Despite denying allegiance to the All Progressives Congress (APC), an old tweet has now emerged indicating that presidential aide, Lauretta Onochie, supported and promoted the party in 2020, contrary to her claim that she quitted partisan politics in 2019.
Ms Onochie on Thursday appeared before the Senate Committee on INEC which screened her for the position of national commissioner for the electoral umpire.
She was nominated for the position by President Muhammadu Buhari in October 2020. If confirmed, she will represent Delta State and by extension, the South-south geopolitical zone on the Commission.
However, her nomination has triggered outrage among Nigerians with many describing it as unconstitutional.
Many Nigerians have asked the president to withdraw the nomination on grounds that Ms Onochie is partisan and so it would be undemocratic for her to be appointed into such an office.
Civil Society Organisations have also petitioned the Senate opposing Ms Onochie’s appointment. While the main opposition party, PDP, also protested her nomination.
During her screening exercise, Ms Onochie claimed she is not partisan anymore.
Ms Onochie who said she is out of politics, described herself as “madam due process.”
“I have seen the petitions against me but I stand for justice and fairness. Thus nobody has anything to fear. I am madam due process and this is the reason behind my attacks, because I follow the law and due process.
“Since Buhari was elected as president for the second term, I have removed myself from everything about politics. Since 2019, I don’t have anything to do with politics. As I am sitting down here, I am not a member of any political party in this country,” she told the panel.
But Ms Onochie’s claim is false.
A tweet by the presidential aide on June 24, 2020 shows she promoted the APC stating that the party was going through a growth process.
“There is DEFINITELY an APC e-NEC meeting TOMORROW. We are going through a growth process. Thank you everyone,” she wrote.
At the time of the tweet, the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) led by the former chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, was embattled and was eventually dissolved by the party`s National Executive Committee (NEC).
Ms Onochie’s tweet came a day before the dissolution.
The tweet is one of many open campaigns Ms Onochie did for the APC.
At the screening, members of the panel were divided. While some questioned her integrity with regards to petitions written against her and an affidavit she swore declaring her membership of the party, others believed her past should not be used against her.
Yahaya Gumau (Bauchi South) and Bamidele (Ekiti North) saw no reason why Ms Onochie’s past should be used against her.
Mr Gumau stated that all the allegations against Ms Onochie were based on sentiments.
Mr Bamidele argued that the current INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, worked for Mr Buhari in different capacities in the past and it did not count against him. Thus working for President Buhari should not account against Ms Onochie, he said.
Onochie desperate for the position – PDP
Reacting to the screening exercise and Ms Onochie’s denial, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), derided the APC and Ms Onochie for denying her life in a desperation to be appointed INEC national commissioner.
“With her lies, Lauretta Onochie, a die-in-the-wool APC member, whose name appears as number 2 on the ward 4 register of the APC in Aniocha Local Government Area of Delta state, has further demonstrated her lack of integrity to be trusted with the position of a national commissioner in INEC.
“Lauretta Onochie in her escapade in the Senate, may have forgotten that the lawmakers and Nigerians in general are aware of her subsisting oath filed in a pending suit in court affirming her membership of the APC, which she further reinforced and adopted under cross examination in the same matter very recently,” part of the statement read.
The PDP said allowing Ms Onochie anywhere near INEC would pollute the commission as well as the conduct of elections by the commission.
The party therefore urged the Senate panel to stand on the side of the constitution and the sanctity of Nigeria’s electoral process by rejecting outright the nomination of Ms Onochie as INEC Commissioner.
The committee is expected to present its report to the Senate on another legislative day. The report will contain recommendations either confirming or rejecting the appointments of Ms Onochie and the other nominees.