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In defence of Hajiya Aisha Abubakar as Sokoto ministerial nominee: Open letter to President Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari

OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI IN DEFENCE OF THE CHOICE OF HAJIYA AISHA ABUBAKAR MINISTERIAL NOMINEE FROM SOKOTO STATE

His Excellency,
The President Of The Federal Republic Of Nigeria,
President Muhammadu Buhari,
Presidential Villa,
Aso Rock,
Abuja.

Dear Mr President,
Your Excellency, it has come to our attention that the Sokoto State Chapter of the All Progressives Congress recently convened a meeting during which, the nomination of Hajiya Aisha Abubakar, as the Ministerial Nominee from Sokoto State, was the main item of discussion. At the meeting, the state chapter of the party, as well as the state government, had resolved to reject the nomination of Hajiya Aisha Abubakar on several grounds.
The state chapter of the party as well as the state government further followed up its resolve by writing a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, calling his attention to what they referred to as, “the constitutional infraction inherent in the nomination of Hajiya Aisha Abubakar.” In the letter, which was signed by 23 local government chairmen of the party in the state, they accused President Muhammadu Buhari of violating the Nigerian Constitution and the rules and conventions of the party in his choice of Hajiya Aisha Abubakar as the ministerial nominee from the state.
The letter stated that President Muhammadu Buhari disregarded the provision of the Constitution, which stipulates some conditions precedent as basic qualification for a nominee. Under the Constitution, Section 147(5) states that, “No person shall be appointed as a Minister of the Government of the Federation unless he is qualified for election as a member of the House of Representatives.”
To this effect, they quoted Section 65(2), which provides that, “A person shall be qualified for election if:
(a) He/She has been educated up to at least school certificate level or its equivalent,
(b) He/She is a member of a political party and is sponsored by that party.
To this effect, they argued that Hajiya Aisha Abubakar was not a member of a Political Party as required by Section 65(2) of the Constitution.

The letter further accused the President of not adhering to the Constitutional provision of Federal Character. To buttress this point, they quoted Section 14(3) of the Constitution, which provides that, “The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as it reflects the Federal Character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to commend national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominant persons from a few states or from few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or any of its agencies.” Their argument for President’s abandonment of the Federal Character provision was hinged on the notion that Hajiya Aisha Abubakar hails from Tambuwal Local Government in Sokoto, the same Local Government with the Governor of Sokoto State Rt. Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, which negates the spirit of Section 147(3).
In a further petition channeled through Senator Ibrahim Gobir representing Sokoto East, the State Party’s rejection of Hajiya Aisha Abubakar as the Ministerial nominee was hinged on the basis that they were of the opinion she wasn’t competent enough to represent Sokoto State at the Federal level. Other complaints to this effect have included the point that Hajiya Aisha Abubakar is a woman and it would be improper and unconventional for a female to be the representative of the State, which is the ‘Seat of Caliphate’ at the National level. In this regard, a male representative would be more suitable.
In light of the foregoing provisions, the state chapter of the party as well as the state government rejected the choice of Hajiya Aisha Abubakar as the Ministerial nominee from Sokoto. They then urged President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately change the nomination of Hajiya Aisha Abubakar with any other qualified person from Sokoto state.
In response to the Sokoto State chapter of the APC’s rejection of President Buhari’s ministerial nominee, after an extensive research of the specific complaints that were raised on the person of the nominee, Hajiya Aisha Abubakar; the Concerned Stakeholders for Good Governance hereby makes the following reaction and urge Mr. President, to this end, to consider the following:

