By Emma Amaize
AMID the latest denial by the Chairman, All Progressives Congress, APC, Media Campaign Council, Edo State, Mr John Mayaki, that he did not give an imprimatur to any libellous publication against the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, Akwa Ibom State, Mr Mike Igini, some respected Nigerians have bared their minds on the activist-cum-electoral umpire.
Among them are South-South leader and elder statesman, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark; Minister of Transport, Hon Rotimi Amaechi; Senator Matthew Urhoghide (PDP, Edo South), and policy analyst/law lecturer in Akwa Ibom State, Dr Sam Amadi. APC had before the September 19 governorship election in Edo State implied that Igini, who passed the night in a hotel in Edo on the way to his home state, Delta, for a funeral ceremony at Ogwashi-Uku, near Asaba, the state capital, was in cahoots with Governor Godwin Obaseki to rig the election.
The allegation was considered as an attempt by APC to dissuade INEC authorities from deploying Igini, known to be principled, to supervise the Edo governorship election.
But for a clear understanding of his person, Igini’s superiors would have regarded the allegation as substantial, especially coming from the ruling party in Abuja. However, INEC chairman and other staff disbelieved the story and instead, stood by him.
An angry Igini, who lost his cool with APC leaders pleading with him to forgive on one hand and others mouthing that it was a non-issue, on the other side, last Monday, slammed a N10 billion libel suit against the factional chairman of the party in Edo, David Imuse and John Mayaki, whose solicitor, A.I. Osarenkhoe, in a retort, 24 hours afterwards, denied responsibility and liability.
“Our client did not publish and did not authorize anybody to publish any allegedly defamatory or libellous material,” Osarenkhoe swore in the letter to Igini’s counsel, Clement Onwuenwunor.
Symbol of trustworthy balloting in Nigeria – Clark
Provoked by what he described as groundless allegations against Igini, Chief Edwin Clark said: “Barr. Igini stands out very tall among respected electoral commissioners, he has served the country well by distinguishing himself as a true umpire in several challenging electoral situations in Anambra, Imo, Cross River, Rivers, Edo and Akwa-Ibom states, where voters have given a general verdict that the outcome of such elections reflected their will as expressed in the ballot.
“If he was easily swayed by monetary rewards, he would not have declared in the 2019 election that his job as an umpire was to count votes and not to count money in exchange for rigged election. Ironically, It was only in Edo State in 2015 election that APC won senatorial and federal seats.
“It was in this same Edo state in the build-up up to the 2015 elections that he said publicly that there will be no federal might to determine the outcome of election in Edo state, but the might of the people through the ballot papers. That was the only state in 2015 that President Buhari secured 46 per cent of votes, APC won senatorial and federal seats in the National Assembly and won majority seats in the State House of Assembly in the entire South-South and South-East regions.
“Everybody commended him, particularly opposition parties in Edo and across the country, which were calling other states to emulate this patriotic statesman. Barr. Mike Igini is a fetching symbol of hope for credible election in Nigeria.
“That was why Nigerians were not surprised that President Muhammadu Buhari re-appointed him and the only person so re-appointed among the old resident electoral commissioners from the whole of South-South and South-East. He has the distinguished honour to be appointed by two presidents from two different political parties because of his competence, honesty and demonstrable strength of character and sense of duty.’’
Hope of democracy – Dr Amadi, policy analyst
On his part, Dr. Sam Amadi said Nigeria is blessed to have an electoral umpire like Igini, “I commend Akwa Ibom REC, Mike Igini for prosecuting INEC officials involved in electoral malpractices. It helps to deter people from such act in future. Electoral process is so criminalized that the kind of example we are seeing from Mike Igini is the beginning of enthronement of credibility.”
