Joe Effiong, Uyo
The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Sen Godswill Akpabi is insisting that having taken higher national responsibilities as a minister, he cannot be a candidate in the Akwa Ibom South West senatorial election rerun ordered by the Court of Appeal, Calabar, to be conducted only in Essien Udim local government area.
But the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Akwa Ibom State has told him that it was too late to withdraw from the race.
In a press release signed by Anietie Ekong, his chief press secretary, Akpabio said he declared his full support for a former member of the House of Representatives, Hon Ekperikpe Ekpo, whom his party, the APC had picked as his replacement, having emerged as the runner up in the primaries, and urged his supporters and the people of Essien Udim to massively vote for him.
“The APC had through the National Chairman, Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole and the then acting National Secretary, Hon Victor T. Giadom in compliance with the requirement for 45 days notice to be given for the substitution of candidates, written to the chairman of INEC, to submit the name of Hon Ekpo as a replacement for Senator Akpabio in the election. This was acknowledged by INEC.
“Having withdrawn from the contest to face higher national responsibilities, we caution political jobbers to desist forthwith from their planned smear campaigns against Senator Akpabio and unnecessarily heating up the polity.
“The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Akpabio will have no choice than to invoke the full weight of the law against anyone who engages in any plot to smear his name through sponsored or fabricated petitions. A word is enough for the wise,” the release said.
Akpabio reiterated his fear and that of his party, the APC, of the state resident electoral commissioner, Mr Mike Igini, whom they alleged would not be fair in the coming rerun election.
“We have no faith in Igini’s impartiality as an unbiased and independent umpire. Igini is a compromised official and avowed enemy of APC. We are distraught and doubtful of a change of posture and therefore cautious to go into a fresh election while Igini remains the state REC. Only a foolish survivor would ask the same hired assassin to extract the bullet from his body.”
But the REC, Mr Igini while speaking on a radio station in Uyo last Saturday, said APC could neither withdraw nor substitute Akpabio in the January 25 senatorial rerun election.
Igini insisted that Akpabio’s name was going to be on the ballot since the time given for the substitution of candidates elapsed since October last year.