I do not know what drives Mike Igini, the Akwa Ibom State Resident Commissioner of INEC. But I know that whatever it is, is certainly not noble and unequivocally belongs to base instinct with associated potential for irrationality which gives rise to aberrant behaviour. This conduct has continued to question his moral credentials vis-a-vis the curious sanctimonious pontifications often credited to him. Is it the case of the more you look, the less you see? The dubiety in his actions sadly points to this and unravels him as a double.
Recently, Igini has been in the news for the wrong reasons. Not that he has not always been in the news. But he has hardly been in the news for the right reasons. In 2019, he consistently made screaming headlines in newspapers, not for doing his work with any contour of excellence, but for patently demonstrating open partisanship in an electoral process that he was expected to be an impartial or neutral umpire. Alleged to be on the payroll of the establishment in the State, Mike Igini acted with horrendous impunity. He cancelled results at will and announced what suited his fancy and that of his collaborators. He was the Alpha and Omega, with the power to probate and reprobate. Contestants deferred to him in awe and establishment backing for him was as formidable as the Rock of Gibraltar. And Igini got away with all the infractions he perpetrated.
What happened in 2019 has again emboldened him to commence the institution of another round of threat to democracy in Akwa Ibom State. This time, Igini wants to set the stage to make some parties ineligible to field governorship candidates. What he stands to gain in such an unwholesome plot, which would bring implosion upon the State, is still a subject of curiosity. Is it money? Is it hate for Godswill Akpabio, which he does with unbridled relish? Is it hate for APC; a party he treats with undisguised contempt and scorn to the extent of forgetting that he is an umpire that cannot afford to show open partisanship?
Igini is a lover of press conferences and correspondences. He takes to them all the time to ventilate his position on matters. Recently, he is quoted to have misled the public into the delusion that APC has no governorship candidate. He is alleged to have sent a report to National INEC in Abuja stating this ill conceived claim. And since he made this statement, many warped persons have been celebrating, without bothering what would happen to the State should this evil machination come to pass, God forbid!
Igini in his report, is quoted to have said that the Congress which nominated Obong Akan Udofia as the APC gubernatorial candidate did not hold at the venue scheduled and, therefore, the outcome cannot be accepted as valid. The Congress was a party’s event, not INEC. The party has the prerogative to choose where to hold its event, its only obligation to INEC is information on the event and venue and which place serves the party on this matter better? Is it its office or a rented event centre, which terrain and crevices they may not fully know in the case of any eventuality? The Congress was held at No 6 Ekpo Obot which is the State office of APC, so what is wrong with that?
Igini has insinuated that since he, as INEC official, did not monitor the exercise, the outcome is a nullity. I am not a lawyer to venture into the nuances of the law on this matter, but I can volunteer my opinion as a layman, who understands and can communicate at-least in passable english. The provision of the Electoral Act on this matter is clear and unambiguous. It insists on notification to INEC within a stipulated time and uses the word “may” on the matter of attendance and monitoring. This makes the aspects of attendance and monitoring discretional and not a compulsion. As a matter of fact, Igini is not the only INEC official vested with responsibility to monitor compliance. Others can do the same thing. Igini had long shown the legally validated Ntukekpo-led State EXCO of the party, that he is prejudiced and partisan in favour of the contending group. As a result of this, the State Chairman is said to have petitioned Igini to the appropriate quarters of the party and INEC.
It is on record that many times, the Ntukekpo-led EXCO has forwarded or delivered correspondences to Igini, he has many times correspondingly rebuffed and rejected the correspondences, stating unequivocally that he does not recognise Ntukekpo-led EXCO, even when the Court had pronounced them as the authentic EXCO. This led to the recourse of the Ntukekpo-led EXCO devising a direct working with INEC at the National level. I have it on good authority that two INEC officials from the National body monitored the Congress and had since submitted their reports accordingly.
To know that Igini is a lawyer and he is making such ultra vires pronouncements, is to say the least disappointing. But it is proof that hate and perhaps inducement have the potential to becloud and sway a once cerebral mind from cutting edge thought processes. Otherwise, how does one reconcile the fact that the major political parties in the State had experienced certain degrees of crises in their primaries, yet Igini’s interest is in only one. We have never heard Igini make any comment or pronouncement on the crisis that beset the ruling party in the State by leading to a boycott of the primaries by aspirants and a parallel Congress by one of them. Or is his monitoring for substantial compliance not extended to PDP? His vile interest is wholly in the APC, which he without any guise, seeks its destruction. If he succeeds in this perditious cause, he would deny Akwa Ibom people the ideals of robust democracy which provides choices for the electorate. This is not about APC or PDP, but about the rights of the people, voting franchise and the need to protect our democracy from dubious and mercantile dictators who want to use their offices to satiate anti-social needs and ignoble quests.
But his evil scheme shall never see the light of the day. Akan Udofia shall contest election as APC candidate, having won the primary in a squeaky clean and transparent process that saw his popularity speak for him. My appeal is that those other contestants should know that only one person could emerge as the winner. The office of the governor can be equated with the axiom, “in my father’s house, there are many mansions.” There would be enough for all of them. It is time to sheathe the sword, close ranks and collectively work towards clinching the mandate to take over Hilltop Mansion. That should be the single-minded devotion of all genuine APC faithful and not the infighting that distracts and detracts their focus.
*** Joe Iniodu is a public affairs analyst.