Still on Lauretta Onochie’s Nomination – by Frank Ofili56 views
Let me concede, from the onset, the right of people, in a Democracy, to hold and express, through their actions and opinion, their view on every conceivable issue under the sun. In doing so however, it is expected that they recognize the right of those who hold contrary view.
A lot of energy and time has been dissipated in trying to find the motive, merit and demerit of President Buhari’s nomination of his personal aide, Lauretta Onochie, as Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) commissioner. There have been two main planks upon which those who oppose her nomination are standing.
The first is that she is President Buhari’s personal aide, and therefore, her nomination must have been based on some sinister motive of the President. Whatever that is!
The second is that Lauretta is a card-carrying member of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), and so to that extent, they claim her nomination infringes Section 14(2a) of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution as amended. The section states that “a member of the commission shall be non-partisan and a person of unquestionable integrity.”
Those who oppose her also cite Section 14(3b) of the same Schedule which states that “there shall be for each state of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja, a RESIDENT ELECTORAL COMMISSIONER who shall be a person of unquestionable integrity and shall not be a member of any political party.” The requirement, by this section of non-membership of political party applies only to members appointed as Resident Electoral Commissioners.
It is not objective of this paper to argue the legality or otherwise of Lauretta’s nomination. I believe there are men and women of knowledge better qualified than to interpret the law. I also trust, and have confidence, in the distinguished members of our Senate to make informed judgment while screening Lauretta for the position she has been nominated for.
From my little knowledge of law however, I will note two things. First, Section 14(2a) of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which has been widely cited to justify opposition to Lauretta’s nomination only applies to those who are already INEC members. The statement “a member of the commission shall be non-partisan….”. Lauretta is, at this point, not yet a member of the commission. She is only a nominee. To that extent, it is cart before the horse, to treat her nomination as if she has assumed the position of INEC commissioner.
Let us even assume she has been confirmed as INEC commissioner, the question is, is she still a member of APC at the time of her screening and confirmation on the job? Who can say, with certainty, that she won’t resign her membership of APC before her Senate screening? A lot can still happen now and then.
The point in Section 14(3b) of the same Schedule of the Constitution has been made and so needs no repeating, insofar as it directly applies to Resident Electoral Commissioners. This clause will apply to Lauretta if (1) she scales through Senate screening, (2) gets confirmed as INEC commissioner, and (3) gets appointed as Resident Electoral Commissioner. The last is the prerogative of INEC chairman.
My little knowledge of our brand of democracy is that there are three (3) stages in political appointment at the federal level. The first is nomination, which is the exclusive preserve of the President.
The second is Senate screening/confirmation of nominees to whom it applies. The third and final stage is placement on the job. It is at the end of the third and final stage that a valid appointment can be said to have taken place.
So, I do not understand what the hue and cry is all about Lauretta’s nomination. She has not yet been appointed. And this is where I have issues with those who insinuate her nomination is with a sinister motive. We are a country of 200 million people and every single one of us is not only an expert in democracy and the rule of law, but also has an opinion even in areas they are ill-informed about.
We have a legitimate body, the Senate, whose duty includes screening/confirming those nominated by the President for political office. In the process of screening/confirming nominees, the Senate has three main legitimate authorities to guide it – the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the enabling Act of the relevant government agency, and the Senate’s own guiding rules. But rather than allow the Senate to do its constitutional responsibility we are dissipating energy and time creating controversy and heating up the polity.
Those who berate Buhari for carrying out his constitutional duty of making nominations for political appointment (even if the person so nominated is Lauretta) have failed to recognize how they have practically hijacked the job of the Senate, and in the process, disallowing it to work. Is it that they do not trust the Senate to do a good job?
I say let us allow our institutions to work. Let us allow the Senate to work. Let us allow it to do its constitutional duty of screening Lauretta, and if it fails to follow the law of the land, we can be justified to call them out, or recall them or not vote them next time. And if it is the President who breaches the law of the land, we have recourse to the courts, while the National Assembly can recourse to impeaching him. That is the rule of law, and that is democracy. It is not the rule of law to jump on the social media to insult the President for performing his duty rightly or wrongly.
On a personal level, I know Lauretta. I know she is a very principled woman. I doubt she will compromise her position if she makes it to INEC commissioner’s seat. I know she is a woman of good conscience. I know she openly took a position against APC and its erstwhile national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, when the latter contrived a situation that unjustly denied incumbent Edo State governor (then) Godwin Obaseki a second term ticket. Curiously, those of you who are now judging her based on a sin she is yet to commit have lost sight of that.