‘Seun Ibukun-Oni, Abuja

Daily Courier – The candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for Eket Federal Constituency, Akwa Ibom, for the 2023 general elections, Hon Eseme Eyiboh, has accused the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner for Akwa Ibom State, Mr Mike Igini, of being a biassed umpire in the party’s delegates elections, saying that he was heading to self-destruction.

Eyiboh made the accusations in an interactive session with selected journalists in Uyo, the state capital at the weekend.

Daily Courier recalls that APC gubernatorial primary, which held on May 27, 2022, at No 6 Ekpo Obot Street, Uyo, in which Mr Akanimo Udofia emerged as the winner with 1,276 votes, had been vehemently opposed by Mike Igini-led INEC in the state.

The REC had gone on air to nullify the exercise on the grounds that he, together with the state Commissioner of Police, Andrew Amiengheme, were at the Sheer Grace Arena, the supposed venue of the primary till 6pm and no primary nomination took place. Hence his position that there was no governorship candidate for APC in Akwa Ibom.

In the report sent to INEC headquarters in Abuja, Igini stressed: “We wish to report that the APC governorship primary scheduled to hold on Thursday, May 26, 2022, at the Sheer Grace Arena, Nsikak Eduok Avenue, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, did not hold at all.”

Reacting to what he considered misinforming, Eyiboh, who is a former member of parliament, described Igini’s assertion as a ‘voyage to self-destruct’, questioning the rationale for Igini’s venture to the parallel venue of Sheer Grace Arena, instead of the stipulated venue of Ekpo Obot, where the delegates election held.

Eyiboh expressed optimism that Igini’s absence will neither invalidate the process, nor result in the party not having a gubernatorial candidate who was duly nominated on the ballot papers in 2023.

“What was Mike Igini doing at the Sheer Grace Arena? Was it the venue communicated to INEC for the primaries? The answer is No! we also posted on the platform the notice sent to INEC for the primaries and it acknowledged receipt, that the gubernatorial primaries will take place at 6 Ekpo Obot street, the National Working Committee of the party in confirmation of that action set up a committee and sent them to Akwa Ibom and showed them the location which is No 6 Ekpo Obot, no correspondence between INEC and APC had Sheer Grace as venue.

“While it is the duty of a political party to notify INEC of its political activities, it cannot drag the Commission into coming to observe them. It is the responsibility of INEC to go to the designated venues to carry out their own duty.

“In the event that Mike Igini left the approved venue of the primaries to Sheer Grace Arena, you can then appreciate the fact that he may have been on a voyage of self-destruction”, Eyiboh said.

He viewed the Commissioner as making himself a supreme court, who has the powers to overturn the judgement of the high court by not recognising Stephen Ntukekpo’s led executive council of APC in Akwa Ibom.

He recalled the judgement of the Abuja Federal High Court delivered by Justice Taiwo Taiwo, on March 16, declaring Ntukekpo as the APC Chairman in Akwa Ibom. Adding that thereafter, the former Caretaker Extraordinary Committee Secretary of the party, Sen. James Udoedehe withdrew his appeal and the matter was subsequently dismissed by the court of Appeal.

Responding to questions on Senator Godswill Akpabio’s decision to collapse his presidential structure for Ahmed Tinubu, the presidential candidate of the party, Eyiboh said Akpabio’s action was strategic.

“His Excellency, Senator Godswill Akpabio, took a decision that was of strategic relevance for our future endeavours, the act of senator Akpabio soliciting support for Asiwaju was strategic and will be rewarding for the benefit of this State and we should eulogise him for engaging in national politics and Akwa Ibom is the better for it.”

On the controversy surrounding Akpabio’s emergence as the Senatorial candidate for Akwa Ibom North West, Eyiboh said, “APC wrote to INEC notifying it of the plans to re-conduct the election because Obong Ekperikpe Ekpo, in the previous primary he won, said that he was withdrawing from the race that means APC will not have a candidate, and the re-conducted primary was within the time frame and Akpabio won and his name is on the list.”

Igini had said, “By virtue of Section 31 of the 2022 Electoral Act, the only way somebody can be replaced in any form since there is no longer substitution by political party; is withdrawal by individual or nominee and or death.