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I’m A Private Person, I Rarely Talk, I Quit Politics In 2019 —- What Lauretta Onochie Told Senate Panel During Screening

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Before she was rejected by the Senate on Wednesday, Lauretta Onochie told its committee on INEC that she was a private person and rarely talked.

This is besides her earlier statement where she said she quit politics in 2019 and that she is no longer partisan, a claim which turned out to be false.

All of these ‘declarations’ that Ms Onochie made were in response to petitions written against her. The Senate panel had presented the petitions and asked her to respond to them during the screening exercise.

Ms Onochie, the personal assistant to the president on New Media, was being screened for her appointment as a national commissioner for the Independent National Electoral Commission – having been appointed over eight months ago by President Muhammadu Buhari to represent Delta State, where she hails from.

Nigerians had asked the president to withdraw her nomination on grounds that she is partisan and it would be unconstitutional for her to be appointed into such an office.

Although her nomination was rejected by the Senate, Ms Onochie made some brow-raising comments during her screening exercise

The report
The committee, in its report, said several petitions against Ms Onochie were submitted on grounds of violation of federal character principle, partisanship, being a card-carrying member of the APC, and using her social media accounts fake news campaign strategies – all of which she was asked to respond to.

In her defense, Ms Onochie debunked the claims against her.

According to the report, while she admitted to being a one-time registered and card-carrying member of the APC and member of the “Buhari Support Organisation”, she said she is presently neither a registered nor card-carrying member of the party since she did not register as an APC Member during the last APC re-validation exercise.

In response to her social media activities, “she stated that she is a private individual who rarely talks about herself and ceased all Television and Radio appearances since President Buhari’s second term election.”

On her partisanship, “she categorically denied being sympathetic to any political party and stopped all activities since the year 2019.”

She also gave the assurance that “if confirmed, there will be no biased bone in her body’ and acclaimed herself as ‘Madam Due Process.”

Despite the numerous petitions, however, the Senate panel only deemed it necessary to reject Ms Onochie on grounds of breach of federal character principle.

“In the case of Ms Onochie’s…the Committee, bound by the provisions of Section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution on Federal Character Principle… the Senate may wish to recall that in 2016, the Senate based on the recommendation of its INEC Committee confirmed Barr. May Agbamuche-Mbu from Delta State as a National Commissioner in INEC, who is still serving.

“…Confirming the nomination of Ms. Lauretta Onochie from the same Delta State will be a violation of the Federal Character Principle. Therefore, based on the provisions of Section 14(3) of the Constitution…and in order for the Committee and the Senate to achieve fairness to other states and political zones in the county, the Committee is unable to recommend Ms. Lauretta Onochie for confirmation as a National Electoral Commissioner for INEC but would rather recommend to the Senate to request that the President makes another nomination,” the report read.

Many have hailed the Senate for rejecting her nomination, describing it as a win for democracy.

BIG STORY

Hosting FFK At Aso Villa Evidence Of Buhari’s Capacity To Forgive —- Femi Adesina

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Special Adviser to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, has explained why his principal hosted an unsparing critic of the regime and former minister Femi Fani-Kayode in Aso Villa following his defection to the ruling All Progress Congress.

Adesina wrote:

Not a small ruckus has been caused by the defection of former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode (FFK), from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC) last week.

An icing on the cake, or the salt added to injury (depending on which side you are), was his reception at the Presidential Villa by Muhammadu Buhari, father of the nation. The development has been rocking the polity for many days.

FFK is by no means a miscellaneous personality, and whatever he does, or does not do, attracts loads of attention.
He was a founding member of the APC before he ported back to the PDP. And he did not leave quietly. He ruffled feathers and stirred up the mud. He became a rabid hater of his former party and its members.

Between last week and now, vitriol poured by FFK on anybody with the slightest affinity to APC has been dug up serially. He has said things straight from the gutters, things that the natural man would call unforgivable and unpardonable. Against President Buhari, the first family, Yusuf Buhari whom he wished had died when the latter had an almost fatal bike accident, APC as a party, the government, leaders of the party, groups and individuals. Even this writer has suffered horrid descriptions from FFK in many write-ups.

Yes, he even said he would rather die than return to APC, but last week, he returned—well and alive.
Naturally, a lot of loyal APC members are hopping mad that FFK was readmitted into the party. And not only that, he got back at the highest level. Not at his ward in Ile-Ife, Osun State, but the triumphal entry was at the Presidential Villa, with President Buhari himself as the host.

