Nigerians on Tuesday, July 13, 2021 heaved a sigh of relief following the rejection of Lauretta Onochie as a commissioner in Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Onochie’s nomination attracted a high level attention across the country for the wrong reasons. Her nomination by President Muhammadu Buhari became exceptionally controversial that grabbed newspaper headlines.
This, observers say, was because of the character of the woman and how she went about her job as an aide to the President. She was a tormentor-in-chief to those who expressed misgiving over the style of Buhari’s governance.
In the course of her job, she was everything but tact in engagements with those whose views on the Buhari’s leadership style differed from hers or those of her principal.
She has always been accused of employing unethical and uncouth language against those who aired their views against the government. It is strongly believed that her character is her undoing.
She employed her twitter handle to the fullest in what many believed was a “hatchet-woman’s job” she was doing.
But when the chips were down, she said she had ceased to be a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). That’s how far desperation can take any woman in her toga.
Desperate to get the INEC job, Onochie had last week, contradicted affidavit, saying she ceased to be APC member since 2019.
The Buhari’s aide, who had, prior to her nomination, sworn to an affidavit affirming her membership of the party, claimed that she stopped being a member over two years ago.
She admitted being part of Buhari’s campaign organisation in 2015 before her appointment as the Special Assistant on social media.
She also admitted swearing to an affidavit at an Abuja Federal High Court that she was a member of the APC.
Onochie said, “I have learned, over the years, to stand with the constitution and due process but not on partisanship or sentiments.
“Since 2019, I have not had anything to do with any political organisation, including Buhari support groups.
“When APC was doing re-validation of party members, I did not take part in that exercise. As I’m sitting down here, I’m not a member of any political party in this country.
“I have no partisanship in my blood. I have seen many petitions against my nomination not only from the PDP, but also from some APC members.
“I’m not partisan; they know. It is about the law. No one has any reason to fear for my nomination as INEC commissioner representing Delta.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’m Madam Due Process. That’s why all the attacks. I follow due process; I follow the law.”
By such claim, she wanted Nigerians to believe that President Buhari made her an aide when she was not in the same political association with him. From what Nigerians know about the President, Buhari is not so magnanimous!
What people are saying is that Onochie must have been detailed to carry out certain sinister assignments as INEC commissioner if she had been cleared, a probable reason that made her exhibit so much desperation for the job.
However, an affidavit dated 30th June, 2021 which she swore to at an FCT High Court, attached to one of the petitions against her, contradicted her claims.
She deposed to the affidavit at the High Court of the FCT in a case involving her as Plaintiff and one Emeka Ugwuonye (Defendant).
Onochie in her witness statement on oath on paragraph three stated, “That I am also engaged in active politics and a member of Neighbourhood Watch and has also contested the local government elections under the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom.
“I am also a member of the All Progressives Congress and a volunteer at the Buhari Support Organisation.”
Today, she is singing a different song.
Before her rejection Tuesday, the main opposition party, People’s Democratic Party (PDP), individuals, and some other stakeholders, including civil society organisations (CSOs), had staged series of protests at the National Assembly against Onochie’s nomination by the President.
They argued that she was a card-carrying member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), and would possibly not be unbiased in her dealings as INEC commissioner.
Explaining why Onochie should not be confirmed, the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) alleged that Buhari was “harbouring a third term agenda.”
“What I should think the woman should do now is to thank the Nigerian people for saving her from what would have been a moral burden had she been confirmed. Rather than brood over the outcome of the screening, she should see the urgent need to work on her character flaws,” a public affairs commentator, who craved anonymity, said.
Mark Adebayo, spokesperson of CUPP, described the nomination and Senate screening of Onochie as “a dangerous threat to democracy and the unveiling of APC’s third-term agenda”.
“In the established tradition of the Buhari regime, it has again turned deaf ears to the overwhelming public outcry against the ill-advised nomination of a known sycophant of the president as an INEC commissioner.
