When Mrs Lauretta Onochie’s name was submitted to the Senate for appointment by President Muhammadu Buhari in October 2020 as a National Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC), hell was let loose.
She was to represent Delta State in the Commission but her name generated so much controversy, especially from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), who shouted blue murder!
Last week, Onochie’s name, which was dropped like hot potato by the Senate, owing to the noise it generated then, resurfaced again at the same Senate. She was previously appointed alongside three other nominees, which attracted many heated reactions with some Nigerians describing it as unconstitutional.
President Muhammadu Buhari had requested that the senate confirm Onochie together with Mohammed Sani (Katsina), Kunle Ajayi (Ekiti) and Seidu Ahmed (Jigawa) as INEC commissioners.
This is exactly the development many described as a move that will undermine the electoral process. Individuals and civic groups called on the president to withdraw the nomination on grounds that Onochie was partisan, was working in an All Progressives Congress(APC) government and was also a member of the party.
Many had argued that it would be undemocratic for her to be appointed into such an office. Actually, the argument was that her appointment could jeopardise the credibility of future elections.
The appointment was cited as violating Section 14(2a) of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution as amended that says “a member of the commission shall be non-partisan and a person of unquestionable integrity.”
Thus, her opponents argued that appointees to the electoral body must be non-partisan, also not a card-carrying member of any political party. That was the reason for the outpour of the outrage from Nigerians against Onochie, who had allegedly openly displayed total support for the president and APC. “In appointing the members of the INEC, the President is required to consult with the Council of State pursuant to section 154 (3) of the Constitution.
“Paragraph B of Part 1 of the 3rd Schedule to the Constitution provides that the Council of State shall have power to advise the President in the exercise of his powers with respect to (iv) the Independent National Electoral Commission including the appointment of the members of the Commission.
“From the foregoing, it is crystal clear that a card carrying member of a registered political party or a well-known supporter of a particular political party is constitutionally disqualified from the membership of the Independent National Electoral Commission. “As an unrepentant member of the ruling party,
Mrs Lauretta Onochie has consistently attacked members of other political parties”, said a group led by Lagos lawyer, Chief Femi Falana.
The group added: “To that extent, she is partisan and therefore not qualified to be a member of the Independent National Electoral Commission.” Eight months after her nomination, her name came up for confirmation at the Senate. Onochie, a Nigerian educator, is also the Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on social media is known for her undaunted support of the president.
She is famous for making controversial posts on social media. Her family and children live in England. Onochie reportedly attended a Bible college while in Calabar and was ordained a pastor upon the completion of her course.
She was said to have once admitted during an interview that she is a lover of palm wine and would prefer to drink it more than beer or any other alcoholic drink. The 60-something-year-old government worker said she identifies with a club called “Palm Wine Drinkers Club.”
The question now on the mind of Nigerians is: Can Onochie scale through the Senate screening this time?