Operations Committee (EOLC), and Board of Electoral Institute. In her capacity as the Chairperson of these committees, the Election Management Staff Training (EMST), and the engagement of Registration Area Technical officers (RATECH) as technical support for ICT deployment was institutionalized.
From 2018 to the end of her tenure, she chaired the Health and Welfare Committee (HWC). This committee became instrumental in ensuring compliance with COVID-19 protocols within the Commission, and in the Commission’s Policy for Conducting Elections under the pandemic.
She has also chaired many ad-hoc committees of the Commission, such as the INEC-NYSC Bilateral Committee, 2012 Committee on Recruitment, Committee on Diaspora Voting, and Delimitation of Constituencies as well as the 2015 and 2019 INEC Situation Room Committees.
The INEC-NYSC Bilateral Committee, under her supervision, prepared a robust Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), between INEC and NYSC, which spelled out the partnership agreement with the two organizations. The 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.
Indeed, the Committee, with her leadership prowess, ensured timely sourcing, recruitment, and training of ad-hoc personnel before the commencement of elections. This was said to be part of the successes 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 2015, and 2019 general elections.
Similarly, Zakari led the 2015 and 2019 INEC Situation Room Committees where INEC utilized the International Conference Centre as the Election Situation Room and Presidential Election Collation Centre. Zakari’s Committee saw to accreditation of domestic and foreign observers/media, and the overall provision of a conducive and secure environment for the activities. The idea was informed by experience gained from election observation visits to Zimbabwe, South Africa, and others.
Amina Zakari, no doubt, has deep knowledge and invaluable experience in policies and politics. Having worked these 10 years in INEC and closely with politicians, she understands the challenges of women and persons living with disabilities (PWD) in the political terrain. Thus, for women to play active roles in politics, as the INEC Commissioner, she has severely advocated a review of electoral laws to give some advantage to women, even if not direct. The INEC gender policy was developed based on her recommendation from a workshop on gender she attended in Senegal in the year 2012. She has also worked closely with Inclusive Friends and Access Nigeria to actualize electoral inclusivity and accessibility to PWD.
Family and Children
Zakari lost her husband, Bala Zakari Kazaure, in May 2000. The late Zakari Kazaure, who was then the Santurakin Kazaure, was a career banker and economist. Until his death, he was an executive member at Union Bank PLC. His marriage to Amina Husaini was blessed with five children. She is currently married to His Highness, The Andoma of Doma, Dr. Ahmadu Aliyu Oga, OON.
The quintessential public servant is also a registered pharmacist, and a Fellow of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Fellow Nigeria Academy of Pharmacy, Fellow Institute of Chartered Mediators and Conciliators, member of the Nigeria Institute of Management as well as Patron, Development In Action (DIA).