By Shaka Momodu
“When you have a mountain in your path, do not sit down at its foot to cry, but rather, get up and climb it.”
For no reason other than he was just doing his job with dignity, dedication and utmost integrity, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) was on a campaign to destroy one of the most respected Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) who was assigned to Akwa Ibom State, Mr Mike Igini. He had become the target of a series of well-orchestrated smear campaigns before the presidential and national assembly elections, and more desperately, before the governorship elections.
His sin was that he would discharge his duties in the just-concluded elections by the book and would not allow the will of the people to be sabotaged by the very people who claimed to have integrity and had branded every other person as corrupt. These pretenders to progressivism and democracy did their background checks on Igini. Their findings? A man whose needs are limited and whose ways are as white as snow. But for the APC, it is never say die! In their evil machinations, they allegedly still made mouth-watering monetary offers to compromise him. But he stood his ground not to do anything that would compromise the will of the people as expressed at the polling units but stolen at the collation centres – where the greatest electoral heist took place all over the country.
Not done, the APC took a strange and unprecedented step. The party of desperadoes approached the court to order INEC to redeploy Igini to another state, just a few days to the governorship election. It was a bizarre move, underlining the desperation that flows in the bloodstream of the party. The bewildered judge refused, saying granting their request would affect the conduct of free and fair elections in the state. Sensing that INEC would not yield to pressure, they resorted to all sorts of scorched-earth tactics. Some INEC offices were razed to the ground by “hoodlums” in the full glare of the security forces that were there to protect them. In other words, they conspired to commit arson against taxpayers’ properties all in a bid to frustrate the conduct of free and fair elections.
You see, in the presidential and the national assembly elections, Senator Godswill Akpabio and the ruling APC lost in Akwa Ibom completely. For that, all hell broke loose. Igini was the cause for not playing ball, so he had to be redeployed to another state before the governorship polls, they had reasoned. A little background is necessary here: Soon after Akpabio defected to the APC, he had boasted that the takeover of the state by the party in 2019 would be as total as the 1940 invasion of Poland by the German dictator, Adolf Hitler. By that declaration, he was serving notice that the elections in the state would be a full-scale war, which his new party must win. “When they asked Hitler’s minister for information how was the war in Poland. He said Warsaw saw war and war saw Warsaw. I will say that in the Ikot-Ekpene arena, when I stepped out, this is my first function after that, Warsaw saw war and war saw Warsaw. We can’t talk politics in the church but in 2019, Warsaw shall see war and war shall see Warsaw. The return will be victory. May God grant us all victory,” he boasted.
Akpabio actually made good on his threat, enabled by federal might, he brought war upon his state using federal security forces to molest and beat up his people. But the people were as determined not to yield an inch of their soil to him or his hirelings. By the time the dust settled, it was the people that won, they had vanquished their delinquent son. It is instructive that the APC went about its campaign to smear Igini without any pretence about its motive. It is a shame that even Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, “a man of God” who should have been more circumspect in his utterances, descended into the gutter in an act of political desperation, contradicting himself in the process.
President Muhammadu Buhari who had sent Osinbajo to represent him at a town hall meeting with elders and stakeholders of the APC in Uyo also stressed it was not possible that Akpabio lost the election in his constituency thus: “Everything stolen would be restored. What happened on February 23 was robbery. The votes of the people were stolen but we are not deterred. The president sent me to thank you today. We are going to make sure that everything that was stolen on the February 23 election would be restored.
“It is not possible that Senator Godswill Akpabio lost. We are in no doubt that Senator Akpabio is the elected senator of Akwa Ibom North West senatorial district. The National Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole and I have been in the opposition for long and we cannot be defeated anymore.”
That was the president speaking through his deputy, a professor of law. Really? Are these people kidding? Who told them that Akpabio cannot lose? I was shocked to hear that those words came from the president. For their partisan interests, these people are prepared to destroy all the institutions of state. It is only when they win that elections are free and fair. Once they lose, they use all sorts of tactics to demonise and arm-twist the institutions into declaring the elections inconclusive, preparatory to another round of barefaced manipulation to ultimately secure victory for the APC.
