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The strength of Mike Igini’s character is the last defense of our electoral system Part 2

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By Celestine Mel

Since the publication of the first part of this intervention twenty-four hours ago, I have gotten strident calls to publish this concluding part, to shed light on the rumbles in Akwa Ibom between APC and INEC. Here we go.

Mike Igini did not only conduct the 2019 election in Akwa Ibom, he insisted that every vote must count and be counted. He was unruffled by the mass of threats to his life and his convenience. He stood up against a band of political rouges to ensure that fictitious votes that were normally harvested in places like my own LGA of Essien Udim (and my village of Ikot Inyang Udo), were cancelled and discarded. At the result collation, Mike simply instructed that the number of accredited voters registered in the hard drives of the biometric card-readers, be cross-checked with the number of votes cast. The machines were checked.

Lo and behold, most of the machines had zero accredited voters. The politicians simply took these machines and materials to their houses/ private locations, paid people to thumb-print and fill the ballot boxes, paid the polling officials to write fictitious results, paid the police to look away as they sexed up the figures and allocated the votes to themselves. They were not bothered by any _mumu_ card-reader. They might have as well said, _wetin be card-reader sef? Who e epp ?_

It was a time-tested method that had been used over and again successfully, in several elections. It had never failed. The method was like what gamblers in Nigeria call a *_draw banker._* It worked every time. Until Mike Igini said, enough!

At the close of polling that year, they drove to submit the crime to Mike Igini, who was waiting adroitly with the fangs of an angry python to disrobe, strip and expose their odoriferous enterprise of shame. He predictably struck and shattered the machinations of the unrighteous. No gainsaying that those who relied on the single-point-of-failure for stealing and stuffing ballot boxes to declare themselves winners, were left in the quandary. They lost out _bigly_ (in Donald Trump’s voice). The rest is history.

Not done, Mike Igini insisted that those who attempted to facilitate the subversion of the electoral process, must be prosecuted.

In March 2021, Professor Peter Ogban of the Department of Soil Science in University of Uyo – who was the INEC returning officer for Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District in the 2019 election and who confessed to being induced to falsify the figures in the failed bid to steal the election by the APC against Dr. Chris Ekpenyong of the PDP, was sentenced to thirty-six months imprisonment for the crime. A first in Nigeria.

Similarly, Ignatius Uduk, a Professor of Human Kinetics in the same University, who was the returning officer for the Essien Udim State Constituency, is standing trial for for alleged unlawful generation of election results in favor of the PDP against the APC, in the same election season. His trial has dragged on since then, due to cross appeals and winding judicial processes. But it is on course. No doubts, justice would be served. Prof. Uduk has not slept easy all of the past three years.

Instructively, the two professors each, tried to compromise the process for both APC and PDP. Herein therefore lies the senselessness in the current orchestrated hysteria by a section of the APC in Akwa Ibom State, against Mike Igini, who warned them long ago that they were on a slippery slope. Tellingly, those who are bankrolling the present *_destroy Igini campaign_*, were the same persons who bankrolled the last futile one. Rather than play by the rules, follow their own laid down processes, obey (or pretend to obey) the 2022 Electoral Act and simply do what is right, they stubbornly and strangely cooked up political tricks and manipulations to deceive themselves and the entire country, and are deploying media assets to convince everyone else that Igini is wrong to say no! Let us attempt to string together, the web of conspiracies and forgeries at the core of the matter in Akwa Ibom. It reads like a plot from Hollywood, complete with crime, suspense, conspiracy, abuse of state institutions, tricks, lies and deceit.

In 2021, the APC conducted congresses and conventions to elect leaders at all levels. In Akwa Ibom, Pastor James Akpanudoedehe, who was the national secretary, leveraged on his position to influence the choice of leaders for his party to further his plot to run for governor in 2023. From the Ward to the State congresses, the events which were internal affair of the APC, went on smoothly. INEC was invited to monitor as is statutorily required. INEC did. Winners emerged through a process that was deemed to be transparent.

A wing of the party which was financed by the immediate-past Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, developed late interest in the process. They lost out. But they didn’t give up.

The faction, staged a parallel State congress which was not monitored by INEC. To complete their fight-back, they forged the original copy of the Results Summary Sheet from the INEC-monitored State congress, changed the scores of the winner of the position of State Chairman – Mr. Augustine Ekanem, who had 1,278 votes to 278, by simply erasing the prefix 1 in front of the score. Then they introduced the same prefix 1 to the tally of Mr. Stephen Ntukekpo (the anointed Chairmanship candidates of the rival faction) whose original score was 006, but altered to 1,006. They then photocopied the forged results with the signatures of Mr. Sheriff Banki (who led a seven-man team from the APC headquarters to conduct the authentic congress that produced Augustine Ekanem as State Chairman), and sent the forgery straight to INEC Abuja for documentation. Banki protested the forgery. Other people dismissed it as a non-issue and Augustine Ekanem was sworn-in.

