Those who want me compromised are those shouting for my removal
In an exclusive interview with next Edition TV, Mr Igini, the INEC REC, Akwa Ibom State makes exciting revelations on the goings on in Akwa Ibom state particularly involving the call for his redeployment by the All Progressive Congress, APC in the state.
Interviewer: There are speculations that pressure is being mounted to get you removed from Akwa Ibom State. Can you speak to that?
Mr Igini: I don’t want to start an interview with that. I don’t even want to talk about that. We are preparing for an election and you should know that politicians will always do all kinds of things.
I am focused on the job at hand. My advice is for political players to use the next few days ahead to mobilise as much as possible to have people to be at the polling units for the election.
What I have promised here is to give a fair and equal opportunity to all the political parties and their candidates in the state.
I have assured the people of Akwa Ibom State that elections will be credible and for the first time after 1999, election materials are now being delivered in all the polling units and clearly audited by party agents before the commencement of polls. That is a record we have set and we intend to build on it next Saturday.
It is now for all the political parties to use the available opportunity to carry out mobilization. I have no vote to give to anybody here and in any case, in the entire 2, 900 polling units where the election will take place, I will not be in any of those places.
But as people can see, we have put our strategy and machinery for the implementation of a very strong and robust framework that will ensure that the will and intent of the people are reflected through the ballot to be cast in the 2, 900 polling units across the state.
Interviewer: What is your message to the people of the state?
Mr Igini: My assurance to everybody is that the next election will be free and fair and credible. People should disregard all the inaccuracies and innuendoes and insinuations going on because they are all lies.
Interviewer: Are you saying that the speculations that you are going to be removed are a lie?
Mr Igini: That’s what I am saying. It is a common thing you will be hearing and they have been talking about that always. But the question is, why do you want to remove me? Why is it that in our country today, when a man says he wants to do the right thing, a man who has embraced certain pristine values to do the right thing is the one having problems? Why do we find that kind of thing in our country? That people want to do the right things, they are putting all kinds of hindrances on his way. Why is it so?
My friend, if I had compromised, I wouldn’t have any problem today. I can now confirm to you that in my experience in the Nigerian public, integrity is very difficult to maintain. You are endangered if you are talking about integrity. What kind of country are we? We are supposed to be going for a civil exercise and that is about an election. Why is it as if we are going to war? Look at the number of people that were killed in other parts of the country during last Saturday’s election? Have we lost our sense of humanity? We are grateful to God that nobody died here in Akwa Ibom but the fact that people were killed in other places is worrisome.
Interviewer: People have criticised the show of force carried out by the security forces. What is your take on that?
Mr Igini: I don’t want to sound like a politician. I am not a politician. I am an umpire. You as a journalist don’t need to ask me that question. As a media person, you can form your opinion about that. You are also a stakeholder in the process and so what is your opinion today? Let me tell you that since 2011, I have been a part of changing the narrative of the electoral process in our country. Usually, the combined security agencies known as the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (IACCES) will normally do what is called a show of force. We normally do that. I am the alternate chairman of IACCES in Akwa Ibom just like my colleagues in other states. It is intended to warn people who would try to do funny things on Election Day that they don’t try that. That is what we are known to be doing over time. For now, what you have just referred to was the show of force that is intended to show those who may want to prevent people from voting or those who want to disrupt the process to keep away. Of course, it is within the time-honoured practice since 2010 when we came on board. But it is on the election day that we will see something different from what is intended.
Interviewer: But during the last election, the military was visibly present and some of the operatives were acting against their rules of engagement?
