Intrigues continue to trail moves to recall Senator Dino Melaye who represents Kogi West Senatorial district. SOLOMON AYADO writes.
Would the alliance of Senator Dino Melaye to Senate President Bukola Saraki not hamper the smooth process of recalling the lawmaker? Will the many ‘political sins’ of Melaye consume him? Now that he has gone to court, would he get justice or just be buying time to prolong his stay at the Senate while the case lasts? Would this recall process make political history as the first to succeed? How much of the move to recall the senator is influenced by his intense political rivalry with his state governor, Yahaya Bello, as well as other political stakeholders?
These are among many other questions on the lips of most political pundits begging for urgent cogent answers. The political sphere is awash with the recent moves by the constituents of Kogi West senatorial district to recall Melaye, over allegations of non-performance and distance of the vocal lawmaker to his constituents.
One major controversy that has trailed the recall is the feisty political tussle between the senator and his state governor, a situation a lot of analysts perceive has been the propelling force behind the recall of the lawmaker. Under the All Progressives Congress (APC), the young politicians, forged a formidable team.
With the death of Abubakar Audu, the governorship candidate of the APC, who was coasting to victory at the guber polls, Melaye became one of Bello’s major supporters to take over the candidacy and conclude the party’s victory.
In retrospect however, the political rivalry between Melaye and Bello can categorically be adduced to common egocentric battles of two emerging political gladiators, who are now washing their dirty linens in public.
It started with allegations by Melaye to the effect that loyalists of the state government were involved in an alleged assassination attempt on his life. As the state government was distancing itself from the allegations, the double voters registration scandal involving Bello suddenly emerged. The senator had also dragged Bello, before the Federal High Court, sitting in Lokoja over non conduct of local government election.
Precisely on Saturday, June 10, 2017, a process of recall on Melaye kicked off in Kogi West senatorial district which comprises seven local government areas. They are Koton Karfe, Lokoja, Kabba/Bunu, Ijumu, Mopa Amuro, Yagba East and Yagba. The constituents signed the petition and submitted it to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The Kogi West senatorial constituents maintained that they want the senator recalled from the red chamber and submitted 188,500 signatures to the INEC for the recall process.
The presenter of the signatures to INEC, Cornelius Olowo said the need for the recall of Melaye is majorly based on non-performance. According to him, since Melaye was elected in 2015, there is yet to be any significant thing the senator has done for the people of Kogi West. He noted that from the signatures gathered so far, the constituents have been able to record 52% of the electoral area needed for the recall.
Stating reasons why the process kick started, Olowo said; “the petition had signatures of registered voters in the senatorial district, who endorsed the recall. We have over 360,000 registered voters in Kogi West and after about one week of collation of signatures, we were able to gather over 188,500 signatures, endorsing the recall of the senator. We have submitted the petition at the office of INEC Chairman. It is now left for INEC to go and do confirmation of the signatures before going on the process needed for the recall.
“In the last two years, some senators have been meeting with their people quarterly. They update them on what has been happening and seek their contributions on issues and their aspirations to be presented at the senate.
“For the past two years, Senator Malaye has not organized one town hall meeting anywhere in Kogi West to meet with the people to present his scorecard or stewardship. He has been completely disconnected from the people. Since he won his election and the legal battle at the court, he is no longer reachable,” Olowo said.
Olowo further said the absence of a constituency office has also contributed to the peoples’ inabilty to reach Melaye on pressing issues. “He has no constituency office in Kogi West as we speak, as a way to reach him on matter of interests from the people that elected him.’’
But Melaye, who has fought many political battles, just like the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, was unperturbed. Confident that moves for his recall will crash, he boasted that actions by his constituents to recall him from the upper legislative chamber which, he always insist is orchestrated by Governor Bello, would land many people in jail. He also maintained that he is not in anyway bothered about the issue.
INEC had kept mum over the matter until the constituents stormed its national headquarters. Consequently, the commission confirmed that it has received the signatures and written to the senator, stating its full knowledge on the matter. According to INEC, in a statement issued by the National Commissioner, Mallam Mohammed Haruna
“In accordance with INEC’s guidelines for the recall of members of the National Assembly, the commission has 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 of the exercise.
“Kogi-West, which Melaye represents in the Senate, has seven local government areas.Signatures and petitions from each of the local government area were packaged in seven bags, which were tagged according to the names of the local governments, and submitted to the commission.
“The local government areas and the percentage of the voters who signed the recall petition showed that Yagba-West had the highest number of voters asking Melaye to return home from the Senate.
“The breakdown, as shown in the petition is: Yagba-West, 55.7 per cent; Lokoja, 54.8 per cent; Kogi, 52.77 per cent; Yagba-East, 52 per cent; Ijumu (Melaye’s local government), 51.8 per cent; Mopa/Moro, 50.4 per cent and Kabba/Bunu, 46.7 per cent,” it stated.
