Kogi guber: The Dino Melaye challenge, hype or reality?
According to him: “It is a battle of no retreat, no surrender. I am ready, I am willing, I just need the support of our elders and the generality of our people. Above all, I have consulted God and there is no network failure between god and I. Anytime I call upon Him He picks my calls, He doesn’t give me missed calls. Most importantly, my mother recently joined the angels, so I have celestial support too. In view of all these, before my political elders and fathers and all the people of Kogi West Senatorial District that are here, and those that are not here, I hereby announce my intention and decision to run for the governorship of Kogi State in 2019.”
Ordinarily, Melaye’s governorship ambition should have been an easy gift to Kogi West. No politician from that zone has ever occupied the seat of the governor of Kogi State. Clarence Olafemi, a former Speaker of the House of Assembly from Mopa, Mopamuro Council had the rare privilege in 2007, no thanks to the cancellation of the election of Alhaji Ibrahim Idris, that year, by the Supreme Court on the strength of a petition that one of the candidates in that election was illegally excluded. Luckily, Olafemi served as an acting governor for three months, midwifing a reordered election, which returned Idris, an Igala from Kogi East.
Ever since, there has been no room to accommodate any Kogi governor from outside Kogi East, until death took the mandate from Abubakar Audu, and gifted Yahaya Bello who is Ebira, from Kogi Central senatorial zone, in 2015. Bello became the first non-Igala to rule Kogi State since the creation of the state August 27, 1991 and since the first democratically elected governor, late Prince Abubakar Audu was inaugurated January 2, 1992.
Three years and a half after, and during Bello’s first tenure, the unexpected is happening. To begin with, Bello’s emergence as governor in the wave of Audu’s death would come with complex challenges including that of intra-party acceptability and legitimacy among the membership of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Abiodun Faleke, Audu’s runningmate in that ill-fated November 21, 2015 election had enough reason to part ways with his party’s decision to replace him with Bello, as the candidate following the controversial legal interpretation to the effect that Bello who came second at the APC governorship primaries, was better placed to replace the late Audu.
Coming from this background, it is not unlikely that Melaye’s role in the 2015 impasse will again come to the fore as he seeks the exalted office, going forward to the November 16, 2019 governorship poll.
He has been accused variously, of abandoning the Abubakar Audu/James Faleke camp to pitch his tent with Bello, even while the struggle for the reclamation of the ‘lost’ mandate was at its peak. The matter graduated through the lower courts to the apex court. It was eventually decided in the incumbent’s favour.
Melaye was also found guilty of playing the role of master-of-the-ceremony at Bello’s inauguration, where he declared that the governor was divinely installed! His famous sound bite as he held the compere’s microphone at that event, to the effect that ‘Kogi people voted Abubakar Audu, but God chose Yahaya Bello’, continues to echo in the ears of many people in the state.
Like an apparition, all of that would soon vanish and in its place was the war of attrition between Bello and Melaye, which has subsisted through the entire first tenure of the incumbent.
Melaye would later apologise to the people of the state for being “blind” at the time he supported Bello.
Melaye thus became a hero of sorts by championing the cause of works who are allegedly owed several months by the Bello administration. That turned the government against him, culminating in the failed recall of Dino Melaye from the Senate in 2018, an exercise, which had the imprimatur of the state government. Following his popular re-election as senator in the February 2019 elections, Melaye’s popularity grew to the point that he is the only senator returned on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kogi State.
Going by the popular view in the PDP, Kogi East remains the party’s strategic option to produce its flag bearer for the governorship. Not a few hold the view, however, that in the event Bello beats the odds to pick APC ticket, the PDP may have to consider picking its candidate from Kogi West for a few reasons. These include the high number of aspirants in the various parties from the majority Kogi East and the fear that they might not be on the same page at the end of the primaries. For the PDP where Melaye belongs, it is instructive that of the 13 governorship aspirants who have collected nomination forms before the close of sales of forms, 11 are from the East (Igala). One is from Kogi Central (Ebira) and one from Kogi West (Okun/Yoruba).
Confirmed participants in the PDP primary election scheduled for September 3, 2019, include Melaye; former Governor Idris Wada; his brother, Engr Musa Wada; Alhaji Abubakar Ibrahim (son of former Governor Ibrahim Idris); former Deputy Speaker of the Kogi State House of Assembly, Hon Emmanuel Omebije. There are also; Air Vice Marshal Atawodi Salihu (rtd); Kogi East senatorial candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) in the February 2019 polls, Mr. Victor Adoji; business tycoon, Suleiman Aminu and security expert, Mr Joe Erico Ameh. The list includes Muhammed Shaibu Tetes; Kabiru Sarhas; Mrs Grace Adejoh and Mr. Bayo Averehi.
Melaye is from Western Senatorial District with a total of 849 delegates from seven local government areas. Only Bayo Averehi and Melaye are non-Igala. While Averehi hails from Kogi Central, which has about 470 delegates, Melaye hails from Kogi West with 849 delegates. The remaining 11 aspirants are from the Kogi East Senatorial District of 9 LGAs with a total of 985 delegates.
“From the above statistics, it is clear that aspirants from Kogi East are just too many, however, this doesn’t add up that delegates from a particular senatorial district will automatically vote for aspirants from that senatorial district. In 2011, some governorship aspirants were unable to convince delegates from their own local governments, not even their foremost constituencies to cast their votes for them. Some aspirants polled as low as one vote. Perhaps, they voted form themselves,” an observer noted.
Another to consider is the age-long agitation for power to rotate from Igalaland to the West of the Niger, Kogi Central and Kogi West, two senatorial zones from the Old Kwara State, which have been totally marginalized in the governorship contest over the years.
A third factor is the fact that Kogi West has remained faithful to the PDP since the present dispensation in 1999 and is the only zone that delivered to the PDP in the February and March 2019 polls; the presidential and senatorial elections, and also secured one out of three House of Representatives seats.
At the end of the day, the race might be an interesting match between Bello and estranged friend, Melaye, in the event that both men secure the tickets of their respective political parties.
Addressing the delegates in Odo-Ere, Yagba West Local Council during his declaration, Melaye said, “we will handle every citizen of Kogi State the way the private sector handles customers. Every citizen shall be a customer to the government. Customer is always right. That’s why they say customer is king. Irrespective of your status, network service providers give you your regards when you place a customer care call.
They do not discriminate between the poor and the rich. So, when we come in by the special grace of God we are going to have a Customer-Government relationship. The people shall be our focus, shall teleguide our vision and policies.
Melaye appealed to the delegates that as a son of the poor, he deserved the votes of the poor masses more than the sons of the rich currently seeking to be governor as well.
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