So in Buhari and Osinbajo’s thinking, Akpabio cannot lose because he is now in the APC, but the Senate President, Bukola Saraki who was a more effective grassroots politician in Kwara State than Akpabio was in Akwa Ibom, could lose because he is in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)? Who are these people? And where did they come from? We all saw the speed with which the INEC announced Saraki’s defeat in Kwara to the celebratory delight of the APC and their supporters. In contrast, the announcement of Akpabio’s defeat was suspended for more than 24 hours because the powers that be tried everything in their arsenal to save the political featherweight from “uncommon” humiliation. But in Igini, a former Students’ Union President of the University of Benin and a hero of the June 12 struggle, they ran into a brick wall.
Akpabio’s philosophy of “what money cannot do, more money can do it” that has kept him going all these years failed this time. More money could not buy him re-election. Intoxicated by money and power, and crippled by self-destructive arrogance, Akpabio thought that money was everything in life. But he has now found out that “the power of the people is more powerful than the people in power”. Whether he learns useful lessons is left to him. His brother, Rotimi Amaechi, another Buharist, is still out of control in Rivers State. He has levied war on his people. But his time will come no doubt and his people shall deliver themselves. I hope they show him mercy when that time comes.
Igini, thrown up by the unusual electoral cycle, has become the pride and a hero of true democrats, and a villain to desperate power seekers with nothing to offer society other than the elevation of mindless thuggery, serious criminality and breathtaking thievery. We should all stand with him as the enemies of democracy encircle to devour him. We should rise and defend him as a man of real integrity, not the fake integrity being bandied about on behalf of Nigeria’s maximum ruler. This man deserves a national honour. We need people like him to redeem Nigeria, to restore hope to this country that Rotimi Amaechi only recently described as “helpless and hopeless”.
Igini himself put it succinctly when he said that he was not posted to Akwa Ibom to count money but to count ballots. “I have not come here to count money. I only came here to count ballot papers. Those who want me to compromise the process are the ones shouting out there. I can tell you that… those looking for compromise in the process are the ones who are also calling for my removal. Why would you remove a man who says he wants to give everybody equal opportunity?” He wondered.
How many Nigerians can, not only say that, but do it? How many can withstand the temptation of accepting mouth-watering offers by corrupt politicians to compromise the will of the people? How many will not see their sensitive positions as opportunities to make their own killing out of Nigeria? I am beaming with pride, as there is indeed hope for Nigeria after all. I am even more excited that Mike Igini was my classmate in secondary school (Okotie Eboh Grammar School, Sapele), where he was the Punctuality Prefect. I am grateful for the old precious values that were inculcated in us which have prevailed over the reigning evil in the land.
Many of the people in leadership positions today were the vagabonds of their school days; the delinquent ones, the dropouts who forged academic qualifications and lied under oath to climb the ladder of progress. They graduated to be thugs used to disrupt the system, only to further graduate to occupy leadership positions. They have become parents. But what sort of parents are they? Parents who drive to schools with full police escorts, blaring siren, to assault teachers for disciplining their ill-mannered and wayward children? Parents who pay others to write examinations for their children, and pay teachers to award marks they don’t deserve to them? Yes, these are the parents they have become. They are not ashamed to exhibit lawlessness in their children’s presence. They are not ashamed to exhibit disorderly behaviour in public. Unfortunately, some of these people are the very ones charting the future of this country. From the time they emerged on the scene as lawmakers, governors, ministers, etc, the prognosis has not been good – our country has regressed because they lack the desired vision to lift Nigeria to new heights and new frontiers.
To hold on to power and feather their own nest, they have resorted to all sorts of breathtaking machinations, with the support of thugs and other like-minded individuals with corresponding depravity. They are practically holding our democracy hostage and have sought to destroy anyone that is not like them.
This man, Igini, is the embodiment of those admirable values of the olden days; values we yearn for today; values that he (Osinbajo) constantly preaches everywhere he goes. Igini is not perfect, no doubt, but he represents the ideal character portrait of what Nigeria needs to move forward. It is an irony of immense proportions that a party that claimed sainthood and had at every turn accused others of corruption has done everything that constitute an affront to our precious values of yore.