Melaye: Why his triumphs against all odds
• How Eagle-eyed Party Agent Rescued Him From Collation Officer
The senator representing Kogi West Senatorial district, Dino Melaye, has survived onslaughts that would have ordinarily silenced him long before the 2019 National Assembly election.
From every indication, traducers were determined to stop him from returning to the red chamber for the second term. So, they placed obstacles on his way, including allegations, arraignments and detentions, even at a medical facility.
His victory on February 23, 2019 against all expectations is a pointer to the fact that power belongs to the people, regardless of the amount of force and intimidation to coerce them.
That Senator Melaye was declared winner last election came as a pleasant surprise to many of his admirers, but to his enemies, it was a shock.
Governor Bello is not a happy man, even though President Buhari won the presidential election in the state. His appointees from Melaye’s senatorial district have been under fire for failing to deliver the district for the All Progressives Congress (APC)
The Governor’s preferred candidate for the senatorial election, Smart Adeyemi is also yet to recover from the shock.
Fake results of the senatorial election were bandied around on social media, indicating that Senator Adeyemi was leading. This led many astray, as a celebration was held in their camp until Melaye was declared winner.
However, the declaration of Melaye as winner was delayed, which created a drama at the collation centre in Lokoja, when figures for Lokoja Local Government were allegedly changed.
The collation officer for Lokoja, Dr. Folorunsho, presented a different figure that removed 8,000 votes from Senator Melaye’s votes. Folorunsho was forced to eat the humble pie, as he pleaded for forgiveness from agents and observers at the local government INEC collation centre.
The Senatorial election, which became a supremacy battle between the incumbent Dino Melaye and his predecessor Smart Adeyemi over the last four years, saw Melaye reenacting his winning streak. In 2015 on APC platform, Melaye defeated Smart Adeyemi, who contested as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate with about 2,000 votes.
But in 2019, the two rivals swapped political parties and the winning margin got wider with about 17,326 votes.
The total figures announced by Folorunsho were different from that of the party’s agent at the collation centre. After the announcement, the party’s agent, former vice chairman of Lokoja Local government on the platform of PDP, noticed that there was a discrepancy of 8,000 in the figure announced as total votes scored by his party.
So, he raised observation, which forced Folorunsho to halt his announcement, while the figures were tabulated only to discover that 8,000 votes had been slashed from PDP votes. After everyone at the collation centre agreed, it was adjusted to reflect the true figure.
Similar discrepancy was noticed by the agent, when 300 votes were added to APC figure in the same ward. Folorunsho also admitted making a mistake and adjusted the figure to reflect the new total.
While speaking after the figures had been adjusted, Folorunsho said it was a mistake from which no one was immune, as he asked for everyone’s understanding. He explained that lack of enough sleep might have contributed to the error, promising never to allow such again.
The Returning Officer for Kogi West Senatorial district, Prof. Emmanuel Bala thereafter announced that Melaye polled 84, 797 votes to defeat Sen. Smart Adeyemi, who scored 67, 471votes.
Melaye won six LGAs out of the seven that make up Kogi West Senatorial District, which include Lokoja, Kogi/Koton Karfe, Kabba/Bunu, Ijumu, Yagba East and Yagba West.
In his reaction, Melaye thanked God for his victory. In a tweet, the lawmaker also commended the people of his constituency for their support.
From the testimonies of his constituents, Kogi West has never had it so good, especially in real infrastructural development.
According to them, the senator attracted more than 150 projects that included roads, borehole and blocks of classrooms in the seven Local Governments.
A traditional ruler in Eggan was said to have asked Senator Adeyemi when he came for campaigns whether he was aware that the road through which he came was Senator Melaye’s constituency project.
Before the election, there were rumours that even if Melaye won, his victory would be upturned. But the overwhelming votes he garnered made it impossible to do so, as even some APC agents said there was nothing they could do to change the people’s determination to return the senator.
