APC, INEC’s feud in Akwa Ibom persists as January rerun draws near
Akwa Ibom State chapter of All Progressive Congress (APC), before, during and after the 2019 general elections is known to have been at loggerheads with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the state. Its lack of trust about the neutrality or otherwise of the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr. Mike Igini, led to the party always alleging that the umpire was not doing the right thing and that the commission was hobnobbing with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state to deny the party victories at all the elections.
In fact, it is worthy to mention that these allegations and counter-allegations against INEC and its REC, in particular, before the general elections led to many protests by the youths, stakeholders and leadership of the party, with all calling for the redeployment of Mr. Igini. In most of the press conferences held by the party then, its chairman, Mr. Ini Okopido, had always seen Igini as one who would not allow the party to get a fair result because of what he described as his ‘hatred’ for all APC’s candidates.
But to the man at the centre of the party’s storm, Igini, , had always insisted that he came to Akwa Ibom to conduct free and fair elections and not to dance to anybody’s tunes and unnecessary insinuations. He went further to defend the commission that, on assumption of office, he had told all stakeholders, political parties’ elders inclusive that elections would not be tea party as usual, and that everybody should
prepare for elections.
“We began the process of preparing the state for a transparent free, fair and credible election with the re-location, with effect from 8th August 2018, a total of twenty-two (22) polling units hitherto in private premises and homes, to public places accessible to voters and urged all political parties and would-be candidates to prepare for real elections. I embarked on the campaign that credible elections will be conducted in this state come 2019, but just like Noah in the bible, who, for several years, foretold of the great flood and asked the children of God to prepare, but he was not taken seriously; so was my case. Many dismissed my message of free, fair and credible election and had other plans of winning elections, while others took my message seriously and took their case to the electorate who only can confer
authority on contestants.
“Today, we now know better those who took our promise of integrity, driven electoral process seriously. Recall that we made it clear that the umpire has no vote to give to any candidate or political party. We pledged and committed ourselves to ensuring that INEC under my watch in this state would not be a tool of manipulation for electoral victory but a national institution committed to the conduct of free, fair and credible elections in our fatherland.
“In preparing the state for the elections, particularly a few weeks to the election, so many contrived problems were put on our way essentially to sabotage our efforts to fulfill our promise to the people of Akwa Ibom State that they will be the ones that will choose their leaders through their votes that must be counted and taken into account. A number of politicians were unhappy with that pronouncement and commenced the campaign for my redeployment backed with the
following innuendoes and lies.
“That APC will not be allowed to win election in Akwa lbom. Not true. That l had compromised with the PDP without stating the particulars
of compromise. Not true. That I held meetings with some notable politicians at Eket without stating the date and time. Not true. That I delivered uncollected Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) to the state government without giving details when and quantity. Not true; that
the house I live in Lagos long before my re-appointment in August 21, 2017 was purchased for me by the state government. Not true; that I recruited card-carrying members of political parties as collation officers. Not true. That my body language would not allow for a level-playing field. Not true. That INEC is planning to destroy election materials because of tribunal. Not true,
“No doubt, in trying to conduct election in this state, we faced a serious task of restoring the pride of an electoral institution, and the credibility of a national umpire. Looking back at the outcome of the Presidential/National Assembly as well as the Governorship/State
House of Assembly election in Akwa lbom State under my watch, we can say with every sense of modesty that the Independent National
Electoral Commission worked so hard to bring meaning and purpose to the ballot system. No more pre-writing of election results, incidence
of ballot box snatching and stuffing of thumb-printed ballot papers and same announced are now things of the past. The 2019 elections in
Akwa Ibom marked a paradigm shift; we strove to do what is right, to put INEC at the service of the electorate as the final determinant of leadership emergence in a democracy”.In spite of these assurances by INEC of impartiality during the last elections in the state, APC is calling for the redeployment of Mr. Mike Igini.
