By Kenneth JUDE
The 2019 general elections may have come and gone, but echoes from the polls are still reverberating across the country with the courts having been besieged by those who lost out, but feel the process was manipulated against them.
In many states, the story is the same. Governorship, House and National Assembly elections remain issues of strong contestation with those who won seemingly sitting on the edge of their seats as the courts are getting set to give verdicts on the various cases on its table.
But while some politicians who felt they were unjustly treated at the polls are going through the legal processes to wrestle back what they have described as stolen mandates with facts, figures and a measure of level-headedness, others have inexplicably occupied themselves with the unwarranted, even futile attempts of tarring the umpires who oversaw the elections in their states with bad brush, claiming they are the ones that masterminded their failure at the polls.
A clear example of this misdirected missile is on the person of Barr. Mike Igini, the Akwa Ibom State Resident Electoral Commissioner who superintended over the last general elections in the state.
For reasons known only to the opposition All Progressives Congress in the state, the man Igini has come under intense vilification by the party and its members who insist, without any shred of shame it must be stated, that it was the man that caused their whiplash at the polls.
Not a few sane minds have been taken aback by this spurious, not to say kindergarten accusation given that an umpire’s duty is basically to ensure elections go on smoothly with all the materials needed for the process made available and as when due, while remaining impartial.
There is nobody who was here on election day, even prior to the polls, that will accuse the Igini led INEC in Akwa Ibom of not living up to his responsibility as far as conducting a free, fair and credible election was concerned. The man was never lax in his duties.
Igini, in order to disabuse the minds of many whose predilection for being mischievous is legendary, had taken pains, at every fora, to drum it into the ears of those who cared to listen that he was in Akwa Ibom State to conduct a free, fair and credible election where the winners and losers will be decided by voters. At no point did he mince words on this incontrovertible fact.
But the APC in Akwa Ibom, from their body language, unguarded, even warlike utterances, prior to the polls, would not take that. To them, they could only capture Akwa Ibom if Igini was yanked off as INEC boss here. The sincerity, dignity and uncompromising integrity of the man sent cold shivers down the spines of the perpetually raging APC members whose only stratagem for winning in Akwa Ibom was to be through an inhumanly rigged polls which, in their treacherous minds, was to end in three short hours! That, of course, would have found its way into the history books as the fastest election ever conducted anywhere in the world had such an unholy charade of a poll taken place here.
The fear of Mike Igini by members of the APC beggared belief in the run up to the polls. In fact, the party pulled all the stops, applied all the tricks in its dubious books to have the man redeployed to another state before the elections all to no avail. At a point, when all their evil schemes hit the rocks, they sold a dummy that Igini had been redeployed to Bayelsa State. They hired a slew of social media hawks who circulated the fake news as though it were some hot cake.
But alas, the story, as it were, was false in roots, stem and branches. It was all a badly cooked meal by the APC desperate goons all in a bid to force the authorities to hearken to their evil plot of removing Igini so they can embark on a rigging spree that, again, would have ended in just three hours. That, of course, would have been nothing short of magical. Wouldn’t it?
To date, it is befuddling, if not preposterous that after they were massively rejected by the people, the APC has continued to blame Mike Igini for its woes at the polls. This is an election that both local and foreign observers all adjudged to have been credible. In fact, not a few observers have reckoned the last general elections as the best ever conducted in Akwa Ibom State.
But the APC, given that they were at the receiving end of that crushing but simple democratic defeat, are understandably seething with rage on no other person but the man that presided over the polls. By their continued hollow arguments and wobbly missiles hurled at Igini, the APC makes no pretense that they relish the self-imposed expedition of chasing shadows in lieu of substance to no end.
For the avoidance of doubt, the man Mike Igini is a man whose name in electoral matters remain a byword for forthrightness and integrity. He has an incontestable, verifiable track record of being above board. Anywhere he has served as electoral umpire, Igini has left no one in doubt that he is one of few Nigerians who cannot trade his famed principles on the altar of filthy lucre. I dare say, without any fear of contradiction, that Mike Igini is one the most respected RECs INEC has in its books.
He shocked many, especially those who are often goaded to think that what money cannot do, more money can do, when he told the world — in emphatic terms — that he came to Akwa Ibom to count votes not money. To say that the moneybags were stupefied by this searing statement from Igini is to state the obvious.
Let’s hear him: “I have not come here to count money. I only came here to count ballot papers. Those who want me to compromise the process are the ones shouting out there. I can tell you that those looking for compromise in the process are the ones who are also calling for my removal. Why would you remove a man who says he wants to give everybody equal opportunity?” Igini asked rhetorically.
Mr. Mike Igini is not given to double standards. He is not one to play ball, bend the rule or pander to the whims and caprices of few greedy men for cash to the detriment of the collective good of the society and enhancement of democracy. This, the APC knew, hence their resort to crude tactics and barefaced machinations to get him off the way so they could engage in their rigging binge. But all that came crashing like a pack of badly arranged cards that defines the APC here.
What Igini has going for him that cannot be traded for a mess of pottage is his integrity which he flaunts with flourish anywhere he goes. A Students Union President in the University of Benin in his undergraduate days, Barr. Mike Igini it was who midwifed a change of power from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State to the All Progressives Congress (APC) for which Adams Oshiomhole was a chief beneficiary. Despite the tension that hung in the air at the time, Igini stood his ground and conducted an election that was commended by all.
Let me also say here that Igini was among the senior INEC officials deployed to Imo State to supervise the 2015 rerun election. In fact, when about five INEC officials conducting the rerun polls in the state reportedly engaged in electoral heist, it was Mike Igini that ordered for their arrest. He was the Edo State INEC REC at the time.
What is more, the foregoing have been deliberately highlighted in order for discerning minds to glean from and know the character traits of Barr. Mike Igini, the man the APC in Akwa Ibom, led by their defeated warlord, Godswill Akpabio, have needlessly kept attacking on the unfounded claims that he rigged the last polls in favour of PDP.
Let it be known once again that the APC lost fair and square in Akwa Ibom during the February/March 2019 elections. This is not contestable. The people who have always voted for the Peoples Democratic Party since 1999 kept the culture given that that is the only party they know.
Those who boasted of winning election on any platform were shown the power of the people in choosing leaders. That is the rude shock for which Akpabio and his broom brothers are yet to come to grips with. But rather than continue their ill-advised and ill- motivated mission of attacking Mr. Mike Igini, the APC should invest that energy into building their structureless party in the state and hope for better electoral fortunes in future, because the lane they are treading now will further plunge their ramshackle roof as party into the abyss of irredeemable ruination.
Will they listen?