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WOMAN IN THE NEWS: Lauretta Onochie, the tigress on the defensive

WOMAN IN THE NEWS: Lauretta Onochie, the tigress on the defensive
July 09
16:33 2021

Lauretta Onochie, aide to President Muhammadu Buhari, is often the subject of news headlines — and most times for controversial reasons. Buhari first appointed the 66-year-old native of Delta state in 2016 as his special assistant on social media.

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In October 2020, Buhari asked the senate to confirm Onochie as a commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The appointment was met with stiff pushback and criticisms from various parties and stakeholders.

Many opposed the nomination on the grounds that Onochie is partisan and a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Eight months after the nomination, Onochie is still fighting to establish that she is qualified and right for the job.

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DAY OF DENIAL 

In June, Senate President Ahmad Lawan finally directed the senate committee on INEC to vet Onochie but the screening did not commence until a month later.

When she eventually appeared before the committee on Thursday, Onochie said contrary to public claims, she does not belong to any political party.

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She said she quit politics in 2019, adding that the attacks that trailed her nomination as a commissioner for the electoral body is because she is “madam due process”.

TheCable, however, found that despite claiming to have dumped politics, Onochie championed the cause of the APC in June 2020 via her ‘theatre of war’ — Twitter.

Since joining Buhari’s team, Onochie has used the microblogging platform to position herself as a staunch defender of her principal. In several instances, she has engaged in tugs of war with people who criticised Buhari or his policies.

ONOCHIE TAUNTS OYEDEPO

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In August 2020, David Oyedepo, presiding bishop of the Living Faith Church Worldwide, had rejected the application of Company and Allied Matters Acts (CAMA) in churches, arguing that it is borne of out the government’s jealousy of the prosperity recorded by the church.

Commenting on Oyedepo’s stance, Onochie had said the cleric would have to abide by the government’s law or manufacture his own country.

“I hope this is not true. If it is, Oyedepo will have to manufacture his own country and live by his own laws,” Onochie wrote in a tweet.

“As long as he lives and operates within the entity called Nigeria, he will live by Nigerian rules and laws. He will do as he’s told by the law. Enough of lawlessness.”

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ALTERCATION WITH CAN

In June 2018, Onochie posted a tweet where she asked the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to learn love and godliness from former UK Prime Minister Teresa May.

“Prime Minister Theresa May, a Christian, is in a mosque doing what humans go to do in a place of worship. She knows that her God is the same one also called Allah. CAN of worms, Here’s a great lesson in love and godliness, not hatred and anger,” Onochie wrote.

Her comment vexed the Christian body, which subsequently asked the president to caution her.

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“The failure of the presidency calling her to order is capable of making the leadership believe that she is expressing the mind of the presidency,” Samson Ayokunle, CAN president, said.

“She is also like Eliab, who was not ready to stand up against Goliath, who had defied the God of Israel, but was burning with anger at David who would not allow Goliath to continue insulting God and His people.”

ROW WITH WIZKID

Onochie took the jaw war to Wizkid, multiple-award winning singer, in October 2020.

It all started after the ‘Ojuelegba’ crooner lambasted Buhari for wishing ex-President Donald Trump a “quick recovery from COVID-19” amid the tension in Nigeria.

Wizkid was speaking on the back of renewed protests against the special anti-robbery squad (SARS) after a video showing a man allegedly gunned down in Delta by operatives of the police unit went viral.

Reacting to Wizkid’s comment, Onochie described the artiste as a “dumbkid”, saying he exhibited crass ignorance and childishness in the way he addressed the president.

In a swift reply, Wizkid slammed Onochie, saying she should be “ashamed of herself”.

DEFAMATION SUITS

In June 2020, Peter Nwaoboshi, chairman of the senate committee on Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), filed a N1 billion suit against Onochie, accusing her of making defamatory posts on her social media pages.

According to him, her comments online suggested that he is a “thief, corrupt and criminal”.

In another instance, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar sued Onochie, demanded an apology and N500 million damages for alleged libel after she claimed that he was on a United Arab Emirates (UAE) watch list.

TheCable had fact checked her claim and found it to be false.

She had also said that Atiku cannot win in his local government if he contests the 2019 presidential election.

“I think Alhaji Abubakar Atiku has lost touch with reality; I think he needs to check again,” she had said.

“He is known to hobnob from one party to the other when he cannot have control in that party.”

KNOCKS JONATHAN FOR ‘PLUNDERING THE ECONOMY’

Save for her principal, who she once said is the only Nigerian leader not accused of corruption, Onochie spares to one when she lashes out.

In 2017, she said ex-President Goodluck Jonathan should crawl on his knees and apologise to Nigerians for “plundering” the nation’s economy.

She also said Jonathan bequeathed a “dearth of infrastructures” to Buhari.

“The government of ex-President Jonathan was fraught with broken promises, massive corruption and shattered dreams. It was a Govt for a few Nigerians,” she said in a series of tweets.

“Massive oil earnings under Ex-President Jonathan did not benefit Nigerians as he bequeathed a dearth of infrastructures to President Buhari.”

Onochie’s sharp claws have also been used against the likes of Nyesom Wike, governor of Rivers, who she once said was paranoid and should receive mental treatment while she would also describe Ibraheem El-Zakzaky of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) as a leader of a terrorist group.

While her attack-minded verbal savagery is well known on social media, Onochie now finds herself on the defensive in real life as she seeks to convince the senate committee to give her the nod to become an INEC commissioner.

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