June 15, 2021
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ELECTIONS are supposed to lay good governance. Now, we are about to put a fox in the pen called INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission). A pen, according to poultry farmers, “is a farm building or shed where female chickens (Layers) are kept for the purpose of laying eggs”. Ask any poultry keeper, he will tell you that foxes are the main problem to survival of the avian industry. Their visit to any poultry comes with heart wrenching fatalities. No wise farmer uses a fox to guard his chickens. The nomination of Lauretta Onochie as INEC Commissioner by President Buhari is like engaging a fox to guard our electoral poultry. Our elders have a way of defining who a real thief is. They use the analogy of the one who steals a keg of palm oil from the ceiling. In their eternal wisdom, the real thief is not the one who climbs the ceiling to take the keg of palm oil. The real thief is the one who assists in bringing the keg of palm oil successfully to the ground. Without the assistance of the man standing on the ground to receive the keg, the thief in the ceiling will not have a successful operation. So it is with President Buhari and his nomination of his Personal Assistant on Social Media, Onochie, as INEC Commissioner. President Buhari, to me, did no wrong in nominating Onochie. I am not saying this to defend the Daura-born president. On the contrary, I would have been shocked if Buhari did not make such a mistake. He alone reserves the right to make such a fatal error; his default in the last six years of his presidency. Besides, the contempt of the president for the Nigerian people and the constitution, is too obvious for anybody to pretend not to notice. The only embarrassment Nigerians can suffer again in the hands of Buhari is when the president begins to do the right thing. Nigerians, by now, are too used to the non-heroic propensities of the president to be shocked at anything again. Such is our fate and we are going to live with that for the next two years. The only regret, in my own estimation, Buhari has, is the fact that he cannot act like he did in 1983-1984, when he was wearing the khaki uniform of the Nigerian Army. Even though nothing has changed in his character and content, Nigerians have their God and gods to thank that Buhari was not the first to rule when this dispensation began in 1999. We wouldn’t have known the difference between decency in governance and sheer perfidy of today.

But like I said, liken Buhari’s nomination of Onochie to that of palm oil thief in the ceiling, we will discover that the real culprit is not Buhari, who we all know cannot but make fatal mistakes, but the confirming authority, the Senate. In a sane clime and environment where the system works, the National Assembly Liaison officer to Buhari will not even take such a recommendation letter near the building housing the senate. But in Nigeria, where we have a decapitated legislature, the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, will be the one to go and collect the letter from Aso Rock, Villa, the moment the mere rumour that Buhari nurses such an idea surfaces. That is how pliable the National Assembly has become, especially under the leadership of Lawan. What we have now is a pitiable senate, and to a greater extent, House of representatives, that wait every day to take directives from the presidency.  Even as perfidious as many thought  the Bukola Saraki’s senate presidency was, it had some resemblance of decent and independent credentials attached to it. Though  Magu was retained in acting capacity as Chairman of EFCC for almost five years by Buhari, it is on record that the senate under Saraki refused to confirm his nomination.

There are some problems associated with the nomination of Onochie as  INEC commissioner. The first one is that it appears that writers, critics and shapers of public opinions alike have overrated Buhari’s ability to grasp issues. I think it will do a lot of good, if we begin to speak to President Buhari “in the language he understands”. What I mean here, (the same way the Buhari handlers had to re-explain to us the connotation of the phrase “the language they understand”), is that we need to take things to the very base and hope Buhari will understand. And that is what I intend to do here; simplify the issue to the understanding of the president. Simple dictionary definition, even from John East, gives the idea that the adjective, “Independent’’, means, “free from outside control; not subject to another’s authority”. In that regard, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, is expected to be an umpire that is free from all encumbrances, controls, relationships, interferences, supervisions, etc, of any of the three arms of government. While the constitutional lacuna of making the president the appointing authority for INEC manpower poses a problem, the drafters of the constitution, on their own, envisaged that at any point in time, whoever becomes the president will be noble, decent and fair enough to ensure that the personnel of the electoral body are not card carrying members of any political party. Nobody, among the drafters of the constitution, ever thought that  day would come, when a sitting president would brazenly nominate his Personal Assistant  to be a commissioner in INEC. While we cannot say categorically that all those who had functioned in INEC right from 1998 till 2014 were all non-partisan, I make bold to say here that the nomination of  Onochie is a novel idea by this present Buhari presidency. It is as brazen, as it is repugnant. That President Buhari, in spite of the public outcry against the idea when it was first muted, went ahead to send the nomination letter to the senate, shows clearly that he has no regard for public opinion and an iota of respect for the Nigerian people.

If Buhari holds us all in contempt, what about the National Assembly? Do we also need to simplify it for Lawan, too and his co-travellers in the senate, that they have the responsibility to ensure that Buhari does not continue to rape our constitution serially and with impunity? Does it mean that because Lawan is ready to dance to whichever beats Aso Rock dishes out, he is equally not bothered about what posterity will say of him after his tour of duty as senate president? Does Lawan need to be told that sending Onochie’s name to the Committee on INEC for confirmation is like asking the committee to confirm Reno Omokri to be INEC Chairman under President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan? Onochie is a Personal Assistant (PA) to Buhari. Personal Assistant, a euphemism for personal messenger, means the person occupying such a position does the biddings of his or her master, the one who appointed him or her in the first instance. PAs are at the becks and calls of their masters. That is exactly who Onochie is. She is answerable to Buhari in all things, without exception and at all times. It is the same person Lawan is eager to confirm as INEC Commissioner. What Lawan is trying to do, in a simple manner, is to make Onochie one of those who will determine if Buhari’s APC wins or loses an election. Is it not bad enough that Buhari and his political advisers are not decent enough to hide their ignorance, and or contempt for fairness and nobility by nominating Onochie as INEC Commissioner? Must Lawan add insult to our injury by proceeding with the confirmation? If Onochie appears before the senate, pray, are the lawmakers going to ask her to affirm her non-partisanship? Could this nomination be ignorance or illiteracy; contempt or pure mischief, daredevilry or a combination of  all of the above? Where is our grazing route AGF in all these? What kind of advice does the Minister of Justice give to this government? Who are the Political Advisers to President Buhari? What happens to their conscience? Is it that Buhari and his handlers cannot get some non-visible ‘Buharists’ to be so nominated instead of the conspicuous Onochie? Who talks to this government?  Again, will Lai Mohammed, after the confirmation, go on air to justify this? The questions are unending.

The third leg of the wobbling stool of perfidy, the Onochie’s nomination is, are the woman at the centre of it all, Lauretta Onochie herself and the INEC Chairman under whom she will serve. If only in pretence, one would have expected  Onochie to turn down this nomination to show that there is still decency in humanity. Commissioner, will call all the political parties together and tell them that the Commission is neutral!  Buhari surely believe we are as dumb as we look! I am still wondering how the INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, will feel, sitting down in council with Onochie sitting by his right hand as one of his “independent” commissioners.  Will he still be able to go back to the comity of academics to say that he presided over a decent and independent electoral umpire? Every day, the Buhari administration keeps creating in our sub consciousness, the feeling that we are beings from outer space. When a  nation licenses an abortionist into the labour room as a midwife the result is  multiple fatality. That is exactly what will happen if Buhari’s nomination of Onochie as INEC Commissioner is confirmed by the senate under Lawan.

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