The Tinubu, Gov Bello’s Connections
By Jaiyeola Andrew
Recently, Kogi State has been in the news for the wrong reason, due to the seemingly intractable feud between Governor Yahaya Bello and Senator Dino Melaye. Interestingly, both Bello and Melaye are in the same ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), akin to the popular adage ‘a house divided against itself.’
The bitter political feud between the two influential political leaders seems not to have an end in sight as each passing day, the duo engage in accusations, counter accusations, actions and more actions – all aimed at having an upper hand in the unfolding bitter political game.
Events reached a crescendo last week when the electorate in Kogi West Senatorial district presented a request to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), seeking activation of the recall provision in the nation’s constitution. But how did events in Kogi get to this level? What is the political future of Senator Melaye and Governor Yahaya Bello, his main protagonist in all of these?
In the beginning
The relationship between Bello and Melaye was cordial with no sign of it breaking down irretrievably. Bello rode to the Lugard House in Lokoja under controversial circumstance. During the last governorship election the state, the APC governorship candidate, Prince Abubakar Audu was costing home to victory at the poll ahead of his closest rival, Capt. Idris Wada of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)but suddenly died before the final announcement of the result prompting the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to declared the election inconclusive and supplementary election ordered in some areas of the state.
At that time and following the death of Audu, a political lacuna emerged in the state. Eventually, Bello as a child of circumstances, benefitted from the demise of late Audu and was fielded by APC to run for the supplementary election having earlier participated in the party’s governorship primaries. Amidst the controversy that greeted Bello’s emergence, Melaye threw his weight behind him.
Melaye during Bello’s inauguration as the governor in Lokoja, Melaye who played a major role at the event spoke glowingly of the governor. But political watchers in the state predicted that going by the antecedents of the senator it was a matter of time before the duo would fall apart, prediction that has come to pass.
Political pundits in the state were of the view that the strong support given Bello by Melaye then was to spite the camp of national leader of APC, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu who was alleged to have brought in a House of Representatives member representing Ikeja in Lagos who also hail from Kogi State as the running mate of late Audu.
Relationship gone awry
No sooner had Bello settled down in governing the state, the crack between him and Melaye became betweem Bello and Melaye became noticeable. Also, the governor seemed not to be enjoying the support of the major stakeholders of his party in the Central Senatorial district where he comes from. The leaders had severally taken swipe at Bello’s style of governance.
Those abreast of Kogi political terrain, are saying the sour relationship may not be unconnected to governorship ambition which Melaye is said to be nurturing which the governor is said not to be comfortable with and as such kept a distance from Melaye.
But the belief in some quarters is that the reason for the fallen apart of the duo is beyond governorship ambition and more on ego. It is said the senator ‘s aim of affirming his overbearing influence on the governor was not acceptable to the governor and as such sees the senator as a threat to his government.
Recently, Melaye alleged that assassins were after his life when he visited his country home of Aiyetoro Gbedde in Kabba/Bunnu Council Area of the state. The senator accused his council’s chairman of plotting to kill his, saying several shots were fire at his home but for providence he would have been killed an accusation the council chairman vehemently denied. He pointed fingers at the governor over the incident. In a swift reaction, the governor ordered immediate investigation into the incident while rubbishing Melaye’s accusation against his government as baseless and should be disregarded.
INEC’s alleges double voter registration by Bello and APC’s calls for his resignation
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had alleged the Governor Yahaya Bello registered twice for voter register in breach of the provisions of the Electoral Act. In an official press statement, INEC accused the governor for registering in 2011 for his voter card in Wuse Zone 4 (Abuja) and registered for the second time at the Government House in Lokoja on May 23, 2017.
Immediately after the shocking revelation by INEC, a faction of Kogi APC called for the resignation of the governor or they would compel the state House of Assembly to move for his impeachment for having flouting the Electoral Act which the faction described as a criminal act committed by the governor.
At the forefront of those calling for Bello’s registration was his ardent foes, Senator Dino Melaye who was at a press conference in company of the factional chairman of Kogi APC, Hadi Amedo, Senators Dangana Ocheja, Abdulrahman Abubakar, Mohammed Ohiare, former House of Representatives member representing Kabba/Bunnu Federal Constituency, Duro Meseko, former House of Representatives members, Ismaila Husseini, Tom Zakari and host of others.
At the press conference, Melaye said ‘’INEC made an official press release to say that Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State registered in 2011 for his voter card in Wuse Zone 4 (Abuja) and on Tuesday (May 23, 2017), he did a second registration in the Government House in Lokoja (Kogi State).