ZONING:
One of the highlights of the complaint is that the nominee should be replaced by another representative of the state because she is from the same Local Government Area with the current Governor of Sokoto State i.e. Tambuwal Local Government Area (LGA). The reference of the Federal Character provision in the Constitution that the APC Sokoto State chapter referred to in their letter is applicable for use at the Federal level, not the State level. By the very language used in that particular section quoted, the intent of the Federal Character is to ensure that every single state in the Federation is equitably represented in the Federal Executive Council. It is trite for the APC Sokoto State Chapter to try and use the provision of that section to vitiate the President’s adherence in meeting the Constitutional requirement for a Federating unit.
The issue of zoning currently being used to deny a capable individual like Hajiya Aisha Abubakar, the ministerial nominee from Sokoto state is simply mischievous. The good people of Sokoto state are Hausa/Fulani’s and zoning is alien and a non-issue in Sokoto state, when it comes to elections and political appointments. That is the way it has always been! For example, the current Governor, His Excellency, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal and Senator Umar Dahiru are both from Tambuwal Local Government and they both were in the National Assembly at the same time when Hon. Tambuwal was speaker of the House of Representatives.
Presently also, the Deputy Governor and the Secretary to the State Government are from the same ward. In addition, in Sokoto state, there are 23 commissioners and the state has 23 LGAs. Sokoto North LGA alone has four commissioners out of the 23, suggesting that there are 3 LGAs without representation in the state executive committee. Thus, zoning has been a non-issue within the state, provided capable hands are at the helm of affairs.
Additionally, viewing the issue of zoning from a national perspective, so many states of the federation have their governors and ministerial nominees coming from the same zone. In, at least, seven states, President Buhari picked his ministerial nominees from the same senatorial districts of the current governors, upsetting local balancing game in order to promote merit above political patronage, in the interest of national development. Prominent amongst such states is Kogi state. The governor, Idris Wada, is from Kogi-east LGA, while his deputy, Yomi Awoniyi, is from the west. However, Buhari picked his nominee from the east, leaving Kogi central with nothing of significance. Also, Idris Wada is from the Igala tribe, same with the ministerial nominee, James Ocholi. Ocholi also contested the governorship ticket of the APC for next month’s governorship election but lost it to Abubakar Audu, who is also from the Igala tribe. In Osun state, the governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, is from Ilesha in the Ijesha division of the state. Similarly, the ministerial nominee, Professor Isaac Adewole, is also from Ijesha. In Delta state, Ifeanyi Okowa, the governor, is from Delta north and that is where the ministerial nominee and current group managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Ibe Kachikwu, hails from. In Kwara state, the ministerial nominee and spokesman of APC, Lai Mohammed, is from Kwara south. That is the zone where Abdulfatah Ahmed, the governor, comes from. In Rivers state, despite the fact that Nyesom Wike, the state governor, and Rotimi Amaechi, the immediate former governor of the state and ministerial nominee, don’t see eye to eye, the two of them are from same senatorial district; Rivers south-east. In Bayelsa state, albeit the governor, Seriake Dickson and the ministerial nominee Heineken Lokpobiri are from different political parties, they are both from the same Bayelsa west senatorial district.
With the already captured plethora of ministerial nominees and governors coming from the same LGA’s, it is unnecessary for the APC Sokoto State chapter to be generating such controversy, to the point of questioning the President’s reasoning. It is unfortunate that certain interests in the Sokoto APC are resorting to a vile media campaign and the use of ‘veiled blackmail’ to undermine the choice of Mr President.
There should not be a divisive tendency in Nigeria that will inhibit national development in the name of zoning. The nation is one and if Sokoto state, which is ethnically and religiously monolithic in nature will start-up the issue of zoning at this time, which they don’t adhere to, then Nigeria is in real trouble, if it is not nipped at the bud immediately.
In the same Sokoto state, Nigerians have not forgotten that when Senator Wammako was the governor of the state, he hailed from the same zone with Alhaji Inuwa Abdulkadir and Dr. Haliru Al-Hassan, who were both ministers during Wammako’s tenure. Also, when Attaihiru Bafarawa was governor of the state, Eng. Bello Suleiman was Minister of Transport and they came from the same LGA, Issa LGA in the state. Also, the current Senator Aliyu Wammako and the current House of Representative member, Abdullahi Wammako are both from Wammako and the same ward and the same family.
The most prominent precedent set in this zoning issue was by Gov. Tambuwwal himself when he was in the PDP. It should be recalled that the party zoned the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives to the South-west. However, contrary to the party’s position, Hon. Tambuwwal emerged in a ‘Coup of Sorts’ as Speaker of the House of Representative. He is from the North-West region and was Speaker for four years (2011-2015) at the same time as the Vice President, Arch. Namadi Sambo, who also came from the North West. This inadvertently upset the zoning system at the National level, hence the Federal Character requirement.
Lack of zoning is not a new phenomenon to the pioneers of the APC. Consequently, it is morally despicable and inequitable for the APC in Sokoto state to now make zoning an issue to prohibit any Nigerian from occupying any position in the country; more so considering that the Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria has found the person worthy to occupying the position. It should be noted that it is within the President’s constitutional powers to choose and nominate any candidate of his choice from any part of a state in conformity with provision of the Federal Character in the Constitution.
In other politically developed climes, individuals are chosen primarily on their capabilities and not on the basis of the zones, districts or states they come from. In the United States, a father and son have governed the country in the past, while history might be made if Hilary Clinton eventually wins the upcoming Presidential elections meaning that a husband and wife would have governed the country.

