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Senate’s rejection of Lauretta Onochie: A refreshing act of patriotism

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By chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, OFR, Ph.D

Introduction

I think for once, something good has come out of Egypt, at least just for once. The Senate firmly rejected the nomination of Ms Lauretta Onochie as INEC Commissioner representing Delta state. This happened just before the anti-democracy and anti-people National Assembly (NASS) – INEC electronic transmission transfixion debacle. Interrogating this national disgrace is for another piece. But, something positive did  emerge from the “take a bow” 9th Senate of the NASS last week.

Surprisingly this was from the NASS which I had described in an earlier write up as the worst NASS to have emerged in Nigeria ever since the days of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Dr Nwafor Orizu during the first Republic. The brightest and most progressive of them all was the Dr. Bukola Saraki and Dr Ike Ekweremmadu-led 8th NASS. It  weaned and nurtured democracy. It stood its ground fearlessly and demonstrated its independence as one of the three arms of Government and a strong building block of our fledgling and stunted democracy.

However I do not agree with the Senate that the real reason for Ms Lauretta Onochie’s, rejection was anchored on the Federal character Principle requirement, because Mrs May Agbamuche-Mbu, A serving INEC Commissioner is from Delta State, just like Onochie. I think that was a mere face-saving device and simulated soft landing strategy for the Senate in refusing to square up to the whole truth of the matter.

65 years old Sexagenarian, Lauretta Onochie, born 19th July, 1955, had fervently and publicly denied being politically partisan during the Senate screening. I could not believe my ears. The whole world knows that she had registered as No. 2 in Ward 4, Aniocha North L.G.A. of Delta State, during the recent APC Nation-wide membership registration exercise. More curious about her incredible and incredulous denial stems from the fact that in an affidavit she personally swore to in the case of LAURETTA ONOCHIE VS EMEKA AGWUONYE (as recent as 30th June, 2021), which is currently  pending before the FCT High Court, Abuja, she had attached her own passport photograph. In that case, Onochie had deposed affirmatively in paragraph 3 inter alia, thus: “I am also a member of the All Progressive Congress and a Volunteer at the Buhari Support Organisation (B.SO)”.

I could therefore not believe my eyes when I beheld her frontally and publicly denying membership of the APC and an ardent supporter of President Buhari.
Onochie’s nomination as INEC Commissioner representing Delta State (and by extension, the South South) had therefore triggered national outrage and ruckus because of her glaring political partisanship. Constitutional, democratic and moral hurdles were thus cited by a cross section of Nigerians, including politicians, Lawyers (I am one of them), the opposition PDP, public officers, analysts and the Civil Society, as afflicting her desperately sought-for appointment. Inspite of this,  Onochie boldly appeared before the Senate for screening.She strangely and imperiously thumped her chest as “Madam Due Process”.
Really? Not so fast, madam! She then lied before a bewildered Nation, “since Buhari was elected as president for the second term, I have removed myself from everything about politics. Since 2019, I do not have anything to do with politics. As I am sitting here, I am not a member of any political party in this country”. I wept for Nigeria and for decent womanhood beholding a desperate old woman lying between her teeth, just to get a mere INEC appointment. At 65! This is the age most Civil Servants retire to their homes. What is in this INEC seat to force a woman to throw away her dignity and self respect? Onochie LIED.

For starters, her recent registration as No 2 in Ward 4, Aniocha North LGA of Delta State, during the recent registration exercise shows the falsity of her declaration. Secondly, an affidavit she personally deposed to in a case in which she is the plaintiff as lately as 30th June, 2021, also clearly affirmed that she is still a member of the APC and a volunteer at the Buhari Support Organisation (BSO). Wait for the icing on the case: on June 24, 2020 ( well after she claimed to have quitted partisan politics in 2019 ) , she had made an outing by tweet on the social media, promoting the APC, and stating that the party was merely going through the pangs of a growth process. This was during the leadership crisis that engulfed the APC, threatening to consume this  party of disparate tendencies. In my humble opinion, this brazen denial of her membership of the APC during her screening demonstrated, more than anything else, her total lack of integrity and moral high grounds in being entrusted with such a sensitive job that borders on midwifing the will of the people. It was impunity taken too far.

Let me be very clear about this. There is nothing wrong about Onochie belonging to the APC, or to any other political party of her choice. There is also nothing wrong with Onochie rolling out the drums to support President Buhari, whether before, during, or after the 2015 and 2019 presidential elections. These are her inalienable constitutional rights. But, she cannot enjoy these rights simultaneously with being an INEC Commissioner. She cannot be a bat who argues that she belongs to the Animal Kingdom, because she possesses mammary glands (breasts), pinnas (ears), and teeth, like those of human beings; but that she is, at the same time, a member of the Birds Kingdom, because she can fly very well. As the name suggests, the Independent National Electoral Commission” is expected to be truly independent. The word “independent” means “liberated”, “unrestrained”, “unconstrained”, “bold”, “individualistic”.
Can 65 year old Onochie, a die-in-the-wool APC fanatic, pick up the Holy Bible (as a Christian) and swear that if she had been cleared by the Senate as INEC Commissioner, she would have been truly unrestrained, unconstrained, bold, individualist, and liberated from the apron strings of Buhari and the APC? I think not, or, do you? Could Onochie have been so independent and liberated from her benefactor ,Buhari, and her political party, in such a way and manner as to take firm decisions in an election against their interest? I think not. Or, do you?