Another reason for Melaye’s victory can be traced to the sympathy he got, based on series of persecution he suffered in the hand of the state government, which practically did all the campaigns for the senator.
At a point, it seemed as if the fight against Melaye took the better part of governance, as other aspects suffered serious neglect. The more the altercations between Government and Melaye, the more popular the senator became among his constituents.
Hence, the interest generated by the senator’s reelection could be linked to his stance against Government on the anti-people’s policies, such as the endless screening and the non-payment of several months’ salaries.
For the average civil servants in Kogi, Melaye is their only voice, whether Kogi East, Central or Kogi West.
The immediate past deputy Governor of the state, Mr. Yomi Awoniyi said Melaye’s victory belongs to the entire people of Kogi West Senatorial district, which include Lokoja/KotonKarfe and the Okuns.
Director, Dino Melaye Campaign Organisation, Alhaji Mahmoud Abubakar said the Governor campaigned for Melaye when he used state apparatus to decimate him.
He said: “All through Kogi West, the electorates were determined to vote for Melaye. Even the ardent followers of Buhari after voting APC for President, voted PDP for Senate, because of their conviction.
“Also, Melaye’s work spoke for him. Within three and a half years, he attracted and completed over 200 projects across the seven local Governments of Kogi West senatorial district.”
It would be recalled that at the onset of Governor Yahaya Bello’s Government on January 27, 2016, Senator Melaye was the Master of Ceremony during the swearing in of the Governor.
At that point Bello and Melaye were allies, seen to be working for a common purpose, as the senator declared that the people of the state voted for the late Audu, but God voted Governor Yahaya Bello.
Not long after, however, the honeymoon came to an abrupt end, as issues bordering on appointment of aides and local government administrators caused a serious rift between the two.
Ever since, it has been one controversy after another between the Governor and the senator.
The first major attack on the senator was during Easter holiday in 2017, when it was alleged that Melaye escaped death by the whiskers, as gunmen invaded his house at Ayetoro-Gbede in Kogi State.
It was reported that the gunmen, numbering about 10, arrived the house at about midnight through the bush and opened fire on the house from different directions. The house was riddled with bullets, while two vehicles parked in the estate were damaged by the hoodlums.
The second major controversy was when the then Kogi State Police Command paraded two notorious political thugs: Kabiru Seidu alias Osama and Nuhu Salisu alias Small, who were alleged to be working for Melaye towards 2019 election.
The belief in many quarters was that the allegation was cooked up to ensure the senator was cut to size.
The police had indicated that, the State Police command personnel and the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad trailed and arrested the two suspects after a gun duel that lasted for some hours at Agojueju.
Melaye was arraigned before the Chief Magistrate Court in Lokoja on a stretcher to face the charges, only for the police to later come up with another surprise that the suspects had escaped from police custody.
Melaye was later detained in police custody, but his lawyer’s argument that he needed proper medical attention got the nod from the presiding judge, Justice Nasiru Ajana, who was the state’s Chief judge. So, he was detained in a hospital bed at the national Hospital Abuja.
While this was happening, a recall process, which was perceived to have been instigated by the State Government, had advanced to the stage of signature verification, while the senator was tucked away.
However, the recall process could not continue beyond the verification of signatures, as the process crashed like a pack of cards.
The face-off culminated in several open confrontations and attacks and counter attacks.
The allegation that he supplied arms to some criminals for which the police declared him wanted was the last straw that broke the Camel’s back.
In an attempt to prevent being paraded in Lokoja after submitting himself to the police, Melaye allegedly jumped out of a moving police van in Abuja, where he sustained injuries and was detained in a hospital bed.
The scenario kept him away from the verification exercise of his recall, which political commentators still linked to the face-off.
The recall process was a monumental failure, as a large number of purported signatories to the petition refused to turn up for the verification exercise.
The total number of signatories to the petition was 189,870, out of which only 20, 868 came for the verification exercise.
