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Igini, Akpabio and the substitution challenge

Emeka Samuel

There appears to be no end in sight in the raging war of words between the camps of INEC Resident Electoral Comissioner in charge of Akwa Ibom, Barr Mike Igini and the immediate past Minister of Niger Delta Affairs Senator Godswill Akpabio over the APC Senatorial candidate for Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District.

Igini had insisted that Akpabio’s name cannot replace either of the two candidates who emerged from earlier conducted parallel primaries of the APC for the Senatorial District. According to Igini, there is no room for substitution under the 2022 Electoral Act as amended.

The REC had in a radio programme in Uyo stressed that the only way one can be substituted according to law is by withdrawal or death of the flag bearer.Speaking on the emergence of former Minister of Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Akpabio as the APC senatorial candidate for Akwa Ibom North West (Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District), Igini said such move was nothing but a “nollywood fantasy.”

According to him,”by virtue of Section 31 of the 2022 Electoral Act, the only way somebody can be replaced in any form is that we no longer have substitution by political party. What you have now is withdrawal by individual or nominee and or death. The law is not saying you should go and kill people so that you can have yourself on the ballot, the law is saying that those who have emerged at all levels up to the presidential level, you can decide that you are no longer interested. You can write an application signed by yourself, delivered to your party who will now deliver to INEC but nobody can shave the political head of another person in his or her absence.

“The report of the Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District APC primary as submitted to INEC headquarters in Abuja is final. It is concluded. The train has left the station. The timeline is clear. All those who are in politics should go and study the 2022 Electoral Act very well. I hear people talking about substitution. If you look at Section 31 and Section 34 of the Electoral Act, those of you who are still carrying the old idea of the 2010, 2012 Electoral Act in your head, thinking you can substitute willfully, it is no longer so.Number two is only in the case of death. Even at that, there will now be a fresh primary. This is the new law. So what we are seeing going on is clearly a misnomer.”

The Commissioner said that the rerun can only be conducted between and among those who participated in the first Senatorial election of May 27, 2022 adding that the Senatorial primary for Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District was not canceled, neither nullified nor inconclusive as mischievously reported.

“The question is, Senator Godswill Akpabio, was he an aspirant on the list on the 27th when election for the Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District was conducted? He was not there. We all know that he has been a presidential aspirant up to the last day of the APC convention in Abuja. That was what he participated in.To now say that an individual will conduct a primary for himself, by himself, won by himself, Oh my God! We are ridiculing our democracy. We are showing to the world that we don’t have a system. We are showing that we are a permissive society, . indeed the rule of law means nothing in our country. As at the time INEC report was written, Godswill Akpabio was not an aspirant. We didn’t write a report because of Akpabio as some people are just talking nonsense”, he declared.

The REC said the clarification became necessary because some persons have been trying to smear INEC and had called him names so as to demonize him for doing his job in line with the rule of law. He stated that NEC does not conduct party primary. “All we do is just one percent. That one percent can be decisive in the sense that we cannot see something to be white in the morning and then in the afternoon it is black. Such a day will never happen in our lifetime in the service of our country.” He explained.

Although two candidates emerged from separate primaries conducted by the two factions of the party earlier, the name of Akpabio controversially came up after it was claimed that the national leadership of the party had cancelled the earlier primaries over an alleged security infractions.Akpabio, who was a presidential aspirant of the APC but stepped down for the eventual winner, Senator Bola Tinubu was said to have defeated other aspirants in the primary election.

State APC Chairman, Mr Stephen Ntukekpo said he was directed by the party at the national level to carry out the re-run, and cited infractions in the first primaries as the reason for the re-run.”There was some infractions in the primaries held about some weeks ago and I was directed by the National Working Committee to carry out a re-run. We have about five aspirants in this exercise. They were all informed and are fully aware. The aspirants are Sir Joseph Akpan, DIG Ekpo Udom, Obong Emem Ekperikpe Ekpo, and Senator Godswill Akpabio,” Ntukekpo said.

Two other aspirants were not available during the exercise, but Ekpo announced that he was stepping down for Akpabio. “The first primaries took place on May 28th and all of you were there. Today, our Father has joined the race. I, Obong Emem Ekperikpe Ekpo, former member of the House of Representatives, a son of this senatorial district, I plead with all my delegates to identify with our father, and I return all the delegates to vote for him. I don’t think we should do anything to undermine the person God has given to us as a leader. The person is Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio. I call all my delegates once again to support him. With that, I have withdrawn my aspiration to the Senatorial seat.” He said.

But the winner of the Austin Ekandem led faction, a retired DIG of Police, Mr Udom Ekpoudom rejected the result outrightly and has refused to recognise Akpabio as the party’s candidate.

A statement endorsed by the former DIG campaign council, signed by it’s chairman and a former Deputy Speaker of the State Assembly, Barr Uwem Udoma had insisted that Ekpoudom won the Senatorial primary earlier conducted and supervised by INEC, describing Akpabio’s claim as an illegality. According to the statement, “recall that Ekpoudom duly participated in the Akwa Ibom North West APC Senatorial District Primary Election held on Friday, May 27, 2022, in line with the 2023 Election Timetable and Guideline of our Party. Succinctly, the primary election was properly monitored by INEC as constitutionally required and Udom Ekpoudom, was victorious and declared the winner and the party’s flagbearer.