Indeed, Part 1 paragraph F to the third schedule of the 1999 Constitution provides that Resident Electoral Commissioners shall be persons of “unquestionable integrity”. Can Onochie, a member of a political party who is crazily and passionately partisan to her party and her benevolent appointor, the President, be a person of “unquestionable integrity”? I believe not. Or do you? Her mere admission of once belonging to the APC and supporting Buhari, but that she had recanted and renounced them ( even if believable), are the very reasons why she should never come near the corridors of ballot papers and boxes.

The truth of the matter, and I can categorically conjecture why Onochie was rejected, is that she has been one of the most fantatical and consumate supporters; and a vociferous card-bearing member of the APC. She is not just an APC card-carrying member; she has always been the Personal Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Social Media Affairs. She loves wearing a long ankle- length t-shirt emblazoned with a larger-than-life portrait of Buhari. She deifies him; canonises him.No problem about this; it is her right.But, please, Onochie, stay far away, far far away, from the hallowed precincts of INEC. Keep Off please !!!

Onochie has always used the social media outlet to attack every and all Nigerians that dare to disagree with her mentor and deity, Buhari. She  abuses them all. Freely. She deploys  obscene expletives, caustic language, utmost vulgarity and asinine inanities.
Waziri Atiku Abubakar was not spared by Onochie’s putrid vituperations.She accused him of shopping for terrorists in Dubai and being a wanted man. Atiku is in court against Onochie over this. I am his lawyer. Onochie had also attacked me in the social media some years ago, for daring to criticize Buhari, her god. I refused to dignify her with a response, so as not to belittle my humble self. But, she was not so lucky with roaring and cerebral Chief Femi Fani Kayode ( FFK),  whom she dared attack. She had touched the tiger by the tail. FFK would not accept that, not let go. He took her to the cleaners and literally tore her to shreds. With bare knuckles; intellectual superiority. I had guffawed.

Therefore, such a palpably partisan person was not fit for, or confirmable for the sacred position of INEC Commissioner. She would have been the biggest liability to this already baggaged Government. She would have further polluted the electoral process, since she is a known unabashed presidential aid and a card-carrying member of the APC , who can never go against her boss or political party in any matter involving elections. She was brutally partisan. She did so without any remorse, sense of guilt or shame whatsoever. Her rejection was therefore good riddance to bad rubbish.

Whether for reason of federal character (section 14 of the Constitution), or for the reason of her well known unabashed partisanship, the important thing is that Onochie was roundly rejected. Like some people would say jocularly , whether it was Jonah that swallowed the fish, or it was the fish that swallowed Jonah, the important thing is that there was a “swallow”.

My kobo piece piece of advice to Lauretta. Madam, quietly stay put in your propaganda corner with your job as Buhari’s social media attack dog. In this, I believe you have done pretty good. I score you well above average. But, for INEC job, farewell! Goodbye!! Adieu!!!

I therefore salute the Senate of the 9th NASS for developing balls for the first time; at least on this singular occasion. Kudos to the Ahmed-Lawan led Senate on Onochie’s rejection as INEC Commissioner.

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Opinion

Jegede vs Akeredolu: APC technically out of Anambra Guber

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Because of Supreme Court judgment on the Status of Mai Buni as National Chairman of APC, one could say that the judgment by extension has technically ruled APC out of Anambra November 6th, 2021 Guber election.

It is a very simple logic to understand.

He can not hold position of the Party’s National Chairman as an elected Governor so even if the APC wins, the election could be nullified on the grounds relating to section 183 of the Constitution of Federal of Nigeria 1999 as amended because you can’t put something on nothing and expect it to stand.

Everything done under his leadership is now under constitutional question and also subject to litigation and could be reversed in court based on todays judgment of the supreme Court.

In fact I believe that the Supreme Court played a fast one on Ondo case for claiming that because he was not joined in the matter.

Supreme court merely found a technical mechanism in the lacuna and exploited it as escape route to save ONDO STATE FOR APC. That case would have still been determined on merit without joining Buni.

My argument is centered on the point that he signed/approved all document and processes that will lead to placing the APC on the ballot for Anambra November 6th election.

Section 183 is very clear and unambiguous.

Any law that is inconsistent with the provision of the constitution of Nigeria 1999 as amended is voided automatically.

The Provisions of the constitution shall have binding force on all authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

High Chief Peter Ameh

Former Presidential Candidate Progressive People’s Alliance PPA

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Opinion

Re: Presidency Should Call Mr. Sunday Akin Dare to Order Before He Embarrasses Nigeria

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****Face your Criminal Trial, Minister Tells Gusau

The Attention of the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Mr. Sunday Dare, has been drawn to a publication titled “Presidency Should Call Mr.Sunday Akin Dare to Order Before He Embarrasses Nigeria, By Sylvanus Ofekun”

The piece was published by Sahara Reporters and reproduced by a few other platforms that did not conduct the professionally expected due diligence on the false claims made in the said publication.

