Ufok M. Ibekwe
“A lazy man will always blame his poverty on witchcraft”
The Akwa Ibom State Resident Electoral Commissioner Mr. Mike Igini is currently facing barrels of heavy attacks from the APC. He is being accused of manipulating the just concluded general elections in the state in favour of the PDP. The APC is effing mad at Igini and wants him crucified or cast away as an unwanted article. But the man ‘dey kamkpe’ and going about his normal duties unperturbed.
In his reaction, Mr Igini described the allegations against him as false, laughable, baseless and fabricated by the very people who wanted to lure him into manipulating the electoral process in their favour, but he refused.
Igini’s trouble with the APC is not a sudden one. It started some weeks before the commencement of the general elections on February. Some APC top brass in the state had vigorously canvassed for the removal of the state REC alluding to his perceived friendly posture with the PDP. Obviously, those leading the campaign for his removal were people who feared that the reality on ground will not yield victory in their favour if Mr Igini remains and run the elections in the state.
His no nonsense integrity conscience was probably their nightmare and his feet of truth their biggest worry. The rare moral fibre and uncompromising contents of Igini’s character may not have aligned with the APC’s election day strategy which perhaps had some ‘Warsaw’ or black-market contents.
Before the February 23rd rescheduled presidential polls, it was strongly rumoured that he was primed for redeployment to Bayelsa. There were series of demonstrations, petitions and even a phony court action all designed to pile pressure on the top for the REC to be kicked out, but that did not happen. Mr Igini remained and conducted all the elections in Akwa Ibom successfully.
A quick background check on Igini personality will reveal a dominant character trait anchored on acute sense of justice and fairness. As a lawyer and activist with a human rights background, he probably must have thoroughly read the electoral Act and other important laws governing elections in the country and comprehended them well. To that extent, he understood his rights and responsibilities including his limitations.
His service record at his various work stations including Edo and cross rivers state as REC is said to reflect him as an exceptional public servant whose moral compass is very sound and ticking.
Mr Igini without doubt is a very smart and intelligent man with great knowledge of all the curves and dangerous pits of Nigerian politics. He is also a man who is street wise and richly endowered with sharp instinct for survival. His staff and people who have worked closely with him say he loves straight talks and hates velvet euphemisms. To him there is no other synonym for a spade-so he calls a spade a spade.
Igini’s reaction to the allegations levelled against him by the APC gives a small window to pip and see his character contents. He was swift, sure and candid. The man emphasized on his neutrality during the entire electoral process and challenge anybody to impeached it with credible evidence.
The REC noted that the era when politicians were writing elections results had ended in Akwa Ibom. According to him, it was the common practice before now for politicians to carry result sheets to their houses to fix figures and submit to INEC. He said that this time around, the elections were won and lost at the 2.980 polling unit across the state.
“What they used to do in time past is to write results but it is now that they allow people to vote their conscience…The era of writing results on behalf of the good people of Akwa Ibom is gone forever,”.
Mr Igini went further to say that the very people calling for his removal actually tried to make him compromise and manipulate the elections in their favour but he refused. He narrated how he was persuaded to attend a meeting with them outside the country to cement a deal that will give them victory in the elections but he declined.
“The very people who wanted me to compromise are the ones who are accusing me. They are the ones who wanted me to travel abroad to hold a secret meeting with them and I said no. I said why do you want to go abroad and discuss the affairs of an electoral process outside Nigeria? Why do you want me to enter aeroplane and go to where? If you want to have a meeting with me, come to my office”.
He wondered why they would want to remove a man who says. “I want to give everybody an equal opportunity, equal chance and there is no evidence so far of any compromise of any kind because I carry everybody along”.
Mr Mike Igini is obviously a man of capacity and purpose driven nature. His appointment as State REC was also a good choice. His intellectual acumen and sense of professionalism are some of the personal traits that stands him out wherever he goes.
Sometime in October, 2018, during the 14th All Nigeria Editors’ Conference opened in Asaba, Delta State. Mike Igini, was delegated by the INEC Chairman Professor Mahmood who was billed to speak at the event to stand in for him. Mike’s presentation at the event was superb which explains why he got a standing ovation at the end of his address.
Mr. Tonnie Iredia, who chaired the opening session simply describe Mr Igini as INEC’s encyclopaedia of electoral information.
Without doubt, the Akwa Ibom REC is one of the best hands presently in electoral commission. Although his work ethics is a big threat to corrupt and selfish politicians, he deserves accolades from every believer in true democracy.
It is the humble opinion of this writer who actively participated and voted in the elections in his unit in Akwa Ibom, that the just concluded elections in the state was the freest and fairest since 1999. Although there were reported cases of thugs imported from outside the state to disrupt the election and make the exercise inconclusive, security operatives were able to arrest the intruders to allow the elections to run smoothly.
The African proverb cited at the beginning of this piece is very instructive with regards to the outcome of the recent general elections in Akwa Ibom under the supervision of Mike Igini as the state REC. While the hard-working party that campaigned and mobilised its members won and thank God for blessing its efforts, the lazy one lost because it took things for granted by refusing to do the needful.
The overall strategy adopted by the APC in the elections became its undoing. Any political party that neglects mobilization and synthetization of its supporters before elections is heading for its doom.
Apart from the mass rallies, the PDP effectively penetrated all the veins and arteries of the state in its campaign. It also used townhall meetings to mobilize and synthetize its supporters. The townhall meetings were held in local government headquarters, wards and units’ centres to educate supporters on their party symbol and candidates running for each position.
The women also did what they called door to door campaign. This was one critical aspect of the elections the APC neglected probably because its over dependence on the so-called federal might and other unorthodox strategies.
The APC people failed to realise that an average local supporter and fan of Senator Akpabio who does not listen to radio, watch television or read newspapers only knew Akpabio with the umbrella symbol. Many of those local villagers simply assumed on election day that they were voting for Akpabio and his party, but they thumb printed the umbrella instead of the broom.
The elites knew of Akpabio’s defection to APC, but the local palm wine tapper who has always known him with the umbrella was not informed that he had abandoned it to carry the broom.
The APC’s game plan was the major cause of its defeat. You cannot use an old obsolete political playbook for a modern-day competitive election such as the just concluded one and expect to get the same result you got in 2011 or 2015.
You cannot even blame the match day referee for your loss by attacking him with allegations of bias or fraud when it is very clear to all that you are just a tragic victim of self-inflicted injury.
I consider the cry of crucify Igini by the APC as unwarranted and diversionary. Although there are no perfect elections anyway in the world, the just concluded general elections in Akwa Ibom was no doubt one election where transparency and fairness manifested.
Therefore the call for the crucifixion of the state REC by APC lack merit and should be dismissed as the antics of a vanquished paper tiger. In essence, between the person who invited Mr. Mike Igini to enter an aeroplane and travel abroad to discuss election matters and the man who refused to enter the aeroplane and preferred the meeting to be held in his office, who should be crucified? The answer is obvious