Mike is uncontrollable – Amaechi
Discussing his relationship with former governor of Akwa Ibom state and currently, Minister of Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Akpabio, in a box interview, Minister of Transport and former Governor of Rivers State, Amaechi stated: “Akpabio challenged me that I played a role in his failure in the last elections. I said, ‘how?’ He accused me of being a friend to the INEC Commissioner. Yes, for Christ’s sake, Mike is my friend, Mike cancelled the election in Rivers State, he was asked to supervise election in Rivers State in 2018, he cancelled it. APC was winning that election, he is my friend, yet he cancelled it, saying there was violence.
“Mike is uncontrollable, I have told everybody who cares to listen. He is not somebody I can call and say ensure that Akpabio wins. Rubbish. Mike will cancel an election that concerns me and tomorrow calls me on the phone as if nothing happened.
“That is the person he is, so there is no way I would have any control with him in any election in any part of the country. It is not possible, the only thing I can tell you about Mike is that he will not take bribe.”
He doesn’t twist the rules – Senator Urhoghide
Senator Urhoghide, who also spoke in a box interview, said: “Igini is well known to me. What he did in 2015 was annoying, very annoying, but the logic behind it was very legal. Let me say this, we had election in April 28, 2015 and a week later, he said we should go for a rerun in Orhionmwon local government area, Edo State.”
Recalling that there were pockets of other polling units in Ikpoba Okha, Uhumwonde, Oredo and Pastor Ize Iyamu was then in PDP, he added: “I wondered why the result from Orhionmwon, his local government was cancelled. But let me say this, Igini is an alumnus of University of Benin just like myself, when I was in the university.
“He told me, ‘senior, I am going to cancel this election based on my integrity. The local government area has a registration of over 170,000 voters and those that collected their PVCs are over 70,000 and you are leading with 38,000 votes, so if the 73,000 come to vote for your opponent, it means you have lost the election.’
I said, ‘if you look at the demographic, it is 20-25 per cent voters’ turnout.’ He said as long as it is so and the law presumes that all the people, who have PVC would come to vote. I smashed the result on his table and I said, ‘to hell with you’ but on a second thought, he told me that his knowledge of me and our relationship did not stop him.
“Months later, I went for that rerun and I lost by a margin of 3,000 votes , so I was already leading with 38,000, his position was secured, that decision was out of integrity.
“That is why anything that concerns Igini, I know he does not bend the rules. The one that is in court, they would go and sort it out, but I can testify to the fact that Igini is one man that holds stoically to his position, the way he talks that is the way he is and nothing changes that.’’
Igini’s a man of impeccable character – Ighure
Also, Igini’s secondary school teacher, Sir Ighure Alfred (KSM), said: ‘’The crucifixion of the innocent only make them more popular to the people.
“Speakers of truth and the upholder of justice, fairness and peace are often loathed and castigated by only the evil ones. I say this in defence of my excellently good and well behaved student Mike Igini, Resident Electoral Commissioner, well known for his zero tolerance to any form of malpractice right from his days as my student.
“I was his teacher at the secondary school, a school in which I later became Principal before meritorious retirement. I stand to vouch for Mike Igini any day and anywhere on his impeccable character.
“He had exhibited leadership qualities from his formative years and was indeed the school punctuality prefect. He demonstrated how to lead by example coming early to school before other students and was known as a very strict and no-nonsense prefect among his peers and students.
‘’That he became president of the Student Union Government of his University (UNIBEN) was not a lucky fluke and his appointment as an INEC commissioner by two different presidents of Nigeria of different political parties, President Goodluck Jonathan and President Muhammadu Buhari, was no fluke either.
“They are all attestations to his good qualities that those of us his teachers saw in him several years ago that he has maintained till today to our admiration and pride as his teacher.
“I advise disgruntled critics and politicians who seek to make cheap popularity of themselves to stop using Mike Igini as an object of needless debate to ease off their disgust and failures on an innocent man for what he knows nothing about given that he is still the REC of Akwa Ibom and was not deployed to supervise Edo election as at the time those wild allegations were made against a man with pristine values that Nigerians have applauded and attested in the last few weeks.’’