The article was shopped to several national publications that turned it down on account of its misleading, libelous and attempt to fraudulently rewrite facts and information that have been in the public domain about the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN).

It is common knowledge that the former AFN President, Engineer Ibrahim Shehu Gusau with his co-travellers is desperate to extricate himself from a contract that he controversially signed the AFN into, which has now placed him in a position of trying to blackmail Team Nigeria into wearing the kits. Ibrahim Gusau has conveniently neglected to tell Nigerians that he and Sunday Adeleye signed a non-disclosure agreement with PUMA, which details are unknown to the Ministry and board members of the AFN.
The Minister and the Ministry will not commit the Nigerian government and Nigerian athletes to a deal of which the Ministry has not sighted the contractual documents that ties Nigerian athletes to a five year contract with PUMA.

As is statutory, the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) is responsible for Team Nigeria’s participation in the Tokyo Olympics, and President Muhammadu Buhari, represented by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, has formally handed over the team to NOC. Unfortunately, Gusau, as a former AFN President, did not write any official letter to the NOC about the kits neither did he contact the incumbent AFN Secretary General to take them over just as he did not remit them to the known address of the AFN, which is AFN Secretariat at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja. He ran the PUMA deal as a purely personal enterprise, which landed him in trouble with the law.

Engineer Gusau and his accomplices in the controversial PUMA deal were docked before a competent court in a criminal case with suit Number CR/99/2020 IGP Vs Ibrahim Shehu Gusau & two others, for criminal conspiracy, misappropriation, criminal breach of trust and cheating in violation of the Nigeria Penal Code. The trial is ongoing and a copy of the charge sheet is attached to this statement. It is pertinent to await the outcome of this criminal trial before making further clarifications on the extent of treachery that the disgraced former AFN President committed against the Athletics Federation of Nigeria and the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The Ministry has adequately apprised the Presidency, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation as well as the Inspector General of Police of the criminality involved in the PUMA deal.

In the interim, it is pertinent to state that while the AFN is one of the 38 federations overseen by the Ministry as enshrined in the relevant extant legislation, the Honourable Minister is not responsible for the day to day running of any federation as this is a responsibility for the various secretariats of the federations. It is therefore uncharitable for Gusau, through his hirelings, to insinuate that the Minister is responsible for his troubles.
Gusau should face his ongoing trial for criminal conspiracy, misappropriation, criminal breach of trust and cheating and not involve the Minister in the mess he got himself into.

Federal ministry of Youths and Sports Development

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Opinion

Re-Badaru Please fix Marke-Yalo-Gujungu and Jabo-Hago-Hadejia roads

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Alhaji Adamu Muhammad Usman, the former Special Adviser on Media to former governor of Jigawa State Alhaji Sule Lamido recently wrote a piece with the above caption. It was a masterpiece in exemplary functional criticism.
In the piece, he pointed out to the state governor, Muhammad Badaru Abubakar, some aspects of developmental projects he thought needed to be addressed.
He equally indicated how he believes these projects, when done, will alleviate the sufferings of the citizens of Jigawa State.
Interestingly, by his judgement, Governor Muhammad Badaru Abubakar “is the best among equals and should be crowned as a king.”
He also said, “Badaru must be appreciated and eulogised for what he is doing in Jigawa State in the area of road construction.”
Since road construction formed the nucleus of his concern in the write-up, Alhaji Adamu wants the governor to fix Marke-Yalo-Gujungu and Jabo-Hago-Hadejia roads respectively. He also argued strongly for the completion of the Wudil-Gaya-Jahun-Kafin-Hausa-Bauchi federal road which he said has taken too long to complete, while asking for the Kafin-Hausa-Auyo road to be done.
He talked about how these roads are instrumental to the livelihood of Jigawa citizens because they either link the state to other Northwest and Northeastern states of Nigeria or they link it to some neighboring countries.
The governor has taken note of all these observations and advice, and pledged that any project that will advance the course of the state would be given prioritised consideration.
Already, as pointed out by the former media adviser, Governor Abubakar has given utmost regard to the construction of good roads to enhance communication within the state, between states and with neighboring counties.
This informed the construction of One Thousand Six Hundred kilometer roads in the last Six years. This is one of the longest, if not the longest in Nigeria today.
Governor Abubakar’s preoccupation has always been to move Jigawa State ahead and ensure that its development is rapid and sustained.
The governor therefore called on all Jigawa State citizens to consider themselves as partners in what he called “The Jigawa Project.” He urged them to constitute themselves into performance monitors and nudge the government to act where action is necessary.
On his own part, the governor has pledged to be responsive to the yearnings and aspirations of the citizens.
The governor has directed for the repairs of the roads mentioned by Adamu Muhammad Usman and many others that have similar problems across the state and works are in progress.
The governor assured that all road repairs and maintenance projects in Jigawa State are in transparent manner and that he would ensure that all works meet the required standard.

Habibu Nuhu Kila
Special Adviser
Media and Public Relations to the Governor.

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