AKWA IBOM, Nigeria – Ahead of the National Assembly (Senate) rerun for Akwa Ibom North-West, former Senator Godswill Akpabio and his successor, Dr. Chris Ekpenyong, have returned to the drawing board.
The Appeal Court sitting in Calabar, Cross River state, had last week, ordered a rerun in Essien Udim Local Government Area, following allegation of widespread irregularities that characterized the exercise in Essien Udim, Senator Akpabio’s Local Government, which forced the Returning Officer (RO) of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to escape with the result, which was later announced in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom state capital because of alleged insecurity.
However, the Director-General (DG) of Akpabio Campaign Organisation, Dr. Chris Akpan and the All Progressives Congress (APC), have been engaging in war of words, saying the rerun would not be free and fair if the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mr. Mike Igini, who superintended over the first poll is allowed to conduct the rerun.
Accusing the INEC REC Igini, of compromise in favour of the PDP, Akpan, APC and Akpabio, had been clamouring for the removal of Igini, as a condition for participating in the rerun.
But speaking to Newsmen in reaction to the allegation, the Deputy Director General (DDG) of Senator Chris Ekpenyong’s Campaign Organisation (Ubokutom Abasi Campaign Organisation), Obong Bassey Inuayen, dismissed the opposition’s position as a ploy to whip public sentiments, saying that “Akpabio has no grassroots support to defeat Senator Ekpenyong in the rerun election”.
“We are not in any way taken by surprise by this kite being flown by Senator Akpabio’s Campaign Organisation because we already knew that the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs and his party, the APC, do not have the necessary grassroots support to contest and win a free and fair election anywhere in Akwa Ibom and would come with unreasonable demand that the state REC be removed because of a rerun election in just one Local Government Area.”
He maintained, “their insistence on the redeployment of Mr. Igini as Akwa Ibom INEC REC, as a precondition for participation in the rerun is a glaring acknowledgement and display of their electoral weakness and fear of the resounding defeat that awaits them at the rerun”.
The DDG, who noted that the cancellation of Essien Udim result by INEC and the Appeal tribunal was borne out of excess electoral frauds, said the PDP and Ekpenyong were optimistic of again winning the rerun given the fact that “the eyes of the whole world will be focused on Essien Udim” as there will be no room for violence, votes allocation and ballot boxes snatching.
He, therefore, advised party supporters and stakeholders to remain calm while awaiting the official timetable for the rerun election from INEC.