PARTY AFFILIATION:
In the complaint of the state chapter of the party as well as the state government, they state that the nominee is not fit to be appointed because she is not a card-carrying member of the party. It should be noted that there is no legal requirement under any Nigerian law that a person must be a member of a particular political party before they can be appointed as Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria or any other appointable executive position. In this regard, the appointment of Hajiya Aisha Abubakar has not contravened any legal provision as far as the law is concerned.
The moment a President is elected and inaugurated into the exalted office, they become the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and effectively ceases to represent any particular interest group or political party. Subsequently, party membership is no longer a basis for choosing Nigerians, who will participate in governance. In fact, pandering to the whims and caprices solely of party politics is, in effect, repugnant to the concept of change, unity and development that has been adopted by President Buhari and has been the cornerstone of which APC rode to success. This was best captured in the inaugural speech of President Muhammadu Buhari, himself, with the timeless line of, “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody…”
President Muhammadu Buhari has a clear objective to work with, and for every Nigerian. It would be a contradiction for any Nigerian or any interest group to try and hold him captive to that, which is not in conformity with his objective, his mandate or the law. Furthermore, the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Chief John Oyegun, when he spoke with journalists in his office earlier in the year, had stated that President Muhammadu Buhari would look beyond his party, APC, to form the cabinet so that he would be able to assemble a team that would best help him deliver on his promises to Nigerians.
The position of the Sokoto State chapter of the APC, objecting the nomination of Hajiya Aisha Abubakar, citing that she did not participate actively in the APC is incompatible with the policy of the National Executive of APC and the present Federal Government.
Let it be noted that it has never been an alien concept for the Federal Government of Nigeria to include or recruit persons who are not members of the ruling party into executive committee. Tenure after tenure, the Federal Government has tapped into the expertise of technocrats and seasoned professionals who have never participated in partisan politics. This same system has been noticeably adopted by President Buhari in the present Ministerial List, where several of the nominees are not card-carrying members of APC or any other party for that matter.
As far as the requirement for appointing non-partisan nominees, a precedent has been set. A nominee does not have to be a card-carrying member! Nowhere is this more clear than the fervent example set by the present administration in nominating several non APC card carrying members and the present Senate that have screened and cleared a number of Ministerial nominees, who did not belong to or have any affiliation to any political party.

