The major political parties are currently led by bigwigs who have ruled Akwa-Ibom for over 18 years. As of the time Mike Igini, INEC commissioner, was deployed to the state, the bigwigs were in one camp. To be factual, both parties allegedly did everything to be in his good books but failed after using all their contacts at home and abroad. But while the current leaders of a major party in the state accepted this fact and went back to the people to seek their votes and support, the leaders of the opposition appeared to have resolved to get him out of the state ahead of the 2019 elections. That is the background to all the false stories against the REC called the “son of man,” with the use of social and mainstream media by some desperate politicians and their supporters. One of such assaults was the recent call for his prosecution simply because the commission was about to arraign some university lecturers who probably altered election results in their favour.

In a normal electoral environment, a political party will appeal to voters by acting as the purveyor of the policy options designed to make the society a better place. But disconnected from this reality is the Akwa-Ibom opposition, which allegedly relied on the protection by INEC and the security agencies to provide it with immunity and impunity to ‘win’ elections irrespective of what the voters in Akwa-Ibom desired. Unfortunately for these desperadoes, the state is blessed with a straight-forward REC who publicly declared when he arrived in the state that only the duly elected candidates by voters through election would be declared winners and not by any other means such as pre-writing of election results before election day. Desperate members of the opposition went ahead to address press conferences calling for the REC’s removal as well as sponsoring demonstrations to the INEC office in Uyo, the state capital.

The opposition has not learnt to do things right by following laid-down procedures to win elections, for instance, but would rather want to rely on INEC staff and security personnel during elections. Its dictum in the state is: ‘what money cannot do, more money will do it’. Unfortunately, what it did not factor into its entire plan is the character strength of the REC who on arrival in the state, was quoted as saying: “I am not in Akwa lbom State to count money, but ballot papers.” The REC’s insistence on this approach exposed the opposition’s weak base. It did not brook even one opposing or independent voice. Rather, it found every means possible to seize ballot papers and result sheets and thereafter allocated all, yes all, the votes in the local government to itself. The opposition would go on to do same in as many local governments polling units as it desired using the protection and impunity of the police, army, civil defence and other security agencies.

All the attention and lies about INEC working against the opposition parties in Akwa-Ibom all point to one thing – the desire to manipulate the outcome of elections. Accounts from NYSC Ad-hoc staff and university lecturers who worked in areas dominated by these desperate politicians are filled with tales of woe about how they were held at gunpoint, beaten or held hostage and forced to write results that had no bearing with what happened in any polling booth. The account of some corps members who worked in opposition strongholds was that as early as 1a.m before election commenced, desperate politicians held men and materials hostage until constant calls to the area by the state REC forced them to release the corps members and INEC staff. Still, a top politician allegedly directed that all the results to be written to suit his whims, forcing the electoral officer and collating officers to either do his bidding to avoid harm.

Officials were allegedly beaten up by thugs while the police looked on helplessly because they knew that the regional and state police heads were ordered to obey whatever he instructed. It is therefore imperative that any story coming out of Akwa-Ibom State on election matters must be seen from this backdrop.

Edem Bassey, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State