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By a sleight of the hand and other *_Nigerian things_* which might have corruptly gone down, the faction turned round and applied and got a stamped certified true copy of the same fake result from INEC Abuja and approached a Federal High Court Abuja, to pray that Mr. Stephen Ntukekpo (with altered highest votes of 1,006 votes) be declared the State Chairman.

The court, presided over by Justice Taiwo Taiwo, unaware of the crime and relying on the forged results as tendered, gave judgement on March 7, 2022, and declared that Mr. Ntukekpo was indeed the winner of the election and should be so inaugurated.

Upon the strange judgement of Justice Taiwo, parties moved the matter to the Court of Appeal Abuja, which declared that the status quo antebellum be maintained. APC Headquarters, under the new chairmanship of Senator Abdulahi Adamu, interpreted the status-quo order to mean that Ntukekpo was the new State Chairman. It went ahead to swear-in Stephen Ntukekpo to replace Augustine Ekanem. On the other hand, the opposite camp (and INEC Uyo) interpreted that the order meant that parties should revert to the position before the dispute, which supported an Augustine Ekanem chairmanship, pending the finalization of the appeal process.

INEC Uyo under the indefatigable REC Mike Igini, must have chuckled at the strange turn of events and therefore, dismissively thought that the entire scheme was an impossible crime which cannot stand. After all, they physically witnessed the process. They also had a clean copy of the results of the congress, which they filed with their headquarters and which should be sufficient to clear all doubts. They were wrong.

Subsequent events, including the so-called primaries that are in dispute, regarding APC candidates in Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District and the office of governor for 2023, held in total contravention of the letters and spirit of the 2022 Electoral Act, stem from the stranger-than-fiction events that I have struggled to chronicle above. The Stephen Ntukekpo-led State Exco of APC conducted nocturnal primary elections which were not monitored by INEC as required by the 2022 Act. Mike Igini told them that they should follow the procedures of their party and comply with the electoral act in the conduct of their primary elections. They simply refused and ignored him. And went ahead to submit names of supposed candidates to their headquarters in Abuja, which in turn filed same with INEC. Mike Igini faulted this. All hells broke loose.

In their characteristic manner, they are pushing with all their weight, expecting and hoping that something would give and Mike Igini, who has only few months left to retire, and who seems the only remaining barrier to validating the forgery and its byproducts, would be forced out. Since they have conquered the High Court, the national leadership of their party and some pliant insiders within INEC Abuja, it stands within their realm of expectation that Mike Igini would fall or be forced out.

The operators of APC Akwa ibom know that Mike Igini is an impenetrable fortress of truth, who would never buckle no matter the pressure. They also know that Nigeria is a society where might is right; where truth is dangerous; where justice can be bought and sold; where fighting corruption is hara-kiri and unrewarding. They have been carrying-on with the hidden assurance that some conspirators within the INEC system in Abuja, are by their side hence, the fixated aiming of their gun at Mike Igini and nobody else.

There are sufficient grounds to suspect that they have already secured the nod and approval of powerful collaborators within the INEC system, to finalize the execution of their plot against the Nigerian State, its laws and institutions. After all, a Federal High Court was fooled. Their multi-pronged strategy is to hit hard at mike Igini until people start to doubt his role and interest in the matter. They know that the character of Mike Igini was their Achilles heels in 2019. They feel they would not fail this time, if they just push hard enough, blackmail long enough and pay cash enough.

I wish to remind them that Mike Igini is not a stranger to standing up against bullying. His demeanor, frame and physical size, give nothing away regarding the towering size of his heart and the sky-scrapping height of his determination. He knows so well that every resource possible, including voodoo and the kitchen sink, would be thrown at him. He knows that youths, women, the media, security agencies, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., would be unleashed on him. He is prepared to take it all, like he has taken other attacks before, in defense of a country he loves.

It is bad enough that a high court judgement was procured with fake and falsified documents as reported by Premium Times here: https://www.premiumtimesng.com/…/525994-how-akpabio… . It would be worse if those who committed the crime are allowed to continue to pollute our environment with their putrid zero-sum agenda of hook or crook. It is a test-case for the new Chief Justice of Nigeria to unpack and unravel.

Also, there is need for the Chairman of INEC – Professor Mahmood Yusuf, to open inquiry into his insiders, to ascertain the roles they played in creating the stench in Akwa Ibom. There is rumour in the street that some agents from INEC Abuja monitored some of the disputed primaries. Who are they? Who sent them? Why did they bypass the state office? Again, who certified the true copy of the fake results that was relied upon by Justice Taiwo Taiwo to give the unmerited judgement? Who is sabotaging INEC?

In the end, Mike Igini has discharged himself as a patriot who has refused to allow a culture of corruption that has eaten up the soul of this country, to influence his discharge of his duties. It takes a lot of courage to say no, in thunder. He is the thunder, striking at the heart of merciless merchants of anarchy in the electoral system. He is my hero.

  • Mr. Mel is a chartered banker, project specialist and independent analyst. He writes from Abuja – FCT. He can be reached for Feedback:
    WhatsApp Only – 08088188805
    Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/owydoho.Idio
    Twitter – melfication Email – [email protected]

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