16th October, 2021
By Emiola Adeniyi
The Oyo State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Barrister Mutiu Agboke, was in the eye of the storm lately when a splinter group within the Oyo State chapter of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) levelled some allegations against him regarding the party’s recent State Congress.
Agboke was alleged to have received N10 million from the state Governor, Engineer Seyi Makinde, and purportedly held a meeting with the governor bordering on the conduct of the Congress.
The allegations were promptly dismissed by the REC and INEC as spurious, baseless and unfounded, and a ploy by the attention-seeking group to tarnish Agboke’s good image.
INEC Head of Department, Voter Education, Gender and Publicity, Mrs. Katherine Ogwu, in a statement, said the splinter PDP members resorted to campaign of calumny against the resident commissioner having failed in their bid to pressure the REC to endorse the group’s activities that are clearly in contravention of party constitution, the Nigerian Constitution and the Electoral Act.
“Agboke is a man of integrity, Honour and determination to do the right thing at all times as demonstrated by him in the last general election in 2019. There is no amount of campaign of calumny, intimidation, harassment, name dropping, spurious allegations that will intimidate him from doing the right thing,’’ Ogwu said.
She added that, “Oyo State INEC reiterates very strongly that it will not, and under no circumstances give recognition to any factional groups in any political party using INEC to validate their activities for legitimacy. What else, the faceless group has demonstrated ignorance to the effect of not knowing the mandate of Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, at relating with registered political parties and not a factional group or groups.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Barrister Agboke was never at any meeting with Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State on Saturday, neither did he receive N10million either directly or by proxy as insinuated by these enemies of democratic norms, nor did he instruct the staff of the commission at the local government to close the office at 1pm on the day of the congress with the intention of not receiving the result of the factional group in the PDP”.
In all respects, the allegations by the factional politicians did not represent the ideals that the REC is known for. Agboke is a lover of democracy, a human rights defender, a promoter of peace, a seasoned expert in conflict resolution, and an administrator per excellence.
A distinguished alumnus of the University of Ilorin, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, and the Nigerian Law School, he possesses the Bachelor of Law and Master’s in Law degrees respectively, and qualified as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
Among others, he boasts decades of work experience in legal practice and elections management. As a distinguished administrator, he has served at the state and national levels where he has and continues to make invaluable contributions to nation building.
Prior to his current appointment as the INEC’s REC for Oyo State, Agboke served as a Commissioner of Ogun State Independent Electoral Commission (OGSIEC), where he distinguished himself as an unbiased umpire.
Records of his work as an electoral umpire also show that he advocates for a level-playing field for candidates seeking electoral positions. He is the rule-of-law person, and said to have zero tolerance for electoral misconduct.
At many fora, he has openly declared that he is not one to support illegality and electoral malpractice under any guise.
For instance, while addressing INEC staff during the year-end party ahead the 2019 election, he read the riot act to politicians that, under his watch as the REC in Oyo State, no one would get into an elective office through manipulation of the electoral process.
On several occasions, he has issued warnings to INEC staff that any of them that aided politicians to rig an election would face the consequences.
Also, as the guest speaker during the 2018 Annual Press Week of the Ogun State chapter of the Nigeria Union of Journalists in Abeokuta with the theme, ‘The Media and 2019 General Elections’, Agboke was unequivocal by challenging the media to remain neutral, objective and unbiased in reporting election matters.
One cannot, therefore, but condemn the PDP factional group for peddling falsehood and propaganda to rubbish the hard-earned good reputation of Barrister Agboke.
It beat sound reasoning and logic that factional PDP members could descend so low to hallucinate that Governor Makinde gave someone who is not a member of their party money just on matters of a state congress, of which the REC has no vested interest.
Without any doubt, politicking has commenced ahead of the 2023 general elections in Nigeria. Mudslinging and character pulldown are common traits of our evolving party democracy.
But firing the venomous arrow of ‘bad-belle’ politics at wrong persons, as done by the self-serving factional PDP members in Oyo State, is very worrisome.
The same Agboke was in the saddle when the 2019 general elections were conducted without record of any infraction against him, not even from the same group of PDP dissidents.
It is to the credit of Agboke that Oyo State successfully registered 19,135 eligible voters who completed their registration in the first phase of the recent nationwide Continuous Voter Registration exercise. The 19,135 registrants were those that completed their online and physical registration out of 72,644 who registered during the online pre-registration exercise.
So, where were the factional PDP politicians when the REC achieved all these remarkable results?
Agboke has restated times without number that the mandate of INEC, clearly enshrined in the1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and the Electoral Act (as amended), was observatory because political parties’ congresses, conventions and primaries are purely party affairs.
In bid to demonstrate INEC’s neutrality and independence of INEC in all matters of parties’ internal procedures, the REC on many occasions has warned that any INEC staff that aided politicians to subvert party’s internal democratic process would face the music.
Prior to the PDP Congress, he also restated that INEC would never take sides with any group on any party affair, and that the electoral body cannot be used by any politician or group to validate illegality.
For Agboke, his footprints on the sands of time across various spheres of life depict the architype of a man given to uncommon service to his community, home-state, fatherland, humanity and God
This is why plots by his detractors to lower his estimation in the eyes of right-thinking members of the society will utterly fail.
-Adeniyi, a political analyst and social commentator, wrote from Ibadan, Oyo State.