We risked our lives to ensure a credible election in Akwa Ibom – Mike Igini
The Resident Electoral Commissioner of Akwa Ibom State, Mike Igini says staff of the Commission and those who volunteered during the just concluded election in Akwa Ibom State risked their lives in order to give Akwa Ibom a credible election.
Igini stated this in a speech at the Independent National Electoral Commission state office in Akwa Ibom during the presentation of certificate of returns to successful candidate in the just concluded 2019 general election.
According to him,before the 2019 general election, he had shared the thoughts, the anger, frustration and disappointment of the people over the history of elections in Akwa Ibom where results were written before the votes were cast and was determined to restore hope and rekindle confidence in the sanctity of the ballot as the best means of expressing the democratic will of the people on who leads in a democracy.
The statement reads:
1. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, Today’s event marks the gradual closure of series of activities leading to the 2019 election with the presentation of certificates of return to elected candidates for the Governorship and State House of Assembly elections in Akwa-Ibom state.
2. I want to thank the management and the entire staff of the lndependent National Electoral Commission Akwa lbom state who worked tirelessly, day-in, day-out as custodians and implementors of the vision and mission of INEC. l say a profound Thank you. We provided leadership but it was you the frontline staff of the Commission who interfaced directly with the voters in all the Polling Units of the State that delivered this historical democratic experience.
3. I want to thank the State Co-ordinator, Management and staff of the NYSC and especially Corp Members who serve as Adhoc staff. Chairmen/Secretaries of the Political Parties, Chairman and entire executive of IPAC, Traditional Rulers, My friends and colleagues in the Civil Society Organizations, Chairman of CAN, Leader of the Muslim community, Members of the lnter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES), the Nigeria Media that stood tall in defense of democracy anchored on the rule of law. I thank you all for the continuing journey of democratic progress that we have embarked on in the last few months. As we have learnt from countries that have been on the democratic journey for many decades, eternal vigilance is required to hold the pillars of democracy firm from the buffeting forces of human weaknesses.
4. How time flies, and how did we get to where we are today by giving out certificates of return? It is precisely 1 year 6 months and 23 days that l have spent in Akwa Ibom state. On my arrival to this state on the 5th of steptember, 2017 the political parties chairmen/secretaries were the very first stakeholder group that l met and l unveiled a mission to conduct a free, fair and credible election by providing equal opportunity to all parties. They regaled their past experiences and dissatisfaction over how elections have been conducted in this state and sought to know if the 2019 election would be different. l made an unequivocal commitment that, under God in this state, in 2019, the General elections would be conducted and that ballot papers and result sheets would be delivered to every polling unit, to be audited by party agents before the commencement of the poll. At a general meeting of staff, l shared the thoughts, the anger, frustration and disappointment of the people over the history of elections in this state where results are written before the votes are cast. I enjoined staff on the urgent need to restore hope and rekindle confidence in the sanctity of the ballot as the best means of expressing the democratic will of the people on who leads in a democracy.
5. We began the process of preparing the state for a transparent free, fair and credible election with the re-location with effect from 8th August 2018; a total of twenty-two (22) polling units hitherto in private premises and homes, to public places accessible to voters and urged all political parties and would-be candidates to prepare for real elections. I embarked on the campaign that credible elections will be conducted in this state come 2019, but just like Noah in the Bible who for several years foretold of the great flood and asked the children of God to prepare but he was not taken seriously, so was my case, many dismissed my message of free, fair and credible election and had other plans of winning elections, while others took my message seriously and took their case to the electorate who only can confer authority on contestants. Today, we now know better those who took our promise of integrity driven electoral process seriously. Recall that we made it clear that the umpire has no vote to give to any candidate or political party. We pledged and committed ourselves to ensuring that INEC under my watch in this state would not be a tool of manipulation for electoral victory but a national institution committed to the conduct of free, fair and credible elections in our fatherland.
6. In preparing the state for the elections, particularly few weeks to the election, so many contrived problems were put on our way essentially to saboutage our efforts to fulfill our promise to the people of Akwa Ibom state that they will be the ones that will choose their leaders through their votes that must be counted and taken into account. A number of politicians were unhappy with that pronucement and commenced the campaign for my redeployment backed with the following innuendoes and lies. That APC will not be allowed to win election in Akwa lbom. Not true That l have compromised with the PDP without stating the particulars of compromise. Not true That l held meetings with some notable politicians at Eket without stating the date and time. Not true That l delivered uncollected Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) to the state Government without giving details when and quantity. Not true That the house l leave in Lagos long before my re-appointment in August 21st 2017 was purchased for me by the state government. Not true That l recruited card-carrying members of political parties as collation officer. Not true That my body language would not allow for a level-playing field That INEC is planning to destroy election materials because of tribunal. Not true.
7. No doubt, trying to conduct election in this state, we faced a serious task of restoring the pride of an electoral institution, and the credibility of a national umpire. Looking back at the outcome of the Presidential/National Assembly as well as the Governorship/State House of Assembly election in Akwa lbom state under my watch, we can say with every sense of modesty that the Independent National Electoral Commission worked so hard to bring meaning and purpose to the ballot system. No more pre-writing of election results, incidence of ballot box snatching and stuffing of thumb-printed ballot papers and same annouced are now things of the past. The 2019 elections in Akwa Ibom marked paradigm shift, we strove to do what is right, to put INEC at the service of the electorate as the final determinant of leadership emergence in a democracy. This was at great risk to ourselves and loved ones, we never compromised or surrendered our values but rather we prayed to God who gave us the grace and courage of conviction to be true to them.
8. The elections have been conducted and returns made on the basis of which we are here to present Certificates of Return to those elected. While you are being congratulated, those who are dissatisfied with the return would head to the Elections Tribunal. They have legal right to do so in accordance with the provision of section 133 of the Act. May l assure both petitioners and respondents of our co-operation in availing all parties with relevant certified true copies of documents required to pursue your matters in the Tribunal. No election materials used in the just concluded election was destroyed as have been alleged mischievously. No institution or electoral body with a veener of integrity would shy away from giving account of how it made returns when called upon to do so. The Commission has not awarded a partisan trophy to anyone that must be defended at all cost by the Commission’s legal team as an aggrieved party, rather as an impartial umpire and as a Commission that conducted the election professionally, we are ready and willing to give account of how returns were made in the election.
9. May l conclude by saying that all that every citizen needs to contribute is to be given a chance, we have been given the opportunity with others to serve the country in the capacity of an umpire, we devoted our time and served with all our hearts to rebuild our electoral process to meet the aspirations of the people. We can only do the best we can in compliance with the Law while perfection belongs to God. But as always, our purpose must be to ensure that in retrospect, we should be able and can proudly say that, we left a good situation, an issue, a place of service better than we met it. We have crossed critical democratic thresholds between 1999 till date that should not be reversed. We must stand tall and mighty in defense of democracy and the rule of law. This is so because Democracy will not thrive in the soil of absolutism; we cannot have sustainable democracy without democrats who have imbibed pristine democratic values. Democracy is not a final product that you graft into a society. It is a set of values, a dynamic process that grows with the growth and evolution of society. Democracy is like a social orchestra, the sound do not blend , it do not merge, it is a symphony and not a concerto, it must be conducted on the rule of law which is preferable at all times to the rule of men because power is transient. Like an orchestra that its melody depends on the unique sound its different instruments bring to the melodious whole, democracy brings about participation and accountability to the process of human development, like the meloday of an orchestra, the sound of democracy is one that we should not stop at playing because it is a human social orchestra.
Thank you all