I understand the umbrage taken against the development by teeming APC supporters. It’s the natural thing to do. But then, having vented spleen, raised dust, and almost brought down the roof, the next thing is to isolate the issues dispassionately.

With the bile displayed towards President Buhari and his family over the years, how did the man find the grace to have received FFK? How was he convinced? Who did the convincing? What were the extenuating factors? How? When? Why?

By agreeing to the readmission of FFK to APC as the leader of the party, and hosting him at the Villa, President Buhari displayed an amazing capacity to forgive, to show mercy, and let bygones be bygones. How many of us can do that? Not many.

Remember William Shakespeare in Merchant of Venice:

“The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blessed him that gives and him that takes…
It is an attribute of God Himself.”

That was what Buhari did to FFK. He showed him mercy, dropping like the gentle rain from heaven, when he could have otherwise spat into the sky, collecting the spittle with his own face. Was that not what I and you would have done? Confess. We would have told FFK to go to hell and stay there. But Buhari didn’t. He displayed an attribute of God: forgiveness.

One of the lies that had been serially told against the President was his alleged unforgiving spirit, a falsehood sold to Nigerians by anti-Buhari forces since the days of military rule. The lie traveled for so long, till it was eventually overtaken by the truth in one day. Nigerians saw through the facade and elected Buhari as President in 2015. Re-elected him with a wider margin in 2019.

I have worked with the President for over six years. And I have seen amazing things in terms of accommodation and capacity to forgive. I have visited him at home many times in the evenings, only to find at the dinner table with him people who had been abusing his forefathers on television earlier in the day. This President has the capacity to forgive, and forget. And make peace. That was what he displayed in the case of FFK. Nothing short of divine attribute, which me and you should covet and seek to approximate.

True, the brother of the prodigal son in the Good Book was unhappy, after his sibling had engaged in riotous living, squandered his inheritance, and came back home in penury. And the father received him with glee, and slaughtered the fatted calf in celebration.

The brother was indignant. He accused the father of bad faith, saying he had remained faithful and loyal, and not once did the father give him a goat to kill, and make merry with his friends.

That is the case of the APC members who have been unhappy at the reception given FFK. He did not deserve it, they claim. True. But how many things don’t we deserve, but which eventually come our way? That is the inscrutable nature of God, and we should not begrudge ourselves, or anybody else. How many things have come your way, which you really don’t deserve? But God gave those things to you, nevertheless. Same with FFK.

I think those screaming blue murder and lamenting the injustice and unfairness of it all should hold their peace. They have made their points and should let things be. Enough! FFK is back, let sleeping dogs lie. He may stay this time around, as he claims to have had a Damascus road experience, which turned Saul to Paul.

Many times, FFK has used unprintable words against me. He has deployed phrases from the nether region against me. But after writing those things, and we met in public places, he would embrace me, calling me his “friend and brother.” I agree, we are brothers, though I should hold giant-sized grudges against him. President Buhari has shown us the way. To err is human, to forgive, divine.

And come to think of it. Is it pleasant to swallow one’s vomit? Nah. But that was what FFK did. All those foul words against the President, the APC, the government, many people in government. He has swallowed them. Delicious? By no means. Pueh! You would feel like retching. So, let’s salute the courage of his conviction. It is rare, and not many people would do it.

I welcome FFK back to APC. And I pray it is for an enduring time. I thank President Buhari for showing an astounding large heart. That’s how to be a father. He has confounded all those who peddle lies about him, and the balderdash about not forgiving.

The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven. It has dropped upon FFK. May it always drop on us, for “it blesses him that gives, and him that takes.” Amen, somebody!

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BIG STORY

Jega, Utomi, Donald Duke, Others Team Up Against APC, PDP, Unveil New Party October 1st

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Prominent Nigerians including a former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Attahiru Jega, and a political economist, Professor Pat Utomi, will on October 1 unveil a mega political movement.

It was gathered that the mega-group, which would later transform into a political party, would challenge the country’s dominant parties, the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party.

This came to the fore on Wednesday as INEC told newsmen that 95 groups had applied to it to be registered as political parties.

But for the new mega group planned for October 1, it was learnt that talks had reached an advanced stage for the merger of some existing opposition political parties as part of the new movement.

A source privy to the development, who spoke to one of our correspondents in confidence, explained that the focus of those involved in the new group was to push for electoral and political reforms.

The source said, “By God’s grace, we will be unveiling our movement on October 1 to coincide with Nigeria’s 61st independence anniversary. We cannot call it a political party for now because talks are still ongoing.