Ofcourse, even if all petitions are written, signatures collated by the constituents and submitted to the national electoral body, it is pertinent that the constitutional electoral process of recall must mandatorily be followed and not waved.According to Section 69 of the 1999 Constitution, it provides 10 clear but tortuous steps on how a legislator can be recalled from the Senate. The steps stipulates that more than half of the registered voters in the Senator’s senatorial district write, sign and send a petition to the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC alleging their loss of confidence in the senatorial. Secondly, the petition must be signed, and arranged according to polling units, wards, Local Government Areas, and constituency. Thirdly, INEC notifies the Senator sought to be recalled, stating that it has received a petition for his or her recall, if the petition is valid and fourthly, INEC issues a public notice or announcement stating the date, time and location of the verification of signatures to the petition.
Next, INEC will verify the signatures to the petition at the designation. The signatories must be individuals who appear on the voters’ register. INEC will then conduct a referendum if more than one half (50% + 1) of the signatories are verified. Seventhly, INEC writes to the petitioners stating that the minimum requirements for a referendum were not met, if the number verified is less than one half of the registered voters in that constituency. The petition will therefore be dismissed. The eight step is that INEC conducts a referendum within 90 days of receipt of the petition if the minimum requirements for a referendum are met. The referendum will be a simple yes or no vote on whether the Senator should be recalled, and will be decided by simple majority of the votes of the persons registered to vote in that Senator’s constituency.
Following, if majority of the voters in the constituency vote ‘yes’ the chairman of the INEC will send a Certificate of Recall to the Senate President to effect the recall and finally, the Senate President will show affected senator the way out of the Senate.
At the moment, there are several issues that have come to the fore in ensuring that Melaye is summoned to return. There are controversies as well. But can the recall process succeed or fail?
Apart from a perceived gang up by senator’s kinsmen with the alleged backing by Bello, it is said that Melaye has committed several other political sins that have made it pretty difficult for a clearer depiction of his emanating political predicament. His total loyalty to the senate president has put him on a collision course with many political bigwigs, analysts opine.
Besides Melaye’s alleged assault on Tinibu’s wife, his insistence on the rejection and sack of the EFCC chairman Ibrahim Magu, removal of senate leader Ali Ndume, as well as being the arrow head of Hameed Ali, CG custom’s hurdles, and ultimately attacking the anti corruption drive of the executive among others, had naturally made his unpopular in certain political circles.
Although the senator has raised the alarm that the governor of Kogi State released the sum of over N2bn to the seven local government areas in the Kogi West senatorial district to facilitate his recall from the Senate, the lawmaker described it as a huge joke and mere “comedy of errors.”
But Bello is not keeping quiet over the allegations. He has denied having a hand in the senator’s travails, saying categorically that he cannot in anyway trade state matters to pursue empty business of recalling Melaye. Bello insisted that he (Melaye) should rather focus on satisfying the yearnings of the constituents that voted him.
Nonetheless, impeccable sources in the Senate said there is no way Saraki would fold his hands and watch his foremost ally being swallowed by the political gang up which is seen as politically motivated.
For one, Melaye was instrumental to the political scheme that produced the leadership of Saraki. Out of the 57 senators loyal to Saraki, most of them PDP members, who had unanimously voted him during the leadership poll, Melaye nominated him and till date, they have remained inseparable political allies.
“Do you imagine that Saraki will simply sit and watch Senator Dino be consumed by a recall that is merely impossible? He is a core Saraki man and whatever it takes to shelve the matter will relentlessly be done. Already, Saraki is making plans to gather relevant stakeholders to quickly intervene in the matter and surely, that case is dead on arrival,” the source stated.
Another source said all the recall effort by the constituents of Kogi West are simply impossible and would definitely be an exercise in futility. The source said “Senator Melaye would take the case to court in a view to seeking prompt injunction restraining INEC from further proceeding with the recall process.”
True to prediction, the senator approached the courts on Friday. He sued INEC over the ongoing moves by his constituents to recall him, denying also that he has been written to by the commission over his recall.
In a series of tweets deriding his proposed recall by his constituency, the lawmaker also alleged that dead people were among those who signed the petition seeking to have him recalled.
He tweeted, “I have filed my case against INEC today at the Federal High Court Abuja. Even dead people were among those who signed petition to recall Dino Melaiye.”
In all, the narratives from the major actors are clear. While it seems that the people of Kogi West senatorial district are sick and tired of Melaye’s representation at the National Assembly, it is also remains a conjecture whether the position of the constituents is been sponsored by some political heavyweights.The matter has been thrown into legal space, the political tricks would definitely heighten.