COMPETENCY:
Furthermore, a petition brought against the nomination of Hajiya Aisha Abubakar accused her of not having the competence to represent the state at the Federal level. Hajiya Aisha Abubakar has characterized herself in her field of endeavor, as a professional and as a diligent Nigerian. Never once, in more than two decades of public service, has any issue of incompetence been brought against her. To the contrary, she has had a distinguished professional career.
In terms of her meeting the criteria, she is, both, constitutionally qualified and legally certified to become a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The Constitution in Chapter V, Section C, states that a person cannot be appointed or elected into public office if:
(a) Subject to the provisions of section 28 of this Constitution, he has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a country other than Nigeria or, except in such cases as may be prescribed by the National Assembly, has made a declaration of allegiance to such a country;
(b) Under any law in force in any part of Nigeria, he is adjudged to be a lunatic or otherwise declared to be of unsound mind;
(c) He is under a sentence of death imposed on him by any competent court of law or tribunal in Nigeria or a sentence of imprisonment or fine for an offence involving dishonesty or fraud (by whatever name called) or any other offence imposed on him by such a court or tribunal or substituted by a competent authority for any other sentence imposed on him by such a court;
(e) He is an un-discharged bankrupt, having been adjudged or otherwise declared bankrupt under any law in force in any part of Nigeria;
(h) He has been indicted for embezzlement or fraud by Judicial Commission of Inquiry or an Administrative Panel of Inquiry or a Tribunal set up under the Tribunals of Inquiry Act, a Tribunals of Inquiry Law or any other law by the Federal or State Government which indictment has been accepted by the Federal or State Governments respectively; or.
(i) He has presented a forged certificate to the Independence National Electoral Commission.
It is popularly said in law, “He who asserts must prove.” In that respect, the onus to prove the lack of competence of Hajiya Aisha Abubakar as a Ministerial nominee, asserted in the petition submitted lies on the ‘Political Stakeholder’ in Sokoto. It is not enough to make a blanket statement in such a circumstance, purely due to the fact that the nominee may not be a political affiliate of certain political interest groups.
With regards to her qualifications, the Sokoto born Hajiya Aisha Abubakar has over 20 years of experience in banking and investment, rural enterprise development and microcredit administration, international development, policy analysis and business support. She specializes in micro, small and medium enterprise development, Islamic finance and microcredit administration, women development and family livelihood enhancement, as well as public policy and administration. She is the director, corporate services department of the pension transitional arrangement directorate.
She was also the Managing Director/CEO, Abuja Enterprise Agency, between February 2014 and June 2015. She served as the acting Managing Director/CEO of the agency between February 2013 and August 2014, after she had served as the Executive Director; finance and administration. Within the time under review, she spearheaded the aligning off the agency’s processes and programmes to be in line with global best practices. Prior to that, she was the Principal Manager II at the African International Bank (1998 – 1999); senior bilateral cooperation officer, African Development Bank, Abidjan, Ivory Coast (1993 – 1997), where she promoted, negotiated and administered cooperation agreements between the bank and external donors among others.
Hajiya Aisha was educated at the University Of Leeds, Leeds, England, where she obtained a Master of Arts, Development Studies (1990 – 1991); University of Warwick, Warwickshire, England, where she bagged a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Politics and International Studies (1987 – 1990). She had her secondary school education at Queens College, Lagos, between 1978-1984. It is ludicrous for anyone to assert that she is incompetent.
Hajiya Aisha Abubakar, over the years, has demonstrated exemplary leadership and has uniquely risen in rank in several commercial banks to the status of an Executive Director in the Abuja Enterprise Agency, eventually assuming the position of the MD and C.E.O in the organization. Hajiya Aisha in all her positions has performed diligently and with integrity in all the positions she has occupied. As outlined above, her resume is rich, diverse and proficient. No doubt, she is a summation of a character that makes her a woman of substance and caliber.

