Opinion

A’Ibom election malpractice: INEC’S arraignment of lecturers gives hope for electoral reform

 

Kenneth Oko

The outcome of the 2019 election in Akwa Ibom has continued to be a night mare that has stolen sleep from the eyes of All Progressives Congress (APC) members, as they never believed that the voices of the people are more powerful than the voice of federal might.
Since then, they are have become very unsettled and confused, and sometimes make statements that offend even the devil.
Although their frustrations are quite understood by the people, but they should not always attempt to make false statements against revered personalities in the state all in an attempt to garner sympathy.
For the APC in Akwa Ibom to still bear grudges against the state’s Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mike Igini is unbecoming, although psychologically, it is difficult to live with the fact that one has failed woefully.
On Saturday September 19, 2020, the Akwa Ibom APC in their usual characteristic manner published a press statement where they called for the prosecution of Akwa Ibom Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mike Igini.
The call came just after the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) Office in Akwa Ibom announced that the electoral body was set to arraign some university lecturers who were engaged as collation and returning officers during the 2019 general elections.
The lecturers, according to INEC, were alleged to have manipulated and falsified election results aimed at producing outcomes contrary to the will of the people as expressed through the ballot.
INEC has already sacked three of its staff found guilty of such malpractice.
Raged by this act, the APC in Akwa Ibom through a press release signed by its Publicity Secretary, Nkereuwem Enyongekere called for the head of Mike Igini, accusing him of colluding with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) during the election and recruiting electoral officers that according to them were members of the PDP when in fact they were the people who wanted the REC to take a list of APC members as collation and Returning officers.
However, this is indeed laughable. A Commission that took steps to review the activities of its staff after the election and dismissed them for wrong doing should be applauded and not castigated.
In the history of elections in Nigeria, this is the first time that such calibre of people as professors would be made to face trial over their criminal role in an election.
This is rare instance where the commission had to evaluate its performance, prosecute those involved in malpractice, just to correct errors hitherto existed in the system to serve as a deterrence. This is hope for democracy and electoral reform.
Why call for the arraignment of Mike Igini on grounds of recruiting PDP members as electoral officers during the 2019 Elections even after he had called the APC leaders and press men to identify those officers that were PDP members before the election?
The APC couldn’t mention anyone, and till today they have failed to do so, yet still holding to same false allegation just to smear the name of a man whose record of integrity affirmed by Nigerians.
It’s rather unfortunate that the lecturers the APC claimed were working for the PDP were actually those involved in fraudulent conduct of altering election results to favour the APC.
It’s shameful. Where a crime is committed and justice is celebrated, no one cares to look at faces, sympathies or party affiliations, and so the academics who were presumed to be men of integrity but got themselves involved in using biro to change the will of the people should face the music.
It’s still fresh in our memory when the REC for Akwa Ibom assembled all political parties and challenged them to identify POs, APOs and NYSC members they alleged were PDP members but they could not identify any on that day.
Instead, they attempted to bribe him, he rebuked them sternly, and re-echoed that he didn’t come to Akwa Ibom to count money, but votes.
Instead for the APC to strategize on how to win, they were busy boasting of how they would use federal might to win election in three hours. The PDP then took advantage of the APC’s folly to embark on a house-to-house campaign, which informed their overwhelming victory at the poll.
Today, they are still crying over the self-inflicted abysmal failure of the party. They still have the guts to mention that Igini recruited PDP members as collation/returning officers when Igini had absolutely nothing to do with the names shortlisted.
What they wanted was for Igini to allow them submit a list of Collation officers by themselves. An immoral proposal that the REC said was absolutely unacceptable.
During the election, ballot materials were distributed to all polling units with complete original result sheets, the first in the history of election in Akwa Ibom State.
The APC became destabilized by this transparent move, and sent their thugs to hijack some of the materials to private residences for mass rigging.
And when the REC got information about the malpractice perpetrated by the APC, he cancelled all the results suspected to be products of the malpractice. Till today, this has remained the only crime of Igini.
The APC should go and bury their heads in shame and leave Igini alone.
Igini didn’t do anything wrong to stand for justice, equity and fair play. There is nothing wrong for a man to have the conscience to reject money and more money just to correct errors in our electoral system.
The APC couldn’t make any case at the tribunal appeal court as they became more confused as they have always been, and they lost finally at the supreme Court.
*Kenneth Oko, a political and public affairs analyst, writes from Uyo.

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