Dr. Blessing Agbomhere is the South-South Organising Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview monitored on Arise Television, he speaks on the crisis rocking the party’s governorship and senatorial primary elections in Akwa Ibom State and why the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Resident Electoral Commissioner in the state, Mike Igini, should be removed. ANAYO EZUGWU reports
What are your reasons for demanding the removal of Mike Igini as INEC’s Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Akwa Ibom State?
As the Organising Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the South-South geopolitical zone, I was the one, who actually called for the resignation of Igini because I believe that he has violated section 26 of the Electoral Act 2022. If you study section 26 of the Electoral Act, it talks about impartiality, it talks about non-bias and it talks about loyalty to the commission and not to any individual.
But I can bet you and I can prove to you that Igini, so far, has displayed that he is not working for the commission but working for certain forces, and let me be specific, working for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Akwa Ibom State. And let me put this on authority and if Igini thinks I’m lying, he can dispute it, Igini is a ceremonial consultant to the Governor of Akwa Ibom State.
So, he does not work for INEC. Igini has compromised the values of INEC with his conduct and acts in the state. Let me tell you again, if you don’t know Igini very well, Igini has been REC to Edo State, Igini has been a REC to Cross River State and today he is working as REC in Akwa Ibom State.
If you follow Igini’s antecedents in those states, you would understand that so far his conduct in INEC has been that of a hatchet man hired by the PDP to work for them at INEC. In Edo State, he fought against APC.
In Cross River State, he worked against APC and based on petitions from the party, Igini was transferred from those states to other states and finally landed in Akwa Ibom State. On Akwa Ibom politics, if you have followed it, what is happening today, people always talk about their rights without knowing that rights come with responsibility.
People always talk about laws without knowing that to every law there is an exception. Igini comes out every time on television and the question to ask is: Is Igini the only REC in Nigeria? How many RECs in Nigeria have you seen on television, shamelessly defending the positions of others or defending the positions of political parties as if they have a personal interest?
What Igini has displayed so far is that of a man who is in the ring and I will tell him that if he wants to be a politician, he should go and join one of the political parties and contest even the state House of Assembly election. What he has done so far is like a man who is running for election because in this case, I don’t even see Igini as working for the INEC.
Does that make Igini a less staff of INEC and how has he violated his position as a REC of the commission?
I see Igini as working for another party against our party. And he comes on public television while he is a public servant. For a public servant to come on public space and begin to defend the indefensible, to me, I see it as a compromise. Igini subscribes to an oath of impartiality but what he is doing today shows that he has become a father of partiality.
He has become biased and what he is doing is malice towards the APC, Godswill Akpabio and the candidates of our party in Akwa Ibom State. I don’t see Igini as fighting Akpabio, I believe Igini is working against the interest of APC, a party that I represent as the zonal organising secretary in the South-South.
What he has done so far showed that he has entered the ring as a member of the PDP because when you look at it, we have a viable candidate in Akwa Ibom State. Godswill Akpabio is a very viable candidate for the senatorial election for Akwa Ibom North-West. Akan Udofia is one of the most popular individuals you can talk of locally and internationally in Akwa Ibom State and he is our candidate for the governorship election.
My question is this, why is Igini so particular he has agreed that in other positions we have candidates but in these positions we are ready to win and that we are on our way to winning are the areas where Igini has an interest.
He has not just displayed this interest secretly he has come to the open to display his hatred for our party but his hatred for Akan Udofia and his hatred for Godswill Akpabio. For me, this is beyond Godswill Akpabio, it is beyond Akan Udofia, it is about my party. Igini cannot dictate for our party and even INEC does not have the powers to dictate to our party.
What exactly is the offence of Mike Igini?
Igini claimed that he conducted the senatorial primary on the 27th of May but I must inform you that APC did not conduct its senatorial primaries on the 27th. It was widely published and our primary for the Senate was conducted on Saturday, May 28.
So, where did Igini conduct his own primaries that produced his own candidates? As we speak today, Igini has a candidate he is parading for our party. Is it Igini who should parade a candidate for our party or our party that should parade its own candidate?
You said Mike Igini is a ceremonial consultant to Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom; what do you mean by that and how far have you taken the case?
Have you petitioned INEC about this violation?
Yes, we have written a petition to INEC in this regard. When a man is indebted and he is desperate to redeem his debt, that man can go to any length to redeem his debt and that is what Igini is doing. That was why I asked how many RECs across the country have you seen behaving like Igini?
Let me tell you; the position of INEC is not the position of Igini. INEC is a national agency of government that has a chairman and a spokesperson and Igini is not the spokesperson for INEC. I had a letter written by INEC to our party and also copied Igini that APC has a right to conduct primaries in the manner it wants to conduct its primaries.
But when there are issues to it, INEC is not a court of law, INEC does not have judicial powers to adjudicate on any matter that has to do with two persons.
If Igini comes with a candidate and we as a party says we have a candidate, whose candidate will INEC accept as the candidate. By the time you are going into that, you are diving into the process of the judiciary because we have to forfeit section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by ensuring that you follow the doctrine of calling both sides to hear from them.
And by the time you are doing that you are already performing a function that is not of INEC.
So, what Igini is doing today is that he is generating a candidate for us and it will interest you to even know that the particular primary he is referring to was a primary that was conducted by him with an unknown delegate lists of the party because in Akwa Ibom State there is a party chairman.
The party chairman is like the administrator of the party in that particular state and our party chairman followed up with a specific primary which was conducted on May 28 and not May 27.
Since you petitioned INEC, what responses did you get from the commission?
We are awaiting INEC’s position. We have done the needful by submitting the names of our candidates to INEC and the commission has a duty to accept them. If it refuses to accept them, we will compel it by the instrumentality of the law to accept them. We know the law and we follow the law.
You said Igini is a ceremonial consultant to Akwa Ibom State governor on election matters; can you prove it?
As I said, Igini subscribed to an oath of allegiance to INEC and INEC has a code of conduct. The code of conduct of INEC stipulates that an INEC official or INEC staff should behave in every matter that has to do with elections. But you can see the activities and performances of Igini.
Let me explain something to you, on May 28 when we had our primary election, there was disruption because Akpabio was contesting in the senatorial election in Akwa Ibom and a few other aspirants.
There were disruptions and as a result of that, there was a police report to the fact that there was disruption of that election. Our party decided to reschedule that election and re-conduct the election. Even if you go to the Electoral Act, section 24 gives room for postponement of elections.
But somebody emerged in that election on May 28…
Nobody emerged and even if someone emerged, was he the person Igini is parading about. Igini is not even making reference to that primary. And now there was a reconduct of that primary and INEC was duly notified of a re-conduct and there is evidence to that but I can tell you that even when INEC was notified, Igini refused to accept the letter of notification that we have to send the letter to INEC headquarters in Abuja.