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From Emmanuel Adeyemi, Lokoja
For Senator Dino Melaiye representing Kogi-west senatorial district at the National Assembly, he might have gotten more than he bargained for. The agitations for his recall from the red chamber may have been one of the toughest political fights since his voyage into partisan politics over a decade ago.
But recent events have shown that the ever vocal and virulent lawmaker is not one that could easily be cowed or silenced.
Some couple of months ago, it was learnt that both Melaiye and Bello were two jolly friends and that the former was instrumental to the enthronement of the later as the governor of Kogi State.
Whatever went wrong between the duo, political watchers have often said the issue should not have been left to degenerate to this length, adding that the ruling party ought to have stepped into the matter and reconcile the duo to save the party from disgrace ahead of the 2019 governorship election.
As things now stand in Kogi, it is believed that it may be pretty difficult for the All Progressives Congress, (APC) as a party to win the governorship election in 2019 as the cord that binds the party together seems to be irredeemably shattered and the party is now torn in shreds.
With the agitations for the recall of Melaiye, which many see as been sponsored by the Alhaji Yahaya Bello’s administration, the ruling party is now more polarized and the major gladiators in the ruling APC are now queuing behind Melaiye who they now regard as the arrow head of the opposition within the ruling party.
It will be recalled that the uneasy calm that first pervaded the party after last year’s Supreme Court judgement that upheld the election of Bello was stirred up when the state working committee of the party led by its chairman, Alhaji Haddy Ametuo cried out that Bello jettisoned all party members that worked for the party at the governorship election and gave 95 percent of the appointments to the members of the opposition PDP and other fellows who did not contribute a dime to the party.
Other major stakeholders in the party including the running mate to Prince Abubakar Audu in the November 2015 governorship election, Chief James Faleke and Senator Melaiye also accused the governor of non performance and urged him to put an end to the over one year staff screening exercise which they said has brought untold hardships to the workers .
On its part, the government hits back at its critics saying they are after Bello because he has refused to share the state money to the stakeholders, insisting that that was why he had suddenly become their enemies.
Governor Yahaya specifically said he could not close his eyes on the rot in the civil service saying the large chunk of the monthly salaries go to ghost workers in the state and that he would rather purge this sector than been distracted by his political “enemies”.
But the issue of double registration allegedly carried out by the governor two months ago, seems to have stirred up more heat in the polity of the state.
INEC had specifically accused the governor of flouting the Electoral Act by willfully engaging in double registration.
The National Commissioner and chairman, Voters Education Committee, Solomon Soyebi categorically denied authorising any staff to “re-register him and or to do so outside designated CVR centres”.
Soyebi confirmed that Bello was first registered at Wuse Zone 4, Abuja, on January 30, 2011, but illegally did so again on May 23, 2017 during the ongoing continuous voters registration exercise in his Lokoja, Kogi State office.
As expected, the governor’s obvious goof stirred up another round of reactions which was spearheaded by the APC chairman in the state, Haddy Ametuo and Senator Dino Melaiye who had called for the governor’s resignation on the basis that he has embarrassed the party and the state.
In Melaiye’s words “It is unfortunate that we have a fraudulent governor who has exhibited criminal tendencies. Yahaya Bello should resign immediately. We are not only going to start civil mass action but we are going to mobilise Kogi State House of Assembly for his impeachment. He should resign. It is a fraud.”
But the state government, speaking through, the Director-General, Media and Strategy to Governor Bello, Mr. Kingsley Fawo, had said, Bello never lied about his INEC registration status.
“From the first day, the governor didn’t say he registered in Kogi State. It even came up at the tribunals. He registered in Abuja. He never voted in Kogi State. Nothing in the law makes it mandatory for you to vote for yourself before you can win a political position. We have had people who won elections from detention in the past. They wouldn’t have voted for themselves from detention” it added
But the governor while fielding questions from reporters at the Villa recently, denied registering the second time, saying the time INEC accused him of doing the registration, he was in far away Dubai, and posited that his ghost might have conducted the double registration . This again drew up another controversy.
However, Melaiye’s threat to organise some mass rallies and pressed the House of Assembly members to commence the impeachment process of the governor may have been the actual fire that stoke this latest crisis as there were series of pro- government and anti -government protests in the state.
In the middle of these protests, Melaiye accused the state government of planning to assassinate him using some thugs. He said the first attempt on his life was in Aiyetoro Gbedde , his country home around May 26th, 2017 while the second attempt was in Lokoja on June 12th during which three people were reportedly killed.
Perhaps to confirm Dino’s claim that his life was been threatened, a video was recently released in the social media, where the Chief of Staff to the governor, Edward Onoja while addressing supporters in his Ogugu country home recently, allegedly said “ by the end of June if Senator Dino Melaiye still remains standing as a senator in the federal Republic of Nigeria, then there is no God.”
Political watchers say this statement is so weighty that it may well serve as an alibi and a flesh on the claim by Dino that some people actually made attempts on his life. He also said that the state government had set aside N1.4 billion to recall him from the National Assembly.
Notwithstanding Melaiye’s allegations, the recall process started in earnest, and 52.3 percent signatures were said to have been collated to bring back the Senator from the Senate.
Dino while faulting the claims of the “sponsored recall,” pointed out that some dead persons were among those who were said to have signed his recall register.
So far, Melaiye has been able to garner tremendous supports from major stakeholders in the state, the National Assembly and even genuine members of his constituency. The Senate has thrown its full weight behind the embattled senator stressing that it indeed has the final say over the recall of the seemingly irrepressible senator.
Meanwhile, the Federal High Court in which Melaiye approached for redress has ordered for a stay of execution over the matter.
The trial judge, Justice John Tsoho had ruled that INEC should keep the recall exercise on hold pending the hearing of the original summons and adjourned the case till September 29 for hearing.
However, as Dino’s recall process and Governor Bello’s alleged double registration is still trending, three voters have gone to court urging it to revisit the Supreme Court Judgement on the Kogi governorship election.
With the revelation that Bello did double voter’s card registration and that he did not vote in the last governorship election, the trio are now seeking a declaration on whether, it was proper in the face of the law for a person to be elected into office in an election he did not participate in or whether he could be so declared as winner of an election even without a voter’s card.
At the mention of the case recently, the court granted leave to the plaintiffs to serve the governor the motion of the court through any substituted means.
Surely, the last may not have been heard in this Governor Bello/ Senator Melaiye debacle, but who blinks first?