The presence of Barr. Mike Igini in Akwa Ibom state as the Resident Electoral Commissioner(REC) marked a watershed in the history of how election should be conducted. Before now, what characterized elections in the state were high profile manipulations and rigging orchestrated by Akpabio and his group . This is what lgini stopped in the 2019 election wherein all sensitive election materials like ballot papers and result sheets were audited by party agents and accredited observers before they were taken to the 31 LGAs. They were equally escorted down to polling units across the state by political parties, unlike previous years when results sheets were often hijacked by Akpabio and his group. They were also known for writing results by allocating votes, and lNEC were made to declare same on behalf of the people of Akwa lbom State. This is what has changed in the 2019 election that Akpabio and surprisingly many politicians in APC who had been the victims of election rigging under his watch as a governor are against, and the reason for the shameful call for the removal of lgini. But heaven ignored their prayer and now they are at it again, repeating the same call in the wake of the re-ordered election in his Local Government where he perpetuated massive rigging that the court canceled. Now he is issuing threat to lNEC that if lgini is not removed, he would boycott the rerun in Essien Udim. Why should a candidate out of several others in a court ordered election be giving orders and conditions for INEC to meet before participating in election ? Why should good and upright people like lgini be sacrificed and hounded by reprobate characters in our society?why should we remove good people because of bad people ?
In far away US where a widely acknowledged good public servant was removed by President Trump based on smear campaign by corrupt politicians, it triggered outrage in US and around the world. The congress has commenced impeachment inquiry against Trump because of the need to protect public officers with good reputation. Nigerians are waiting to see how Prof Mahmoud Yakubu will support the removal of lgini as a condition for Akpabio’s participation in the expected rerun in his own LGA, the only place where election was ordered to be conducted out of 31 LGAs in Akwa lbom. Is that not a huge dent on Akpabio ?
Nigerians would recall that similar moves were made before the general elections in 2019. Akwa Ibom people cannot forget in a hurry the tension caused by Senator Akpabio and his gang in the build-up to the election; how they intimidated everyone with the boast of “federal might”. They even threatened their opponents and INEC officials, called for the redeployment of the state INEC REC, Mike Igini and threatened to bomb his vehicle. People were sent to burn Ibesikpo Asutan INEC office while bomb blast grounded Mkpat Enin INEC office.
But against all odds, the elections came and were conducted . Igini resisted their alleged multi- billion naira financial inducement, which led to the now famous cerebral words of wisdom from lgini that “ he came to Akwa lbom to count votes and not to count money” . This is uncommon and a rarity in a rotten society like ours where everything can be sold and bought with money including justice. They threatened Igini’s life but he stood his ground and ensured that the votes of Akwa Ibomites counted, against the wicked desire of Akpabio’s style of writing election results. This man, lgini, returned power to the ordinary people of Akwa Ibom by making ballot papers and results sheets available for all who wanted to vote. Traditional rulers, religious leaders, past leaders like Obong victor Attah, civil society groups, the overwhelming “ordinary “ men and women, young and old in Akwa lbom were all happy with lgini and prayed God to preserve him, bless him and his generation.
Around Akwa Ibom and Nigeria, people who had been in contact with Akpabio would always say that they’re yet to find any person that can turn down Akpabio’s offer of compromise that he had been deploying to survive up to this point. This has been his stock in trade. He buys people over without sweat. He allows more money to speak for him according to his evil philosophy of “what money cannot do, more money can do”.
Has any one ever asked who Akpabio was before he was brought to the state by Obong Victor Attah?
He wasn’t known before he joined politics as an achiever. But shortly after he got his first appointment as a commissioner, he started embezzling money, he used this money to sustain his ego and popularity. He used money to buy a large followership base when he was in the saddle in the state which he misconstrued as sign of love and popularity. He blinded the eyes of so many because of money and almost became a god that people were worshipping.
They couldn’t say no to his evil doing. He was celebrated rather than rebuked.
Many people, even a former civilian president in this country once said that whenever there was any project and Akpabio’s donation or support was solicited and perhaps you expect N100m from him , Akpabio would bring N1bn and that he bought almost everyone around the villa.
But until what happened in Akwa Ibom took place, when lgini said no to him that even one trillion naira cannot change the collective will expressed in the ballot, he never believed that anyone could resist him not even under the threat of death. Igini’s consistency still gave some little hope that there are people in our present society that still upholds principles for public interest and public good. Compromise and corruption are things that have sustained Akpabio even till today.
On the issue of the rerun in Essien Udim, they are already making false claim of 105,555 registered voters in Essien Udim ,as if all the voters are exclusively for Akpabio. He wants access to result sheets to write the results and this can only be possible if lgini who will not allow that to happen is removed. He is already shopping for a REC that they’ll compromise to concoct results in his favor in line with his old way of life. In what way did Igini contribute to his colossal defeat other than insisting on electoral due process? In any case, despite all the wailings, he has not specifically mentioned one particular wrong doing by lgini against his interest. What are the specifics or particulars of the fraud he has been crying about in social media ?
For God’s sake, INEC under the watch of Igini is unbiased, transparent and strict in complying with the laid down electoral procedures , especially in the diligent accreditation of voters through the use of card readers.
Akpabio is trying to blame his woes on INEC and at the same time, trying to elicit sympathy from the ‘federal brethren’.
There’s no one in Akwa Ibom who said that materials were taken to the home of any politician for massive rigging in favor of any political party by Mike Igini. No one said so, and even members of his party have not said something like that. The REC himself was never in any of the polling units before, during or after the election. Even during the Tribunal after INEC made the electoral materials available for all the parties, the REC from reports took his official leave out of the country throughout the duration of the tribunal.
Akpabio desperately needs a REC that will give him election results to allocate result to himself. He needs someone to rig the election for him.
It would be recalled that during the build up to the 2019 general election, Akpabio singlehandedly with the former IGP ldris transferred a total of 7 commissioners of police. It got to a ridiculous point when in one day alone Akwa had 3 Commissioners of Police removed in the morning, in the afternoon another announced and by evening removed for another one from Sokoto. They did this so that they’ll be able to hijack election materials with the cooperation of their security agents. This was done on the eve of the election when Akpabio and his group unknown to them that INEC had in place a tracking system manned by personnel in its situation room, embarked on to hijack ad hoc staff and election materials. Igini, according to report placed a call to Akpabio and challenged him why he has to do so and that election would not be conducted in his LGA. He pleaded and pleaded and agreed that he would return the ad hoc staff to the centers, which he did around 12 midnight till 1am. He called back that he had returned the ad hoc staff, but by then, some of the results had been removed. No wonder he promised to deliver Akwa lbom in three hours on Election Day. He boasted but his entire plan was in jeopardy, and that is why he wants lgini removed at all cost. Testimonies of some witnesses including electoral officials at the tribunal, revealed that the police indeed aided the atrocities that Akpabio unleashed on his people in Essien Udim. This has been his style. He manipulates people and figures. He needs someone to rig the election for him,”a close aide confided.
Nigerians at this point, want to see how their unethical requests would be heeded by INEC.
Justice, equity and fairplay will be enthroned in the ordered rerun in Essien Udim. Akpabio who is planning to boycott the rerun is doing so because he cannot withstand the uncompromising disposition of Mike, the son of Igini, a man in whom Akwa lbom people and Nigerians are well pleased.
Richard Peters is a Public Affairs Analyst and writes in from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.