It’s excitement galore and jubilation by all lovers of democracy in Nigeria as Senate refused to confirm the Special Assistant on new media to President Muhammadu Buhari, Lauretta Onochie from Delta as a Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
Onochie, a die hard supporter of the ruling party has been in the news in recent times following recommendation by Mr. President requesting her confirmation along side two others as INEC National Commissioners and one Resident Electoral Commissioner respectively.
Few days ago, the Coalition of United Political Parties in a statement by its spokesperson, Mark Adebayo, 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 same vein, a former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Prof Attahiru Jega also kicked against the nomination of Onochie, describing it as “a loss of trust of the electoral management body.”
Also, the opposition party (Peoples Democratic Party) through its media and publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, called for the rejection of Onochie as INEC Commissioner following her partisanship, especially being a member of the All Progressive Congress, APC, which according to the party (PDP) is contradictory to the constitution and the sanctity of Nigeria’s electoral process.
In the wake of these reactions and counter reactions, Onochie just like the Biblical Peter told the senate screening panel; “I had no partisanship bone in my body until I was invited to come and work with President Muhammadu Buhari”. Not only does ‘Mama Peter’ rejected APC membership but also denied her political participation in desperation for appointment as INEC Commissioner. What a self-defeat!
We must applaud the senate for defending our democracy by not yielding to the dictates of the pipers who out of their selfish desires, recommended a partisan for a position that ought to function independently and free from external influence.
As far as the law is concerned, the nomination of a Nigerian as a National Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission is governed by Section 154(3), 156(1a), Third Schedule, Item F Paragraph 14(2a) and 14(3b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). A combined reading of the stated constitutional provisions demands that, first, the President, before appointing an individual as INEC National Commissioner, must first consult the Council of State, before forwarding the nomination to the Senate for confirmation.
The fundamental questions every Nigerian must ask are: Did the President consulted with the Council of State before submitting to the Senate a letter nominating Mrs Lauretta Onochie as an INEC National Commissioner? Why would a sitting president goes against the Constitution since Section 156(1)(a) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria clearly prohibits the appointment of any person who is a member of a political party as a member of INEC? The Presidency would have bastardised the Nigeria Constitution if the senate had approved the nomination of Onochie and in turn, dent the reputation of Nigeria as a democratic state.
It’s high time the present administration trailed the right path in terms of governance that would in turn contribute immensely to our democracy and stop politicking sensitive positions that can weaken the electoral system. Onochie’s case is one too many and it is an eyeopener for everyones who still believe in the growth and development of Nigeria’s democracy. It is indeed a victory for our democracy!
Arogbonlo Israel, a journalist and good governance advocate writes from Lagos