A total of 18, 742 were actually verified, representing only 5.34 percent, which was far bellow the 50 plus one percent required by law.
Again, Melaye escaped another assassination attempt on his life on July 18, 2018, when men of the Nigeria police, the Security Joint Task Force and SARS allegedly opened fire on his bullet proof Mercedes Sports Utility Van (SUV), on his way to commission over 145 projects he executed in his constituency.
Unknown thugs had threatened to kill him, if he ventured to set his foot on the soil of the state.
To make real their threats, four of his projects located in Lokoja, which were to be commissioned by Melaye were razed down.
While on his way to Isanlu in Yagba East local government council to commission some other projects, armed policemen and members of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) prevented him from entering the town.
Melaye, who left his country home at Ayetoro-gbede to commission the projects met road block with a heavy truck shortly before Isanlu, where armed policemen equally set up fire with tyres blocking any one wanting to gain access to the town.
Sensing danger, Melaye made a detour to return to Ayetoro-gbede with his entourage.
On arriving his country home, armed policemen, including SARS allegedly attacked his convoy, opening fire on his bullet proof Mercedez Benz SUV, as residents scampered for safety.
The armed security men, numbering over 30, allegedly took over his home shooting sporadically, scaring people away as the community was deserted.
It would be recalled that Melaye was also attacked in Lokoja in front of the State Polytechnic last year during a rally, when he also escaped unhurt, but one of his assailants fell to superior firepower from security operatives.
Also during the celebration to mark Kabba Day, the senator was ambushed by some thugs, who unleashed mayhem throwing pebbles, pure water sachets and other dangerous weapons at him.
The Senator was duly invited for the Day’s celebration, just as the Governor, but their long-standing feud played out and the celebration was marred with skirmishes, as many dignitaries scampered for safety.
Melaye may be made of a sterner stuff, as he does not let the grass grow under his feet in taking crucial decisions when it matters most.
His decision to dump the ruling APC for PDP fits into this description.
Though controversial, Melaye has been having all odds working in his favour, as his confrontational disposition on the floor of the Senate chamber and his public life kept landing him in one trouble or the other, but he kept surmounting them, and even manages to attract more sympathy than retribution.
In Kogi, he became a beautiful bride being toasted by the opposition party, PDP, even before he joined the party.
During the recall exercise, PDP played a crucial role, when it mobilised its members against the recall process.
Having been severely persecuted by his own party, APC, for perceived ‘anti-party’ utterances, his defection was a done deal.
The PDP saw him as a great asset, going by the people’s perception, especially the civil servants for whom he had been a mouthpiece or arbiter over unpaid salaries.
So, he joined PDP just before the election and the outcome has proved him right with the overwhelming votes that gave him another chance to represent his people.
In another move to tuck him away for eight days, the Nigeria Police laid siege to Melaye’s Abuja residence.
His arrest after eight-day siege to his home ended a turbulent year, which began with allegations that the lawmaker was involved in alleged multiple armed robbery and murder plots.
That development made it the fourth attempt to arrest Melaye by the police in 2018. So, the embattled Senator had little time to campaign. A reprieve came after the Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Idris retired and the new Acting IG soft-pedaled and he was granted bail barely one week to the election.
Melaye was able to move round his district for ward-to-ward campaigns just a week to the election.
His victory was a shocker to many, especially his political enemy, Governor Yahaya Bello.
Though Bello made good his promise to deliver Kogi for Buhari’s victory, but the votes were not more than that of Katsina, as he had boasted.
A staunch APC member who didn’t not want his name published, said the biggest mistake came from Governor Bello, who devoted all his energy to fighting Melaye at the expense of good governance, thereby making him more popular.
He said: “If Bello had Ignored Melaye, I bet you, nobody would have remembered him now. Bello and his appointees practically did the campaign for Melaye to win the election on a platter of gold.”