“I’m aware that talks between leaders of the Peoples Redemption Party including Professor Attahiru Jega, those of the African Democratic Congress including its National Chairman, Chief Ralph Nwosu, and the Labour Party, have reached an advanced stage.

“The proposal being considered is the collapse of the structures of existing political parties involved into one strong one. We recognize the fact that forming a political party from the scratch is both cumbersome and capital intensive.

“It will involve getting offices across the 36 states of the federation and Abuja and going through all kinds of hurdles before being registered by the Independent National Electoral Commission and we know time is of the essence.

“To avoid this, we are looking at first agreeing on terms of engagement. We will adopt a name, hold our conventions where structures will be collapsed into one then we will approach INEC for a change of name to reflect our new identity.”

In response to a question on what was holding the body from fully identifying itself as a political party, the source said, “With the current Nigerian political structure, we don’t want to just join the fray. We need to make a difference that is why we are first pushing for electoral reforms. We will be working with like-minded people to push for the electronic transfer of election results and changes in Nigeria’s constitution to make it truly representative of ‘we’ the people.’’

There was confusion over the status of a group, Rescue Nigeria Project, which was unveiled by a former presidential adviser and diplomat, Dr Usman Bugaje, in Abuja, on Tuesday.

A section of the media had reported that Tuesday’s meeting was the unveiling of a political party. Some of those listed as attending were Jega, Utomi, a former Governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke; a former Kwara State Governor, Abdelfattah Ahmed; Senator Lee Maeba and Professor Tunde Adeniran among promoters of the new party.

However, several persons, who attended the event said nothing of the sort was discussed. Attempts to get clarification from the convener of the event were futile. Calls to his mobile telephone number were neither picked nor returned. A response to a text message sent to him on the subject was still being awaited as of the time of filing this report.

However, a former Minister of Education and retired politician, Adeniran who attended the event, explained that the gathering discussed good governance and what was required to move the nation forward.

He told newsmen, “I have since retired from partisan politics. However, I have made myself available to give advice as well as guidance in order to continue to contribute my quota to national development. I am certainly not forming any political party.

Another attendee, who is a leading member of the PDP in Rivers State, Senator Lee Maeba, dissociated himself from the formation of a new political party.

Maeba, who spoke to one of our correspondents on the telephone on Wednesday, said the Rescue Nigeria Project event he attended in Abuja, on Tuesday, was not for the formation of a new party but for the advancement of good governance.

He said, “The majority of us there are PDP members. In fact, some of us who were there were agitating that we should close early because they are members of PDP zoning committee and that a meeting was ongoing then.

“I have been a PDP member since 1998 and I don’t have another party. If I have not joined the APC, what is the need of forming another one?

“I did not discuss anything about the formation of a new party. That was the first time I attended the meeting. When I saw the names of those involved, I was attracted to talk on good governance. I am an advocate of good governance.

“It was a seminar and the theme was good governance. Even the organizer, Usman Bugaje, did not talk about political parties. What they talked about was good governance and how to strengthen political parties to ensure good governance, that’s all. Nobody mentioned the party.

“There are ways of forming a political party. The organization will apply to INEC. It has to submit signatures. Is my signature on any paper? There was nothing like that.

“We believe that the place was infiltrated because how can a talk about good governance become a talk of the formation of a party?

“I did not enter a meeting with anybody to form a political party because I am a satisfied member of the PDP. The party is doing well in my state and the governor is doing very well. So why will I go and start forming another party?”

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BIG STORY

Tinubu Is Our ‘Capo Di Tutti’, We’re Waiting His Return To Take Important Decisions On 2023 —– Akeredolu

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The Chairman of the Southern Governors’ Forum Oluwarotimi Akeredolu has described the National Leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as the ‘Capo’ – Capo di tutti of the south.

He maintained that the next President should come from the Southern region.

He spoke during an interview on Arise Television on Sunday.

Speaking on his visit to Tinubu and the 2023 elections, Akeredolu said his visit to Tinubu in the United Kingdom, has nothing to do with the 2023 election.

The Ondo Governor said: “APC is a party. APC will decide who the candidate will be. I have made the point everywhere; I’m going nowhere. I’m not going to leave APC. If I leave APC, I am going back to my chamber where I am more comfortable. For me, whatever APC decides, I will follow.

“…We went to visit our national leader and I was there because there were a lot of rumours here and there, it was important for us to go and see for ourselves, and I was there, I have seen for myself and there is nothing alarming about his health.

“We are praying that he returns back on time, He’s the capo for us here in the southwest and south-south. So we are waiting for him to come so that by the time he comes, we can make some important decisions and he’ll support us. ”

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