Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo, Col. David Imuse (retd.) and Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Akwa Ibom State, Mike Igini, have clashed over alleged plots to rig the September 19 Edo governorship poll.
Imuse accused Igini, a former Edo REC, of meeting with Governor Godwin Obaseki of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at his private residence in Benin to perfect the rigging plot.
He told reporters in Benin: “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.”
But a shocked Igini denied the allegations, dismissing them as bare-faced lies and outright fabrications.
In a phone conversation with The Nation, Igini noted he and two other persons attended a friend’s mother’s burial at Issele-Uku in Delta last Friday.
He said: “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.
“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?
“Since Obaseki became governor, I have never seen him once. I have never met with him. This is shameful and embarrassing.
“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?”