Edo State Chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Akwa Ibom State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mike Igini, yesterday, engaged in verbal war as the APC alleged that Governor Godwin Obaseki has engaged the REC to manipulate the September 19 governorship election.
Igini immediately fired back, saying the claim was ‘outright fabrication.’
The Chairman, APC Media Campaign Council, John Mayaki, who started the war, had asked the Akwa Ibom REC to explain his presence at Protea Hotel in Benin City where National Commissioners of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from Abuja were lodged.
The INEC Commissioners had met with the Edo REC and members of his team in the state in Benin-City to strategise ahead of the governorship election last week.
Mayaki said the APC had received evidence from some contacted National Youth Service Corps members who allegedly detailed how they were approached by Igini and offered a deal to swap results with fake, pre-written ballots allegedly in production at Edo State Government House.
He said: “We have obtained pictures of Mr. Mike Igini at Protea Hotel where visiting National Commissioners of INEC from Abuja were lodged. He apparently went there to run the errands of Governor Godwin Obaseki and the PDP. He was overheard at the hotel discussing the Edo governorship election and the recruitment of ad-hoc staff in an attempt to ascertain the disposition of the officers before persuading them to join the rigging plan he has perfected with the governor.
“We dare Mr. Mike Igini to deny his presence at this hotel and we shall immediately supply pictorial evidence to the press and members of the public”.
The party charged INEC to investigate and sanction the Akwa Ibom REC and carry out a ‘cleansing exercise’ to purge its rank of compromised officers.
But in a swift reaction, Igini threatened legal action against those accusing him, describing the allegation as “outright fabrication”.
He explained that he and two others had attended a close friend mother’s burial at Issele-Uku in Delta State last week Friday.
According to him, they left the burial for Benin on Sunday and stopped over at Protea Hotel to have lunch with full security escort that accompanied him on the trip and that, thereafter, he went to see his uncle and former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Benin, Prof. Andrew Onokeroraye, who just turned 76 and finally left Benin for Lagos on Wednesday after seeing his other relatives in the town.
“How is it possible for me to see Obaseki on Thursday while I am in Lagos, and I am still in Lagos?
“Since Obaseki became governor, I have never seen him once, I have never met him. This is shameful and embarrassing.
“The man they call Ojezua, I met him during my sent off party after my tenure as REC in Edo after the 2015 general elections, where he and another Chairman testified to my integrity”, Igini said and stressed that he as REC, who had always frowned at electoral misconduct and had recommended erring staff for punishment, could not be seen to engage in such misconduct.
Wondering over the capacity of politicians to malign people without regard to their integrity and the sensitivity of the institutions they work for, the REC queried the possibility of his recruiting ad-hoc staff for an election which he is not officially involved.
In his reaction, Edo State Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Chris Nehikhare, slammed the APC for always making “unfounded allegations because they have nothing to say”.
Meanwhile, Edo State Campaign Council of the PDP says it will not be dragged into the narrative on social and conventional media dwelling on the appointment of a new REC for the state by INEC.
A statement in Benin, yesterday, by Chief Dan Osi Orbih, Council Chairman, said the body recognises that INEC as an independent body reserves the right to appoint officials who have been cleared by the National Assembly to conduct elections in various states.