By Harris-Okon Emmanuel
UYO- Senator-elect for Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District (Akwa Ibom North-West), Dr. Chris Ekpenyong, has warned former governor Godswill Akpabio, to stop the campaign of blackmail and intimidation against the Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom state capital.
Speaking in an interview in Uyo, Ekpeyong said Akpabio should be charged for contempt “for continuing to stampede the tribunal with a view to forcing it to change the course of justice”.
The former deputy governor who contested the poll on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), defeated incumbent Senator Akpabio of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the February 23, 2019 elections.
Akpabio, currently contesting the outcome of the exercise, had alleged that the authority of the tribunal was denying his counsels unfettered access to inspect the ballot materials used in the conduct of the polls.
According to Akpabio, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mr. Mike Igini, compromised and rigged the election in favour of the PDP.
Ekpenyong, who defeated him with over 118,000 votes as against Akpabio’s over 83,000 votes, faulted the allegation, saying the INEC REC, Igini, imbibed best practices in the conduct and delivery of the polls in the state.
He said, “Akpabio has never won any free and fair election on a level playing field since 2007 when he became the governor of this state because I was one of the 57 aspirants that stood the election with him and I knew he did not win.
“I only had to allow peace a chance so people wouldn’t begin to think I was fighting my brother from the same Federal Constituency, so I had to concede and move on thinking he would deploy the wealth of the state to address the challenges of underdevelopment plaguing the rural communities and the poor people of the state.
“The election has been won and lost and this is the best elections ever conducted in the state since 2007. Therefore, for him to have accused Igini, a man of excellent track-record in public service over the years to have compromised, even when the people actually voted for those they wanted, is the height of blackmail.
“I have never met Igini for once before the elections. I was only forced to meet him when I was drafted by the people of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District to run in his stead when he (Akpabio) abandoned the PDP and fled for cover in APC.
“When he fled to the APC, he had boasted that elections would be concluded in just three hours and I asked Igini whether there would be any level playing field to guarantee a free and fair contest with this kind of statement from Akpabio.
“I had to enter the race when Igini assured me that elections would be won at the units and not in people’s homes as it used to be since 2007. So the people have spoken concerning what God said would be the case in Akwa Ibom in 2019 and there is no amount of blackmail and propaganda that can change that unanimous resolution.
“Therefore, I am not the one that defeated him, only God and the people of Akwa Ibom state said no to his strangle-hold on power that has seen real development being subdued in politics of sentiment since 2007 in Akwa Ibom”, he said.
He, therefore, urged the tribunal to disregard Akpabio’s intimidating antics and follow the case dispassionately to a logical conclusion that would be in the best interest of the people of Akwa Ibom, who turned out en masse at the polls to change what he described as “the business as usual era of Godswill Akpabio”.