‘’INEC said this contravened the provisions of Electoral Act and Governor Yahaya Bello has committed a crime. INEC also said that the Government House in Lokoja was not a designated registration centre, meaning that either through corruption, cohesion or diabolical means, the governor must have taken INEC (official) to the Government House to do the ‘bojuboju’ registration inside his office. This criminal behavior of the governor has embarrassed the people of Kogi State and the APC. We dissociate ourselves from this criminal behavior. Kogi peo[le are responsible people and we are expected to have a responsible governor.
‘’This has underscored the fact that as of the time he was contesting in the election, he was not a registered voter in Kogi State. If he was not a register voter ab initio, why did he accept the candidacy of the party? On this note we are calling for the immediate resignation of the governor because someone awaiting trial cannot be representing the people of Kogi State as governor. But if the governor refuses to to resign, we are going to mobilise our members in the House of Assembly to start an impeachment process against the governor because we have a valid point as expressed by INEC.’’
In a swift reaction, Governor Yahaya Bello dismissed as a ruse the calls for his resignation by Melaye’s faction of the APC, saying the calls was political jokes that could have emanated from unserious set of people.
The governor who spoke through his Director General, Media and Publicity, Kingsley Fanwo said the contentious issue was ‘’overblown to score political goals by opponents of the governo.’’ He added that his boss would not resign.
Fanwo at a press briefing recently in Lokoja, averred that ‘’It is unfortunate that some APC leaders have constituted themselves as opposition within the party, simply because they have lost out in their bid to compromise the system and scam the people of Kogi State. We have listened to INEC and we respect their decisions. Now it is time for the commission to fast-tract the transfer of the PVC of the Governor of Kogi State from Abuja. Resignation is completely out of the option and the governor will continue his good work for the people of Kogi State. They and their corrupt sponsors should wait till 2019.’’
Constituents move against Melaye
The political war between the dramatis personae in Kogi, Governor Yahaya Bello and Senator Dino Melaye gets dirtier as the day passes by, as they are scheming to outdo each other through tactical plots and counter plots. Just recently, the constituents of Senator Dino Melaye of Kabba/Bunnu which has never seen anything wrong in what Melaye had been doing politically since his days at the House of Representatives when his behavior called for scrutiny, suddenly moved against insisting that he must be recalled from the Senate.
This development, Melaye’s said is being sponsored by his arch foe, Governor Yahaya Bello. The governor distanced himself from the move to recall Melaye but advised the senator to respect the stance of his constituents.
Protesters had gathered recently in Kabba, the headquarters of Kabba/Bunnu Local Government Area, the council area of Melaye insisting that the senator must be recalled, just as the visited INEC office at the state capital, Lokoja to begin the process of the recall from Senate for offences they said the senator committed which warranted the move.
The leader of Senator Melaye Recall Group, Hope Kolawole averred that ‘’We the combined people of Kogi West Senatorial Zone of Kogi State are here (INEC office)today to initiate the process of recall for Senator Dino Melaye. We are here to pick the forms to commence the process from INEC. Let it be known that all of the local government areas comprising Kogi West Senatorial Zone are united in their resolve to recall Senator Dino Melaye and remove the disgrace he has become t0 all of us.
‘’We have compiled the key reasons below to show the world that Senator Dino Melaye’s recall is not only overdue, but the right thing to do in the best interest of Kogi West Senatorial zone. Kogi State, Nigeria and in fact the institution and dignity of the distinguished Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.’
The offences of Melaye according to Kolawole include, ‘’Not deeming it fit to have a constituency office in Kogi West Senatorial Zone even after two years in the Senate; he has no projects initiated in the constituency after two years in the Senate; he is known for a continuous flow of irresponsible utterances which embarrassed the constituency. He is enmeshed in a pending certificate scandal. His source of wealth is questionable to us and certainly not the model we wish our youth to emulate. He is an electoral fraud and has been caught on audio offering a judicial officer money to decide an electoral matter in his favour. Whether the appropriate authorities act or not, we the people of his constituency who are at the receiving end of his shameful deeds have run out of patience and are resolved to recall and replace him with a decent and people-oriented Senator.
‘’We understand the requirements of Section 69 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) regarding the recall of such a member of the National Assembly and hereby assure everyone that Kogi Central Senatorial Zone is united in this and will achieve this. We hereby give the Kogi State Government notice that we are going through with this and if they will not help us, they must also not try to stop us or put obstacles on our way, in particular, everything the law requires to be done by the administration in Lokoja in aid of this process must be done with dispatch.’’
