The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), civil society organisations, and Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, have asked President Muhammadu Buhari to withdraw the nomination of one of his media aides, Lauretta Onochie, as a National Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Buhari had in a letter read on the floor of the Senate by the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, on Tuesday, requested for the confirmation of Onochie, who is currently his Special Assistant on social media, and three others as INEC national commissioners.
The three nominees are Prof. Muhammad Sani Kallah (Katsina State); Prof. Kunle Cornelius Ajayi (Ekiti State); and Saidu Babura Ahmad (Jigawa State).
Senators elected on the platform of the PDP in a statement berated the president for nominating Onochie. They said with her nomination, Buhari “has willfully gone against the constitution that he swore to uphold.”
The statement read in part: “Item F, paragraph 14 of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) forbids a card-carrying member of a political party to be a member of INEC.
“The Minority Caucus of the Senate is against this nomination and call on Mr. President to withdraw it.”
Also, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan at a press conference, in Abuja, said: “This nomination of his personal staff, Lauretta Onochie, as INEC National Commissioner, supports the position of the PDP that his statements were mere glib talks on electoral sanctity and clearly demonstrates that he has no plans whatsoever to leave a legacy of credible polls.”
Similarly, the Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere and civil society groups outrightly rejected Onochie’s nomination describing it as an affront on the collective sensibilities of Nigerians.
While Afenifere said Onochie’s nomination “would mark the final conquest of the country and the beginning of the end of INEC,” the CSOs called on the President to “withdraw this nomination with immediate effect and in the alternative call on the Senate to act as gatekeepers by not confirming this appointment.”
The National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, said: “It is the peak of insensitivity and provocation by Buhari to bring a partisan fundamentalist as a National Commissioner of INEC. If Nigerians don’t resist and reject it, it would mark the final conquest of the country and the beginning of the end of INEC and electoral democracy. Appointing her can only happen in a failed country.”
Several CSOs including the Centre for Transparency Advocacy, the Say No Campaign among several others in a joint statement issued in Abuja said “We completely reject this nomination, which does not sit well in the recent gains of the electoral system in the country.”
The Director of the Centre for Democracy and Development, Idayat Hassan, said: “I want to cry over the nomination. Onochie’s nomination for me is reversing the gains made in the last years. We completely reject the nomination of Lauretta Onoche as INEC National Commissioner.
“Onoche is unqualified as she displays partisan loyalty but she has also been a proponent of fake news during elections.”
Similarly, the NCSSR, a coalition of over 70 civil society groups, called on Buhari to immediately withdraw Onochie’s nomination.