Mr Igini: Ironically, we have our peculiarities. I can tell you what I do, like yesterday when I was doing an appraisal, I was talking about selective commendation and also selective condemnation. The military, for instance, has been very helpful to me here in Akwa Ibom. I am talking about those working with me. But I also got reports about some military personnel also helping politicians to do some other things that were wrong. Whether they are genuine military men or those ones they normally sow uniforms for and or personnel of other security agencies, I cannot confirm. What all Nigerians and I knew before the election was the fact that the Nigerian Customs Service (NIS) impounded several fake military uniforms and gears. That’s what we knew before the election and that was reported in the media. In my experience here in Akwa Ibom, the security personnel that work with me are doing very well. The same goes for the police who are working with me. And so I cannot put all of them in the same bloc. However, the report I got from other places were contrary to my direct experience. At the same time, we had a situation where the NYSC members had very terrible experiences. But it was the police, for instance, that helped us rescue the corps members. If you look at the whole thing, it is a mix but my message to all stakeholders is that this election will come and go, and after the election, every institution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and all the personnel that worked must remember that there is a history book. There is a book that the history of this election will be written and the role that each of the security agencies played will be recorded and so shall they be remembered. I must also say that in the final analysis, there is a High Court of history that will sit in judgment on these people over the roles each and every one of us played either in the advancement of our democracy or the retrogression of our democracy.
It will show whether we were men of courage, whether we were men of sound judgment or whether indeed, given the opportunity, that most of us that have been given today and people in the other institutions, we did the right things for our country.
Interviewer: What is your message to the people of the state just as they prepare for the next phase of the elections?
Mr Igini: For me, the media must continue to stand tall and mighty in defence of democracy and the rule of law. Here in Akwa Ibom State, I have continued to reiterate my message to the people. I have come here to serve them and not to be served. I have come to serve them and I will serve them conscientiously. I have no vote to give to anybody. I have not come here to count money. I only come here to count ballot papers. Those who want compromise are the ones who are shouting out there. I can tell you that.
Interviewer: You mean those who want you to compromise are the ones shouting for you to be removed?
Mr Igini: That’s correct. 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 an equal opportunity, equal chance and there is no evidence so far of any compromise of any kind because I carry everybody along. We have demonstrated and we have shown the level of transparency that they have not seen before. They say I am meeting people and I said how is it possible for somebody to be holding meetings with people that he doesn’t even know or meet? I arrived at this state on September 5, 2017, and from that day till now I am speaking to you from my official residence; I have never stepped into the home of the son or daughter of Akwa Ibom State. I have never stepped into the house of any human being since I came to this state. When adults and supposedly respected people, who have held public offices before could tell lies from the pit of hell that the son of man had been having meetings with people that he doesn’t even know, it is most unfortunate. And that’s why I asked, why is it that in this country, for simply saying you want to do the right thing, so many problems are thrown at you. For instance, I have always insisted that institutions should be built, let us have an integrity-driven electoral process, why is it that somebody who does that is the one they are calling for removal or whatever? It is a sad commentary for our country and a disservice to so many people who genuinely want to serve this country. Everybody wants a good Nigeria but not everybody wants to make the sacrifices. It is not everybody who rejects and says no to the gratification people throw around. Regrettably, many do not know our values.
My needs are so limited. There are so limited that I don’t need some of the things people talk about. I think they need to get that message. Here in Akwa Ibom State, it is going to be the will of the people expressed through the ballot, honestly counted at the polling units and declared at the last point of collation is what will be announced at the last leg of the election.
Interviewer: Do you feel unsafe or your security compromised any particular way in the course of your work in the state?
Mr Igini: Well, we all need security. It is the business of security agencies to provide security not only for the resident electoral commissioner but for all citizens and most especially, the ad-hoc staff and the youth corps members, the collation officers. I want the youth corps members many of who are citizens of Nigeria from other states to be protected. I feel so depressed about what happened during last week’s election where so many of them were maltreated. We thank God that there was no loss of life. As we are going for the final phase of the election, which we all know is local election and likely to be highly contested, we must show responsibility to ensure citizens; sons and daughters of other Nigerians they have spent money to train till they graduated from universities and doing their national service should all be protected, so that at the end of service here, they will go back to their parents and to their respective states across the Federal Republic of Nigeria. That is the responsibility all of us must undertake. That is the responsibility we must discharge on Saturday.
I am, therefore, calling on all security agencies to please provide security for every one of us, including myself who will be supervising the election as well as the other polls officials.