Melaye’s recall: Kogi state’s political drama starring living, dead actors
The journey to the recall of Senator Dino Melaye has been fraught with judicial potholes. Currently, the matter awaits ruling by the Supreme Court. The hands pulling the strings, however, have refused to give up.
Recently, the process received fresh thrust, as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released the timetable for the defining exercise.
Some constituents from Kogi West Senatorial District, where the senator hails from, had, last year, begun the move, registering their names and submitting photocopies of their Permanent Voter Cards.
Over 188,000 people from the district reportedly gave their signatures in June 2017, indicating readiness to recall Melaye, whom they accused of poor representation.
But the senator raised issues with the recall, alleging dead people, including a deceased gubernatorial aspirant, signed the petition.
He complained that the All Progressives Congress (APC) aspirant, Prince Rotimi Obadofin, and hundreds of other dead voters were on the list.
He contended that Obadofin died April 7, 2016 and has since been buried, and that the figures were forged and fraudulently passed on to INEC.
He said: “Our investigation revealed that even the dead signed the recall across the seven local government areas of the senatorial district.
Let me also sound authoritatively, here, that in Lokoja Local Government Area (LGA), several others whose names and signatures appeared on the list for the failed exercise were identified and known to us, such as the late Abdullahi Abubakar; his late immediate younger sister, Halima Lawi Abubakar; and Ibrahim Adams of Unit Code 021, Adankolo Ring Road in Ward ‘A’, Lokoja LGA.”
He added that the late Mallam Salihu Black of Gegu-Beki town in Kogi LGA, who until his death was a biology teacher at Government Secondary School, Koton-Karfe, was also a signatory.
Melaye’s legislative aid, Abubakar Sadiq, alleged that the recall was hatched at Government House, Lokoja, and was aimed at paying back the senator for challenging the administration over non-payment of workers’ salaries and pensions.
“This is the sin committed by the senator. He has been the only voice crying out for the suffering workers in the state,” Sadiq said.
On the register, he noted: “They claimed to have got over 188,000 signatures of the electorate in Kogi West senatorial district, whereas the total votes cast in the last senatorial election in 2015 was merely about 111,000.
That is for all the candidates that participated in the election, valid and rejected votes inclusive. For God’s sake, where could they have got such outrageous figures, when people were not seen at the polling units visited during the purported exercise.”
Sadiq pointed out that if INEC embarks on verification, it would find that the list was doctored allegedly under the watch of Chief of Staff to the Governor, Edward Onoja.
Still on the late aspirant, the campaign manager to the deceased, Yahaya Adesayo Ismail, said he was perplexed when he saw his former boss’ name among the list of persons seeking Melaye’s recall.
He questioned why this should be, when the people of Kogi West failed to support the aspirant’s political agenda when he was alive.
The Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to Governor Yahaya Bello, Petra Onyegbule Akinti, had earlier said the allegation didn’t deserve any response. According to her, “The fact about the people that signed the register is with INEC.
It has the responsibility of verifying the signatures. So, it has nothing to do with the CPS or even the Kogi State government.
There is nothing for the distinguished senator to be worried about, as INEC is set for the public verification of signatures, and the date is around the corner. There is no point burning their energies all over the place.”
INEC had kick-started the recall but was compelled to stop, due to legal actions instituted by Melaye. The Court of Appeal, however, threw out the senator’s suit.
Its judgment delivered March 16, 2018 in Abuja gave INEC leave to continue with the process. And on March 24, 2018, INEC consequently released the timetable and schedule of activities for the exercise.
In a statement INEC said: “Pursuant to the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, delivered on March 16, 2018, the Independent National Electoral
Commission, hereby, issues this timetable and schedule of activities for the recall of the senator representing Kogi West Senatorial District, Kogi State.
“The process will begin March 27, 2018 with the posting of the notice of verification at the Commission’s local government area office in Lokoja, Kogi State, and end with the declaration of the outcome of the verification on April 29, 2018.”
The commission stressed that it was exercising its powers, as conferred on it by Sections 69 and 110 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), and Section 116 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
Also, according to the statement, April 4 was set as the last day for the submission of application by interested observers. April 20 was the last day for the submission of the names of verification agents.
A stakeholders’ meeting holds April 25 at INEC’s state office and conduct of verification on April 28 at all polling units in the constituency.
Some constituents, however, have threatened to make trouble, alleging their names were put on the list without their consent. Others expressed satisfaction with the process. Others, yet, urged caution, saying the state government and not Kogi West people was behind the matter.
One Suleiman Abdulmalik, who has been at the forefront of the recall, was optimistic. He said: “We are going to succeed. Dino can only run but he cannot run forever. The law must surely catch up with him. We are getting close.
He is using the judiciary to frustrate the process, but we will surely get there. Even within the judiciary, we are winning. He has gone to the Supreme Court. And once we defeat him there, the recall would be a done deal.”
He added: “We are sure we will secure the over 50 per cent signatures required. It would be verifiable. And at the end of the day, we will succeed. The recall is our project.
We cannot continue to support a senator that will be deriding his own party, the president and the governor of his own state. His acts are always un-parliamentary, and the recall is to enable us correct that. There will be no going back.”
On the other hand, a constituent from Kabba-Bunu LGA, Segun Modeyin, said the recall is not in the best interest of the people of Kogi West.
According to him, “It will be an exercise in futility because Dino Melaye is someone who is well accepted among the people in his senatorial district. He has been representing us well. In recent times, he has done a lot in impacting lives through the execution of various constituency projects.
“In fact, he has touched virtually every community within his senatorial district. Our rural people have enjoyed electricity, water and road construction projects from the same Dino.
Our people have resolved that at whichever party Dino Melaye chooses to contest for a second term, they would vote for him because of their confidence in him.
I believe the recall is purely a political vendetta from the Kogi State government. I believe the APC, as a party, needs to wade into the face-off between the senator and the governor. The senator is performing and I don’t believe any recall would work against him.”
He added: “I doubt if they (INEC) can authenticate those signatures. We are surprised that INEC, which is supposed to be an unbiased umpire, is the one pushing for the recall of our senator. It is unfortunate that those who are supposed to protect the rule of law are the ones doing otherwise.
Our call on INEC is to ensure that each of the signatures gathered is confirmed to be truly those of the constituents. If not, we will make an issue out of it.”
INEC’s Head of Voters Education and Publicity, Mr. Biambo Bagudu, stressed that the Commission would follow the timetable of the recall to the letter, except there is another judgment. He disclosed that members of the National Youth Service Corps Scheme (NYSC), staff of federal tertiary institutions, and the Commission’s personnel would oversee the exercise, which he promised would be credible.
On the suit filed by Melaye at the Supreme Court, Bagudu said the Commission would halt the process, if a judgment demands it. But a veteran journalist turned politician based in Lokoja, Comrade Tims Ejiga, cautioned that since Melaye has already approached the apex court, the status quo ante should be maintained, as continuing the recall would be unfair.