Inflexibility is said to be appealing to mules but repulsive to humans. Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) is displaying this trait to the outside world by insisting on appointing Lauretta Onochie, his controversial media aide, as a commissioner in Nigeria’s electoral body, the Independent National Electoral Commission. In October 2020, he nominated her for the same position. Since then, the nomination has sparked a storm of controversy.As Special Assistant to the President on social media, Onochie has exhibited the most heinous form of communication, spreading rumours and attacking Buhari’s opponents in the most heinous manner possible. Buhari’s silence reveals that he adores Onochie’s dirty work. Buhari loves her as an aide the more she wallows in filth. Buhari decided to nominate her as an INEC commissioner to further reward her for her loyalty and performance as an attack dog.

The outrage has returned since the Senate referred her to the Senate Committee on INEC for screening on June 9, 2021.What puzzles anyone who is rational and logical in their reasoning is: What is the compelling need for Buhari’s nomination of Lauretta Onochie as an INEC commissioner? The answer is a resounding no. Onochie is not known to be an electoral expert that will add special value to the work of INEC, make Nigeria better and boost the image of Buhari as a leader. On the contrary, Onochie has displayed brazen and sickening partisanship and support for Buhari that will make it hard for the public to accept that she can be independent as an electoral officer. Any election conducted with her as an INEC commissioner will be tainted in the eyes of the public, no matter how hard she tries to portray neutrality and fairness as an electoral umpire.

With Onochie as an INEC commissioner, the election will be seen as untrustworthy even before the next general election in 2023 (two years from now). As a result, one might wonder why Buhari is so adamant about putting her in charge of INEC. Between 2014 and 2015, Onochie campaigned for Buhari’s election as President, which he won. Her contribution to Buhari’s victory, on the other hand, was not earth-shattering. She, like millions of others, was a staunch supporter of Buhari’s presidency. She was unable to raise the funds that Buhari used to fund his campaign. She did not lead any special unit that was critical to Buhari’s 2015 election victory. Given that Buhari has demonstrated that he uses Nigeria’s official positions to reward his loyalists rather than choosing people who will add value to the country, there are hundreds of positions Buhari can offer his supporters to reward them. In some of his statements, he has even confirmed this. Some of these jobs have a higher rank and prestige than the INEC commissionership. Many of them do not need to be approved by the National Assembly. Even if they require confirmation, no serious person will object if Buhari appoints an Onochie as the head of one or more agencies that are responsible for various aspects of national life. After all, Buhari fired the heads and boards of most agencies shortly after his victory in 2015, replacing them with his cronies. The majority of these agencies’ and boards’ terms have come to an end. Many of them remain unreplaced.

As a result, it’s surprising that Buhari would want to shackle an ostensibly impartial umpire like INEC with the Onochie baggage. Buhari, on the other hand, has not acted out of character in this matter, based on his history. He has used Onochie’s nomination to reinforce his belief that he is his own worst enemy. When he takes a stand on a person or an issue, he sticks to it, believing that shifting his position is a sign of weakness, even if it is hurting his presidency. It’s something he’s done before.

For example, the West African Examinations Council revealed to the House of Representatives in June 2018 that the certificate used by Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, former Chairman of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property, to gain admission to the University of Jos to study law in 1985 was forged. The presidency did not announce the dissolution of the SPIP and the dismissal of Obono-Obla until September 2019, more than a year later.

In 2016, when the presidency sent Mr Ibrahim Magu’s name to the Senate for confirmation as acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes

Commission, the Nigerian intelligence agency, the Department for State Services, presented a damning report on him. He was denied confirmation by the Senate. One would have expected Buhari to withdraw Magu’s nomination right away. No. He stuck to his guns, kept Magu on as an acting attorney, and issued the following statement: “Corruption is fighting back.” It was used to blackmail the Senate into approving Magu’s nomination. It’s worth noting that, like the EFCC, the DSS is a federal government agency. The heads of both agencies are appointed by the President. Buhari, on the other hand, disregarded a security report issued by an agency under his presidency because he was hell-bent on appointing Magu as the EFCC chairman. Ironically, Buhari suspended Magu as acting chairman of the EFCC in July 2020, citing corruption allegations.Mrs Kemi Adeosun, the former minister of finance, was accused of presenting a forged National Youth Service Corps exemption certificate in the same case. Buhari has remained silent since the news broke on July 11, 2018, and has taken no official action. She confirmed on September 14 – two months later – that some people had obtained a NYSC exemption certificate for her years ago. She resigned from President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet. There was no further action taken in that forgery case. Buhari could have let Adeosun continue if she hadn’t resigned. Similarly, Alhaji Adebayo Shittu, the former minister of communications, who admitted that he did not participate in the mandatory one-year National Youth Service Corps, was unconcerned about what others said because he knew that his boss, Buhari, was allergic to firing his loyal aides.

It was the same story when it came to the service chiefs. Since their arrival in 2015, security has deteriorated. Rather than dismissing them as the nation demanded, he extended their contracts when they were due to retire. They stayed with him throughout his second term. It wasn’t until January 2021 that he finally released them.

What was the point of extending the terms of security chiefs whose tenure had resulted in an increase in security threats and countless deaths? The only plausible explanation is that Buhari does not want to demonstrate that the people direct his actions. He is always keen to demonstrate that he is his own man, unconcerned

By Olusanya Olutayo

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