NDDC: What Nigerians Don’t Know About Lauretta Onochie

A Google search for the name ‘Lauretta Onochie’ will most likely populate the first few pages of the search engine results with stories that tend to portray the president’s media assistant in a negative light and the reason for this is not farfetched: Humans habitually interpret some actions of public officials as their personality while ignoring certain demands that come with occupying such offices.

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By doing so, we engage in what psychologists call “dispositional attribution” which occurs when we assign the cause of a person’s behavior to internal characteristics of the person rather than to outside forces.

Onochie is not the only presidential aide who has suffered from this. The likes of Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity; Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity and Tolu Ogunlesi, Special Assistant to the President on Digital Media; have all had their fair share of criticisms for actively projecting and defending the Buhari administration against pessimists.

Adesina and Shehu have especially endured a stream of invective from some Nigerians who have interpreted their devotion to the president as a betrayal of public interest.

But while it can’t be argued that the ultimate loyalty of public officials should be to the public, Onochie, as the Senior Special Assistant on Social Media to President Buhari, also owes it a duty to fend off any unwarranted attack from any individual or group against her principal and his administration.

It is in discharging this responsibility that the 67-year-old has made some enemies, many of whom see nothing good in whatever she does or says. In truth, some believe she doesn’t deserve anything good in life and must be demonized to support this narrative.

It is for this reason that President Buhari’s nomination of Onochie as the substantive board chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has begun to raise dust.

In a letter read by Senate President Ahmad Lawan during plenary on Wednesday, the president asked the upper legislative chamber to confirm Onochie (Delta, South-South) as the NDDC board chairman.

Buhari also nominated others as members of the Board including Dr. Samuel Ibukun as Managing Director for a term of two years to complete the term of his predecessor in office (Bayelsa State, South-South).

Other nominees, according to the letter, are Dimgba Erugba State representative (Abia, South-East); Dr. Ene Willcox Wills (Akwa Ibom, State Representative, South-South); former Deputy Edo Governor Dr. Pius Odudu (Edo, South-South representative); Hon. Gbenga Edema (Ondo, South-West); Elder Dimaroe Daniya Bofa, State Representative, Bayelsa State, South-South; Hon. Orok Duke, State Representative, Cross River, South-South, and Engr. Anthony Ekene (Imo, South-East),

Also on the board appointment are Mr. Onyekachi Dimkpa (Rivers, South-South), Alhaji Mohammed Kabiru Abubakar (Zonal Representative, Nasarawa), Professor Tallen Mamman, SAN (North-East Representative, Adamawa), Alhaji Sadiq Sami Sule (Kebbi State, North-West, Zonal Representative), Maj. Gen. Charles Ehigie Airhiavbere (Rtd) (Executive Director of Finance) and Charles Ogunmola (Executive Director Project, South-West).

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But as was seen when many kicked against President Buhari’s nomination of Onochie as a commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in 2020, some have started rushing to criticize her nomination to the NDDC while failing to look at the other side in terms her qualifications.

An experienced consultant with a demonstrated history of working in the education sector, Onochie revealed in a 2019 interview that she left her 16-year lecturing job (at the New City College, Epping Forest) in the United Kingdom to join President Buhari’s government in 2015.

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She attended the University of Calabar where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and holds a separate degree in Business Education from the University of Benin.

Besides undertaking certificate courses in the Health Effects of Climate Change and Humanitarian Response to Conflict and Disaster from Harvard University, Onochie’s LinkedIn profile also shows that she has a Post Graduate degree in Post Compulsory Education and Training from the University of Greenwich, United Kingdom.

Furthermore, the position of Chairman of the NDDC Board should be filled by someone with courage, discipline and administrative acumen, attributes Onochie has amply displayed as a presidential aide.

Although Onochie would be coming on board as the first female chairman of the agency, she has demonstrated confidence in her six years as special assistant to the president.

The NDDC was established in 2000 by former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration to fast-track the development of the oil-rich Niger Delta region.

Among the commission’s core mandates is to train and educate the youths of the region to curb hostilities and militancy, while developing key infrastructure to promote diversification and productivity.

Badmus wrote in from Abuja.

Disclaimer: This article is entirely the opinion of the writer and does not represent the views of The Whistler.

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