According to the chairman of the party, Mr. Ini Okopido, in a press statement signed by him and made public, he noted, “As we prepare for the re-run elections in Essien Udim LGA, we are cautious and mindful of a re-run election superintended by Mike Igini. We have no faith in Igini’s impartiality as an unbiased and independent umpire. Igini is a compromised official and avowed enemy of APC. We are distraught and doubtful of a change of posture by Igini and therefore cautious to go into a fresh election while Igini remains the State REC.
“Only a foolish survivor would ask the same hired assassin to extract the bullet from his body. According to a social media commentator, ‘Igini is devilish and may have swallowed the thunderbolt. He was on rampage before and after the election, ready to destroy any APC candidate who attempted to defeat PDP in Akwa Ibom State. We demand the immediate re-deployment of Igini in the interest of peace and justice”.
According to another APC media manager, Mr. Etim Etim, the biased and partiality of the REC in the state would be suicidal if he was allowed to conduct the re-run elections involving APC in the state.“My take is that Mike Igini cannot be allowed to conduct the rerun election. He’s too tainted, biased and compromised. Second, the court has clearly confirmed that those politicians in APC and other parties who asked for Igini’s redeployment were sure of their facts.“I can therefore hope that the court will also take a long, hard look at the governorship election Appeal before it and deliver justice to Akwa Ibom people”.
However, political observers in the state are accusing APC of desperation. Many of them who spoke on these lingering accusations and
counter-accusations of the REC attributed such to what they describe as ‘hangover of the federal might syndrome’.
According to one such observer, “You remember before and during the general election, there was this much talked about federal might. Even one of their party members at the tribunal confessed to the fact that the party did not campaign enough to have won, but were relying on the federal might.
If, during the general elections where the 31 local government councils were involved, Igini was not redeployed despite their calls, is it this one local government election that he will be removed? If it was me, I would mobilise my people to go out and vote for the party’s candidate. This is the time they would have proven all their allegations against the REC by ensuring that they go out and vote for the APC”.
Others note that what is worrisome in the whole issue of redeployment of the REC is that APC has never accused INEC of not making voting and result materials available to polling units in the state and if that was the case, how did the REC influence the results against APC?A political analyst, who did not want his name in print, alleged that the consistent calls of APC for the redeployment of the REC may not be unconnected with their fears that Igini had always said he would not compromise his integrity by not ‘playing ball’.
“As we speak, Essien Udim alone has about 105,000 registered voters, which may not be real, but a smart candidate can cause an unscrupulous INEC official or even REC to compromise by not following due process, and as such can easily change the result in favour of anybody. The calls by APC is making politicians and none alike to smell a rat that since they know that the present REC may not compromise due process, any new person sent may.”
Although Mr. Igini refused to speak on the subject matter, sources within the office said that the commission was not afraid and that it was set for the January rerun in the state. “You recalled that before the last general election, all these did play out,” it said, “our office in Ibesikpo Asutan Local Government Council was burnt. That did not deter the commission; vehicles that went to convey
materials in Obot Akara LGA were burnt. Still, we conducted elections. This commitment and integrity of the REC have made them to start these agitations again.
“If Igini conducted elections that IPAC, international observers and others attested to, as being free, fair and credible, except the APC, why can he not conduct same elections in a rerun?”According senior journalist in the state and onetime state chairman of Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Mr. Israel Umoh, “The feud between the two bodies may stem out of suspicion on the part of the APC. The way the APC is going about the whole issue seems they had ulterior motive, which was frustrated by INEC, thereby leading to this unending
rancor. The fear is that INEC has sympathy for PDP.
“INEC must be seen to be very impartial and APC must be seen as a party that has its own role to play. The feud is borne out of suspicion. It is unnecessary except APC has ulterior motives; that is when the party would be afraid. The feud between the two independent bodies is a serious distraction. APC has no right to dictate to INEC. INEC, in the first place, must be seen to be impartial and APC must be seen to be a political party that has a role to play and must show recognition to the authority of INEC in the conduct of elections”.