“Sequel to the aforementioned, we want to state categorically and without any ambiguity, that at no time did our Party, the APC put our candidate, on notice of any cancellation of the Primary Election or that of conducting another Senatorial primary for the Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial seat.
We want to put it on record that the mandate given to Udom Ekpoudom by the good people of Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District remains sacrosanct and is judiciously guarded and protected.

“We hereby assure our party men and women and the good people of the Senatorial district that DIG Udom Udo Ekpoudom (Rtd), will under no circumstance, relinquish, withdraw or be substituted no matter the degree of pressure and inducement dangled by anyone.Most importantly, the purported “scam election’ held on Thursday, 8th June, 2022 at the Skills Acquisition Centre in Ikot Ekpene is nothing but illegal, deceitful, unconstitutional, and legally defective.”

In addition INEC through Igini further said it does not recognise Akpabio as the All Progressives Congress (APC) party candidate for Akwa Ibom North West senatorial district but only recognised DIG Ekpoudom (rtd) who emerged winner of the primaries the commission monitored.

Igini denied claims that the commission was represented and monitored the re-run APC senatorial primaries, where Akpabio emerged winner. The primaries was concluded on the 27th of last month, so I don’t know what you are talking about. The one that was conducted was monitored by INEC and the report has been submitted to Abuja. INEC is not aware of any senatorial primaries conducted on Thursday (June 9) that was monitored by INEC, none,” he stated.

But the REC has come under scattering criticisms for his hard stance on non recognition of all the primaries conducted by Akpabio’s faction of the party led by faction led by Stephen Ntukekpo. A chieftain of the party and a governorship aspirant Prof Chris Ekong expressed regret that Igini has allowed his personal issues with some politicians in the state to override his official assignment and condemned his utterances against the Ntukekpo led executive.

“You see, Igini works for INEC and he is not the chairman of INEC and he is not INEC and he is privy to the fact that APC National Caretaker Committee, represented by Buni and Udoedeghe went to Court and were defeated at the lower court. They went to Appeal Court but later used their hands to withdraw the case, saying and affirming that they recognize Ntukekpo as the State Chairman of APC in Akwa Ibom State.
The national leadership of APC wrote to Mr. Ntukekpo to inform INEC in the State to come and monitor the APC governorship primaries in the State, and Igini sat here and said no, Ntukekpo can never be even when INEC was part of the Court process. I think something is wrong somewhere. This is suggestive of growing insinuations on ground that Mr. Igini is a ‘factional leader or Chairman o INEC,” Ekong explained.

Also, a respected public affairs commentator in an opinion published in several newspapers criticized Igini’s utterances against the APC.

“To know that Igini is a lawyer and he is making such ultra vires pronouncements, is to say the least disappointing. But it is proof that hate and perhaps inducement have the potential to becloud and sway a once cerebral mind from cutting edge thought processes. Otherwise, how does one reconcile the fact that the major political parties in the State had experienced certain degrees of crises in their primaries, yet Igini’s interest is in only one. We have never heard Igini make any comment or pronouncement on the crisis that beset the ruling party in the State by leading to a boycott of the primaries by aspirants and a parallel Congress by one of them. Or is his monitoring for substantial compliance not extended to PDP? His vile interest is wholly in the APC, which he without any guise, seeks its destruction. If he succeeds in this perditious cause, he would deny Akwa Ibom people the ideals of robust democracy which provides choices for the electorate. This is not about APC or PDP, but about the rights of the people, voting franchise and the need to protect our democracy from dubious and mercantile dictators who want to use their offices to satiate anti-social needs and ignoble quests.” Iniodu said.

Meanwhile the National Secretariat of the APC has confirmed Akpabio’s as it’s Senatorial candidates for Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial Diatrict. Others include Dr Emenyak Ukpong for Akwa Ibom North East
and Mr Martins Udo-Inyang for Akwa Ibom South

But Ekpoudom’s Campaign Organization quickly reacted to this through a statement assuring supporters that there is no cause for alarm but quickly warned that no man should play God with the people’s mandate.

“The DIG Udom Ekpoudom (Rtd) APC Senatorial Campaign Organization, has been inundated with inquires by our numerous supporters on the purported submission of Senator Godswill Akpabio’s name to INEC by the National leadership of the APC as the flagbearer for the Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial seat.

“It could be recalled that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had publicly acknowledged that it NEVER monitored the midnight primary that allegedly produced Senator Akpabio after he lost the APC presidential primary, in view of the fact that the Senatorial primary for Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District lawfully held on May 27, 2022, where DIG Udom Ekpoudom (Rtd) emerged the winner and was at no time canceled, nullified, or declared inconclusive to warrant a “rescheduled election”?

“Finally, the DIG Udom Ekpoudom Senatorial Campaign Organization urges it’s teaming supporters to remain calm and be rest assured that while the submission of “candidates” names to beat INEC’s deadline was expected, the Commission as regulator shall at the appropriate time, in line with the law, publish the name and particulars of the rightful flagbearer who won the Senatorial primary and who shall lawfully be on the ballot for the 2023 general elections and that name, unarguably, shall be DIG Udom Ekpoudom( Rtd),” it concluded.

Quote:

“INEC is not aware of any senatorial primaries conducted on Thursday (June 9) that was monitored by INEC, none,” he stated.”

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