The recent nomination of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Special Assistant on Social Media, Lauretta Onochie, as a national commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been greeted with a torrent of criticism from political stakeholders across the country.
According to Guardian, the letter communicating the decision had barely been read by Senate President Ahmad Lawan at plenary in the Senate than missiles began flying from all quarters over the nomination, which the opposition termed partisan and unconstitutional.
The leading opposition party in the country, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) labelled the attempt as “a highly provocative assault on the nation’s constitution and democratic process “.
PDP’s publicity secretary Kola Ologbondiyan, said at a press conference in Abuja that Buhari had “failed to fulfil his promise of leaving a legacy of credible elections, having failed in all ramifications of governance.”
Reacting to the development, Dino Melaye who represented Kogi West in the 8th Senate described the nomination as “unconstitutional, affront on the patience of Nigerians and an insult to the institution of INEC.”
In a statement he personally signed and made available to the press, Melaye opined: “I hereby call on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately rescind her nomination, otherwise I will mobilise Nigerians to challenge this decision, which is unconstitutional.”
The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room sought immediate withdrawal of the nomination. The body, a coalition of over 70 civil society organisations (CSOs) that monitors electoral process and elections across the federation objected to the nomination on account of the nominee’s history.
A statement issued by its convener, Clement Nwankwo, noted that the Delta indigene was a “known partisan supporter of President Muhammadu Buhari and his ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).”
It argued: “Item F, Paragraph 14 of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended) forbids a partisan politician as a member of INEC – a body charged under the constitution to unbiasedly conduct free and fair elections.
“Her nomination amounts to a major attempt at undermining efforts to build credibility for an improved electoral process in the country.”
The Equal Voting Access for Persons with Disabilities (EVAPWD) toed same line of reasoning, imploring the Green Chamber to reject the move.
The rejection, according to the group, is to avoid “contamination of the successes recorded so far by INEC and protect the election management body from political party influences.”
In a statement, its chairman, David O. Anyaele, said Onochie’s honesty and integrity to serve as electoral umpire were questionable, “as she has been very partisan in the last five years.”
Besides, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) likened the proposed appointment to “setting the stage for a very huge political crisis, which is capable of derailing our democratic process.”
In a statement yesterday in Abuja by the National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director, Zainab Yusuf, the establishment called on all CSOs to challenge “this illegality through a competent court of law. ”
President Buhari, in the correspondence to the upper legislative chamber, equally nominated Prof. Mohammed Sani from Katsina State, Prof. Kunle Ajayi of Ekiti State and Jigawa’s Seidu Ahmed as INEC commissioners.
Onochie is known for using foul language on opponents of the president. She recently abused #ENDSARS protesters, calling them “kids” on social media.