Edo 2020: Urhobo Political Movement Backs Mike Igini

The Urhobo Political Movement said its attention has been drawn to series of baseless publications in the print and electronic media platforms especially the ones credited to one Bisi Olaniyi, a South-South Bureau Chief of the Nation Online laying spurious and unfounded allegations against one of the respected sons of the Urhobo Ethinic Nationality, in the person of Hon Mike Igini, of plans by him to rig the forthcoming Edo Governorship election in favour of one of the political parties in the State. In the publications, retired Col David Imuse of the All Progressives Congress wrongly accused Hon Mike Igini of planning to rig the elections for the People’s Democratic Party, PDP.

The Edo State APC Chairman is quoted to have said that “On August 27, we received reliable information on a secret meeting between Igini and Obaseki. Around 3 am, Igini was seen driving into the private residence of Obaseki in Benin in company with two other known allies of Edo governor, one of whom was identified as Anselm Ojezua (former factional Chairman of APC in Edo State, who is an ally of Obaseki). “At the meeting, Igini, Obaseki and other top PDP allies designed and examined ways and strategies to rig the outcome of the September 19 governorship election in Edo State with an exclusive focus on the production of fake ballots and the inducement of recruited INEC’s ad hoc staff, to aid the success of the rigging plans. “Already, before the meeting, we received information, backed with proof, on Igini’s illegal conscription of youth corps members who would be playing vital roles in the conduct of the election as ad hoc staff. “Some of the corps members volunteered information on how they were contacted by Igini and offered deals to help the PDP at the poll, in exchange for cash benefits.

“Igini was quoted by them to have personally assured them of their safety and protection against prosecution, if they accept the offer to rig the election in favour of the PDP and Obaseki. “We also obtained photographs of Igini at Protea Hotel, Benin, where visiting National Commissioners of INEC were lodged, apparently running the errands of Obaseki and the PDP. “He (Igini) was overheard at the hotel discussing the Edo governorship election and the recruitment of ad hoc staff. We dare Igini to deny his presence at the hotel and we shall immediately supply pictorial evidence to members of the public. “We wish to state clearly to the public and INEC that Igini has, by his actions, declared himself an obstacle to a free and fair election in Edo State.”

Ordinarily, UPM would not have responded to these spurious allegations since the organization is neither an agent of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC nor a body involved in the management of electoral matters. But that notwithstanding, as a body devoted to the promotion of rule of law, transparency, good governance and anti-corruption, we are under obligation to fight for what is right and against oppression particularly with racial or ethnic colouration. Today, in the Independent National Electoral Commission under the able and courageous leadership of Prof Mahmood Yakubu, Hon Mike Igini is one of the leading credible voices. He currently serves as the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Akwa Ibom State. The UPM and the entire Urhobo race are proud of his impeccable antecedents and activities in the nation’s electoral umpire.

However, Mike Igini has clearly debunked the allegations of holding any such meeting in Benin city and indeed in any other place at all. He stated that he and two other persons attended a friend’s mother’s burial at Issele-Uku in Delta last Friday. Hear him further: “We (Igini and the two other persons) left the burial for Benin on Sunday and stopped over at Protea Hotel, Benin to have lunch with full security escorts that accompanied me on the trip. “Thereafter, I went to see my uncle, Prof. Andrew Onokeroraye, a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Benin (UNIBEN), who has just turned 76 ‎and I finally left Benin for Lagos on Wednesday, after seeing my other relatives in Benin. A position contrary to the dates and times contained in the allegations.

He went on, “How would it have been possible for me to see Governor Obaseki on Thursday, while I was in Lagos, and I am still in Lagos? And more also “Since Obaseki became governor, I have never seen him once. I have‎ never met with him. This is shameful and embarrassing. Again, “I met Ojezua during my send-off party in Benin, after my tenure as REC in Edo State after the 2015 general election, where he and another chairman (of a political party) testified to my integrity. “As a REC of INEC, who has always frowned on electoral misconduct and earlier recommended errant staff for punishment, I should not be seen to engage in misconduct. “How can I recruit ad hoc staff for an election in Edo State, which I am not officially involved in? Is this the level to which our integrity has sunk?

The allegations against the respected Resident Electoral Commissioner in charge of Akwa Ibom State, are indeed allegations made against Prof Yakubu and INEC that would conduct the Edo State governorship elections on the 19th September, 2020. It is INEC that conducts elections in Nigeria and not Mike Igini or any other officer of the Commission. No single individual has the power to rig such an election in favour of any person or political party. This is true because no one individual but INEC has the sole responsibility and right to print electoral materials like ballot papers and engagement of ad hoc staff for the elections. It is also incomprehensible that INEC principal officials like National Commissioners and other senior bureaucrats are already lodged in a hotel in Benin city almost three weeks ahead of the exercise.

We make bold to state that the nation’s election management body, INEC inherited from Prof Attahiru Jega by Prof Mahmood Yakubu has witnessed significant reforms as can be seen from the results of elections it had conducted so far against the backdrop of judicial pronouncements on them by the highest judicial authority in the country. So far, kudos must be given to INEC. Almost four years ago, when victory was given to the political party (as winner of the gubernatorial seat in Edo State) laying allegations, the same INEC was hailed to the high heavens for a job well done. However, what beats the imagination of every right thinking person or follower of the politicking and electoral engineering is the fact that the elections are still over three weeks away.

Even though Hon Mike Igini has already instructed his personal legal representatives to write to the said David Imuse and his partners for a retraction of the defamatory publications and also to tender an unreserved apology or face the consequences of legal actions, the Urhobo Political Movement still seriously frowns at the unprovoked invasion of the personal honour and integrity of a fine gentleman, like Mike Igini.

According to a press release by the group and signed by Dr Chief Obiuwevbi Ominimini and Barr. David Ekuetafia, its National Chairman and National Secretary respectively, UPM has joined Mike Igini and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC by calling on retired Col David Imuse and his political party to immediately retract those obnoxious publications and allegations and to also apologize to Chief Mike Igini. Indeed, their apologies should be equally extended to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC which is the main target of their unwarranted vituperation.

The Urhobo Political Movement has an absolute trust on the Prof Mahmood Yakubu led Independent National Electoral Commission in living to her responsibility and mandate by conducting peaceful and transparent elections and delivering credible results in line with best global practices.

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