GENDER:
It is preposterous for anyone to complain that the appointment of Hajiya Aisha Abubakar as the Ministerial Nominee representing Sokoto State is inappropriate because she is female and the state is the Seat of the Caliphate. In the build up to the 2015 General election, women all over Nigeria came in hoards to express their support for the election of President Mumammadu Buhari and ensure APC victory at various levels. As mothers and wives, they yearned for that change to bring about a new Nigeria for their children. With or without party affiliation, they dedicated themselves and gave all they had to the struggle. In appreciation, President Muhammadu Buhari told all Nigerians that women would play a prominent role in his Administration. As a man of his words, he has nominated an appreciable number of women to be members of his Cabinet. Hajiya Aisha Abubakar, a distinguished Nigerian and a woman of substance is one of these deserving women.
The voice of certain interest group and some portfolio stakeholder politicians are mischievously trying to play the gender card by launching protest against her nomination. There have been consistent persecutions to strikeout her name from the ministerial list since it was read out by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki.
The Constitution of The Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended, provides against discrimination on the basis of the circumstance of a person’s birth. Under Section 42 of the Constitution, “No Nigerian citizen shall be discriminated against because of a particular sex, religion or ethnic group”. Furthermore, Article 18(3) of the West African Charter on the People’s Human Rights also frowns against discriminatory practices on grounds of sex and gender.” And Nigeria is signatory to this charter.
In the light of the above assertion, it would be worrisome to know that there are interest groups in Nigeria that would discriminate against President Muhammadu Buhari’s choice of a Ministerial nominee based on gender. Hajiya Aisha Abubakar cannot be discriminated upon based on her gender!
It must be emphasized that women have played a colossal role in the political and socio-economic development of Northern Nigeria. Historical figures such as Queen Amina of Zaria and Hajiya Gambo Sawaba played a pivotal role in setting paces for those who came behind them to fill and follow. More notably, the great strides made by women in Northern Nigeria were from the seat of Caliphate where Hajiya Aisha Abubakar hails from. In the example set by Nana Asma’u, the daughter of Usman dan Fodio, the founder of Sokoto Caliphate’s daughter, Asma’u, represented the education and independence that is possible for women under Islam and remains a model for African feminists into the present. She was fluent in several languages including Arabic, Greek, Latin, Fulfulde, Hausa and Tamacheq. She was a leading scholar in the most influential Muslim state in West Africa. She represented the number of highly educated Muslim women of the time. Nana Asma’u recorded her reactions in a Journal and left an impressive corpus of poetry and a body of work, which became tools for teaching men and women the principles of the caliphate. Even back then in the 1830’s, she played a part of the politics of the day by becoming her brother’s advisor when he took the caliphate. She debated with governors, scholars, and princes.
Today, Nana Asma’u stands as an example for women such as Hajiya Aisha Abubakar to follow and the men who supported her stand as an example for those in the Sokoto State APC stakeholders and other Nigerian men to follow.
Indeed this amazon from the Northern region should certainly not be discriminated, as the President and Nigeria would indeed be shortchanged.
President Muhammadu Buhari made it clear in a 12-minute interview with France 24 Television during his state visit to France that he would make use of technocrats as Ministers. The President was quoted to have said: “The ministers are there to make a lot of noise; for the politicians to make a lot of noise. But the work is being done by the technocrats. They are there to provide the continuity, dig into the records and then guide us, [those of us] who are just coming in.” The nomination of Hajiya Aisha Abubakar is one clear instance of where the President has nominated a technocrat, highly experienced development expert. Similarly, the National Chairman of the APC, Chief Oyegun said, “Politicians and technocrats who can deliver would make up President Buhari’s government.” This is exactly what the nomination of Hajiya Aisha Abubakar represents. In light of the position of the President and the National Chairman of the Party, Nigerians are confident that the Sokoto State APC will not jeopardize the positive strides made by the President and will always respect the supremacy of the law and the party.
Nigerians have been yearning for new faces within the President’s cabinet, and Hajiya Aisha Abubakar is among the new faces primed in taking our beloved country to greater heights. Hajiya Aisha Abubakar is one of the surprises the President has unveiled for us and hers is a personality who has come to change things under the “Change Mantra”. However, from all indications, some vested interests are calculating to deny her the opportunity to showcase her capabilities and patriotically serve her fatherland.
Thus far, Hajiya Aisha Abubakar has no baggage coming into office and no issue of corruption. No one has written any petition against her for over 20 years of being a professional. Not only is she qualified, but she is a Poster-Child of the APC’s manifesto on anti-corruption. Additionally and importantly, she fills the twin quota of ‘Gender and Youth Inclusion’ in President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet, which teeming Nigerians have been yearning for.
We hereby categorically stand for Hajiya Aisha Abubakar and declare that she has all the qualities it takes to be a part of the ‘Change Team’ of this current government.

The burden to choose a credible team that will ensure the delivery of change, which Nigerians overwhelmingly voted for lies solely on the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari. It would be counterproductive for any interest to try and limit the pool of expertise from which President Buhari can choose from.

Hajiya Aisha Abubakar is undoubtedly a seasoned technocrat and she has had a distinguished professional career. She will indeed be a valuable member of President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet, bringing in her expertise and experience, and a great loss to the President and country if a select few have their way, due to their vested interest.

President Muhammadu Buhari has dedicated twelve years of his life struggling to navigate the labyrinth of Nigerian politics in four arduous general elections. Nigerians have given him their full support and mandate to navigate our nation to take its rightful place in the committee of nations. With that mandate comes the trust that he will make the right decisions to assemble a competent team to achieve the aspired goal for a better Nigeria. He took the needed time to diligently make his choice in order to meet the expectations of all ‘well meaning’ Nigerians. It is unfortunate that the state chapter of APC as well as the Sokoto state government are unappreciative of his hard made choices and effort.

‪#AishaAbubakar
#‎StandForAishaAbubakar
#InDefenceOfAishaAbubakar

Yours Sincerely,
Mallam Shuaib Zakari & Chief Mazi Okeke
For: Concerned Stakeholders for Good Governance.

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