Lauretta Onochie, a Senior Special Assistant to the President on Social Media, appeared before the Senate Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Thursday. During her screening as National Commissioner representing Delta State, she acknowledged the flurry of petitions against her nomination but dismissed them as attacks against her being an apostle of justice and fairness.
According to her: “I have seen the petitions against me, but I stand for justice and fairness. Thus, nobody has anything to fear. I am madam due process and this is the reason behind my attacks, because I follow the law and due process.”
When asked if she belongs to any political party, Onochie claimed that she quit partisan politics following President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election in 2019.
“Since Buhari was elected as president for the second term, I have removed myself from everything about politics.Onochie told the Senators
“Since 2019, I don’t have anything to do with politics. As I am sitting down here, I am not a member of any political party in this country.”
While tons of criticisms have trailed her position before the Senators, reports emerged Thursday that she still has so much to do with the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), thus rendering her testimony as falsehood.
Part of these counter claims include a tweet by the Presidential aide on June 24, 2020, where she said the APC was growing through a growth process.
“There is DEFINITELY an APC e-NEC meeting TOMORROW. We are going through a growth process. Thank you everyone,” she tweeted.
Also, another document making her claim questionable is a viral affidavit which she swore on June 30, 2021, at the FCT High Court, Abuja; clearly indicating that she remains a member of the APC and a member of The Buhari Support Organisation (BSO).
“I am also a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress and a volunteer at Buhari Support Organization,” part of the affidavit read.
Accusations of nepotistic appointments by the Buhari Administration along the lines of tribe and region has become common knowledge among Nigerians; at least for political watchers. In spite of this, the administration has continued in that trajectory, damning every legal or moral consequences of taking such decisions.
It is also a fair assessment of this government to state that where these appointments aren’t frowned out for being nepotistic, they are usually marred by controversies to the point that they challenge the strength of the country’s laws. A key example is the appointment of Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (a retired military officer and Secretary of the Arewa Consultative Forum) as Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) in August 2015. In 2017, he had a confrontation with the Nigerian Senate over his refusal to appear in uniform.
Other examples include the retention of Ibrahim Magu, as Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) despite the Senate’s rejection of his nomination, the extension of tenure for Mohammed Adamu, the immediate past Inspector General of Police (IGP) by three months; having spent the maximum 35 years in service.
Asides extending the tenure of the immediate past Service Chiefs against the provisions of the Armed Forces Act, President Buhari is reputed to have sent the names of at least, nine deceased Nigerians for consideration by the Senate, as nominees to be appointed into the governing boards of federal government agencies and parastatals in 2017 and 2020.
Nonetheless, none of these appointments and nominations appear more brazen than the nomination of a Presidential media aide as a National Commissioner at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Since October 2020 when her name was read amongst other nominees sent by the President for the vacant position of National Commissioners pursuant to paragraph 14 of part 1f of the first schedule of the 1999 constitution, there have been series of protests (across the media and streets) challenging same.
Similarly, several Civil Society Organisations have approached the Federal High Court in Abuja, in a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/604/2021, asking it to determine whether the president “can nominate a card-carrying member or members of his political party or any other political party in Nigeria, as a national commissioner or resident electoral commissioner for the independent national electoral commission.” Their argument is that the appointment is contrary to sections 14 (2a), 14 (3), 14 (3b), 14 (4) and Section 154 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended in 2011).
It remains therefore an insensitive action by all shades and standards that a leader who promised to belong to all, and to none, to put personal or partisan interests above the interest of millions of Nigerians who desire the improvement of the electoral process to reignite their belief in the project Nigeria.
We must ask the supporters and enablers of such an action as this “what logic supports a democratically elected president to show low regards for the sanctity of the electoral commission and the rule of law to elevate a very controversial aide to the status of a minister at the electoral umpire temple?”
Temidayo Taiwo-Sidiq is a Journalist, Political Analyst and Satirist with major interest in Nigerian Politics, Governance and Sports.