December 9, 2023

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INEC Dodgy Over Udofia, Akpabio’s Fate As APC Candidates * Akpabio, Ekpoudom Puts Leg Into One Trouser

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Is Senator Godswill Akpabio the candidate of the APC for the Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District election or is it the retired DIG, Udom Ekpoudom? Who is INEC recognising as candidate for that election?

Also, is it true that the APC in Akwa Ibom State does not have a candidate for the governorship election as indicated by the resident electoral commissioner in Akwa Ibom?

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These are questions that TNN put across to the INEC spokesman, Mr Festus Okoye, as controversy rages on the issue. Akpabio and Ekpoudom are currently dragging the senate ticket, while Akan Udofia is still battling to see if he can still have access to the ticket he thought was already in his possession.

On Tuesday, TNN engaged Okoye on the issue in an online interview. But he was dodgy, refusing to give straight answers.

This is how the interaction went:
Please I like you to clear the air on the issue of the proper and INEC recognised APC candidate for the governorship seat in Akwa Ibom as we as the candidate for the Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District for the APC. Recall that Mike Igini told journalists last week, that the APC has no guber candidate in Akwa Ibom. He had also said that INEC was not aware that Akpabio emerged senate candidate of the APC for Akwa Ibom North West. But Akpabio has countered this and maintains that INEC head office recognises him as the APC candidate. What is the true position please?

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The conduct of party primaries is within the domestic realm of political parties. This must be done within the confines and ambit of the law. The period for the submission of the names of validly nominated senatorial candidates will end on the 17th June 2022. Thereafter aggrieved persons can approach the Court for redress.

As at today, who is the APC governorship candidate in Akwa Ibom? Who is the APC senate candidate for Akwa Ibom North West?

Also, does Mr Igini’s position represent the true position of INEC as an institution?
The law obligates political parties to submit the names of candidates that emerged from valid party primaries.

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Exactly sir. So, whose names have been submitted so far in respect of these positions I talked about?
You have to find out from the political party involved. At the end of submissions we will publish the names as submitted by the political parties.

I am sorry, you have not addressed the issue sir. I just want to know if what Mike Igini said is the same position that INEC holds, because a faction of the APC in Akwa Ibom has said that what Igini said is not a true representation of what happened in Akwa Ibom.

I have answered your question and you are still insisting on getting a specific answer. It’s your responsibility as a journalist to pursue the lead I have given. Read section 29 and 84 of the Electoral Act for guidance.

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I do not want to hazard a guess or speculate. That’s why I want specific and clear answers from you sir.
It shows we are not communicating

Clearly….and I would want us to truly communicate. So, my question is simple. Are you aware of the pronouncements that Mr Igini made? Do they represent INEC’s stance?
or let me put it this way….Is INEC aware of the candidacy of Senator Akpabio for Akwa Ibom North West senate seat under the APC?
You are posing questions like a political party agent and not like a journalist. A journalist will jot insist on a particular answer.

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The insistence is because I have not got an answer to the question.
At this point, Okoye did not come up with further responses. But Mr Jackson Udom, spokesman of Akpabio is still insisting that the ticket belongs to Akpabio. He had issued a statement a few days ago to the effect that Ekpoudom never won a validly conducted primary of the party, even as he said in that statement that Ekpoudom only claimed to be a member of the party.

When TNN referred him to this part of the statement and sought clarifications on the membership status of the former DIG, his response was that the man belonged to the faction that was hitherto controlled by Senator Akpan Udoedeghe, who has since defected from the APC.

In the statement, Udom had said that “Udom Ekpoudom, is a bonafide and committed member of the Senator John James Akpanudoedehe Support Group, led by Mr Austin Ekanem. That contraption is not recognised by law, then national leadership of the APC, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), as well as the leadership of the Akwa Ibom State chapter of the APC.

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“Therefore, that contraption that purportedly conducted the senatorial primary, where Udom Ekpoudom, was allegedly declared a ‘winner’, is not known to law and he couldn’t have been said to have won the party’s ticket, because you cannot build nothing on nothing.

“The authentic party leadership of the party in the state is led by Obong Stephen Leo Ntukekpo. He is recognised by the INEC and the law and the national leadership of the party and based on that, all actions taken by him on the conduct of the party primaries at all levels, are known to law and remains the accepted position of the national leadership of the APC and the INEC.

“The Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District primary, as directed by the national leadership of the party all over the country was conducted on 28th May, 2022, and not on the 27th May, that the Udoedehe contraption purportedly conducted its phantom primary.
“For even claiming to have conducted its primary on the 27th instead of 28th May, 2022, indicates the fact that their purported primary, was not done as provided for by the APC approved schedule.

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“At the 28th May, 2022 primary, former member, House of Representatives, Rt. Hon Ekperikpe Ekpo, emerged the winner. That was the only recognised primary by INEC, because it was organised by Electoral Officers sent from the party’s headquarters.
“It was that same primary won by Hon Ekperikpe, that was later cancelled by the national leadership of the party citing, security infractions caused by hoodlums and miscreants who disrupted the exercise and a fresh primary ordered.

“At the fresh primary, DIG Udom Ekpoudom, Hon Ekperikpe Ekpo, Senator Godswill Akpabio and Engineer Joseph Akpan, all took part in the election. However, before the commencement of voting, Hon Ekpo, who won the cancelled election, voluntarily stepped down for Senator Akpabio. He there and then, called on all his supporters to cast their votes for Senator Akpabio.

“The reordered primary took place on the 9th of June, 2022, at the Skill Acquisition Centre, Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State.
“At the end of the election, Senator Akpabio, was declared winner and returned as duly elected candidate for the Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District on the APC platform.

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“Ekpoudom should note that he couldn’t have been aware of the notification of cancellation and order of a fresh election, because he belonged to the Udoedehe contraption which is not recognised by the INEC and the national leadership of the party based on the judgment of the Appeal Court of the Abuja Division, which recognised Ntukekpo as the chairman of the state chapter of the party and not Austin Ekanem.

“We therefore, advise DIG Udom Ekpoudom rtd, to channel his annoyance of being placed on the off-side track of politics in the district, on the illegal contraption led by Austin Ekanem and not pollute the media space with falsehood of a non existing senatorial ticket, not being for sale. Nobody will buy a fake, illegal and non existing ticket.”
His position came a few days after Ekpoudom had affirmed his candidacy of the party for the senate election.

He said in a recent statement that he was“ the candidate of our great party in Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District. I have not defected or join any other political party, no, never! I can’t work against the decision and the wishes of the people of Ikot Ekpene senatorial district.

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“I am prepared to join hand with my people in Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District and other candidates of our great party in making sure our party emerge victorious in 2023 General Elections.”

” I thank God for the transparent process that saw the emergence of Asiwaju Tinubu as our party standard-bearer, I am confident more than ever that this, is the beginning of greater tidings for our party.”

“We’ve proved our critics wrong and also demonstrated that with unity of purpose, the sky is our starting point,” he said.
The position of the INEC commissioner in the state has been that Akpabio is not known as the candidate of the party, even as he had also said that the APC in the state had no candidate.

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