Bloody Melaiye’s Lokoja rally
Senator Dino Melaye took the battle to the doorsteps of his bitter political enemy, Governor Yahaya Bello when he (Melaye) organized a rally in Lokoja, Kogi State capital at the state polytechnic to address his supporters in an apparent bid to counter Bello whom he accused of allegedly sponsoring his recall move by his constituent. The rally which was held on June 12, 2017 assumed a violent dimension which claimed the life of one Saka Seidu.
Melaye was said to have been addressing his supporters who are youths at the gate of the polythecnic when sporadic gunshots rented the air, culminating into stampede as people were said to have scampered to safety for fears of been caught in the crossfire. A victim, Seidu who an eyewitness said was shot to death, is said to be the supporter of Governor Yahaya Bello and was allegedly shot by Melaye’s security details. But different account had it that the victims had fired gunshots into the crowd at the rally inflicting injuries on some people and as such was shot dead. Melaye was said the violence that broke out at the rally was the second attempts to assassinate him, denying that his supporters killed the victim, adding that two of the operatives of DSS attached to him were shot while a pump action was recovered from Seidu and deposited at the DSS Lokoja office.
The state Commissioner of Police, Wilson Inalegwu who was said to have visited the scene and spoke to journalists, said Melaye failed to obtain police permit to enable him hold the rally promising to report the senator ‘’to the authorities.’’ However, Governor Yahaya Bello has charged security agents to thoroughly investigate the incidents.
As the bitter political war between Governor Yahaya Bello and Senator Dino Melaye get messier, what will happen next only time will tell?
Constituents move for Melaye’s recall
Senator Dino Melaye may not have expected the wind blowing against him, in view of the fact that in the past, he had been having his ways in his constituents no matter the political errors he committed. The senator, while at the House of Representatives as member, failed his people in the act of good representative. He was always at the wrong side of what his constituents expected of him at the lower chambers of the National Assembly the same scenario he is repeating at the upper chambers of the National Assembly culminating into why his constituents moving against him by seeking his recall from the Senate.
The latest development in the travails of the controversial senator may be the last straw that will nail his political future except unusual things happen that could change the game in his favour. Some political watchers in Kogi State have reasoned that Melaye is locked in Political battle with forces tougher than him and as such may find it difficult to wriggle himself out of the bout unscathed.
An All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain in the state who preferred anonymity, said the very day Melaye engaged the wife of the national leader of the party, Mrs. Remi Tinubu in war of words at the National Assembly, was the day he committed political error that may end his political career. The APC chieftain added that Melaye’s style of politics is strange as it lacks all sense of caution and civilization, stressing that the senator is fighting a political battle from all fronts that may eventually consume him.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in a statement issued in Abuja said it had on July 3 with regards to the time it would commence the verification of the signatures of the petitioners seeking the recall. The Kogi West Senatorial district, the constituency of Melaye had stormed INEC headquarters in Abuja last Wednesday to present their petition to the commission seeking the recall of the senator. In a statement Thursday, a National Commissioner of INEC, Madam Mohammed Haruna said, ‘’INEC has held its regular weekly meeting today and considered the petition submitted by registered voters from the Kogi-West senatorial district to kick-start the process of recalling Senator Dino Melaye.
“In accordance with INEC’s guidelines for the recall of members of the National Assembly, the commission had finally acknowledged the receipt of the petition to the petitioners’ representatives and has conveyed a letter notifying Senator Dino Melaye of our receipt of the petition. The next step is to verify that the petitioners are registered voters in the Kogi-West senatorial district. INEC will on July 3, 2017 issue a public notice stating dates, time, location and other details for the verification exercise.’’
In show seriousness of Melaye’s constituents’ move to recall him from the Senate, all the seven council areas’ petition against Melaye were packaged in seven bags with each representing a council areas. The breakdown of the percentage of voters that signed the petition from each council area indicated that Kabba/Bunnu had 46.7 per cent, Mopa/Muro, 50.4 percent, Ijumu which is Melaye’s council area has 51.8 per cent, Yagba-East 52 per cent, Kogi, 52.77 per cent, Lokoja, 54.8 per cent, Yagba-West, 55.7 per cent. At the end of the exercise by INEC, Melaye has since sued INEC seeking an order restraining the commission from conducting any referendum aimed at recalling him. Whether Melaye will remain in the Senate as the representative of Kogi-West senatorial district or cease to be, time will tell.