“Since last year that the nomination of Mrs. Onochie went public, many socio-political organisations, opinion moulders, Civil Society Organisations and the general public have raised an alarm on the danger a publicly biased individual can unleash on our Electoral system and democracy, but typical of this government that runs a near-fascist regime, it has ignored these patriotic calls for restraint on this Onochie nomination nonsense,” the group said.
Coming heavily against Onochie’s nomination by President Buhari, Governor Nyesom Wike had said that her nomination, being the President’s Special Assistant on Social Media, has further demonstrated that he (Buhari) would not ensure free, fair and credible election in 2023.
Mike Ozekhome, a senior advocate of Nigeria and human rights activist, said Onochie’s nomination for INEC job was faulty, because of her affiliation with the ruling APC and being a diehard devotee of the President, Muhammadu Buhari.
Ozekhome said, “Have they ever read the constitution? Do they know the meaning of the word ‘independent’ attached to our electoral umpire? What would you expect from such a rabidly partisan woman other than outright and unbridled rigging of any elections she presides over, or is involved in?
She is simply a direct participant and beneficiary in any such elections. No one has been known to fail himself or herself in an examination in which such a person is both invigilator, marker, examiner and marks awarder.”
But the Buhari Media Organisation (BMO), chiding those who called for the rejection of the nominee, described the flurry of campaign against her as a National Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as “too much ado (about Lauretta) over nothing!”
“The entire media including the airwaves have been filled with this strident noise and one would have thought the lady in question has been convicted of some crimes in the past. But if one takes a deeper look, one will realise how hollow and jejune their arguments are.
A Civil Society Organisation, Concerned Nigerians Group (CNG) had also written to the Senate to reject Onochie.
The group had in a letter authored by Deji Adeyanju, convener, CNG, described the nomination as a reprehensible attempt to destroy the integrity and independence of Nigeria’s electoral commission.
According to the letter with subject, ‘Nomination of Lauretta Onochie as INEC Commissioner: Reject Her Nomination in the Interest of Nigeria’, asserted that she is an openly partisan, card carrying member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and constantly had attacked and denigrated critics of her party.
“We find President Muhammadu Buhari’s appointment of his Personal Assistant on Social Media, Lauretta Onochie, as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Commissioner from Delta State to be a reprehensible attempt to destroy the integrity and independence of Nigeria’s electoral commission,” he said.
Against the belief by many that the Senate would not drop Onochie going by the Red Chamber’s penchant to do everything to please Buhari, Kabiru Gaya, chairman of the Committee, said that the petitions against Onochie bordered on the fact of her involvement in politics and alleged membership of a political party.
Gaya further said that her nomination violated the federal character principle, as there was already a serving National Electoral Commissioner from Delta State, Mary Agbamuche-Mbu, who was screened and confirmed by the 8th Senate.
“In the case of Ms. Lauretta Onochie’s, having studied her curriculum vitae and other relevant documents, followed by exhaustive interaction around the petitions against her nomination which she responded to accordingly, including attesting that she is not a registered member of any political party, the committee rejected her nomination,” Gaya said.
But beyond whatever Gaya said was the core reason for Onochie’s rejection, analysts strongly believe that the Senate must have realised that clearing her was going to worsen the rating of the upper legislative assembly, the credibility of which is already in question.
A lesson for Onochie is that an individual may be over-rating him/herself, but in the scale of well-meaning persons, he/she weighs nothing. Again, the maverick woman should have realised by now that one can only deceive some people sometimes, not all the people all the time.
It is also a great lesson that impunity does not pay. The level of arrogance manifested by the presidency was nauseating. Despite the barrage of condemnation that greeted the nomination, the President continued to show disregard for the Nigerian people.
The drama simply shows that neither the President nor Onochie learnt anything from Ibrahim Magu’s episode whose nomination as chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was roundly rejected by the DSS, and the 8th Senate also repeatedly refused to approve him.