The political atmosphere situated within the prescient of Maverick Politician, Senator Dino Melaye looks cloudy and calls for concern. No thanks to the collection of the signature of over 52 per cent of registered voters of the Kogi West Senatorial district that was used to back a petition for the recall of the eccentric member of the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). SEGUN ADEBAYO reports on a matter that may likely turn into a cobweb of complexities.
The deft move to recall Senator Dino Melaye from the Senate recently commenced in earnest when the Kogi West Senatorial district submitted the signatures of 52.3% of registered voters to begin his recall process from the National Assembly. Announcing the submission of the signatures, the leader of Melaye’s constituents, Chief Cornelius Olowo, said the attempt to recall the senator was hinged on his “abysmal performance” since his election in 2015.
Olowo, who confirmed that over 52 percent of voters have signed up for the recall, lamented that despite the senator’s lackluster performance, Melaye distanced himself from his constituents.
According to him; “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 Melaye has not organised 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.
“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,” he said.
Announcing that the Kogi West Senatorial Zone has a 360,000 registered voters, Olowo noted that there was no going back, as the electorates are ready to recall Melaye, who has not brought development to the area.”
He continued: “We have over 360,000 registered voters in Kogi West and after about one week of collection 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 with the process needed for the recall.’’
Voice Of Jacob, Hand of Esau
Not a few are convinced that the move to recall Melaye is a script written by the Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello. There has been no love lost between the Kogi governor and the senator who has always accused Yahaya of being irresponsible in living up to his mandate through regular payment of salaries to workers despite receipt of the Paris Club Refund.
elaye also recently called on the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency on Kogi, following the spate of violence that is ripping across the state. Political rally in Lokoja had ended in violence, with a polytechnic student killed during the event. The Senator had also alleged that Security agents attached to his convoy had been shot and expressed worry that if nothing was done to curb violence in Kogi, the people stood the risk of annihilation.
During a recent visit to Acting President Yemi Osinbajo in Abuja, Governor Bello traced Melaye’s alarmist disposition to a faulty childhood upbringing, saying; “I would rather admonish Nigerians that when a child lacks proper parental care and upbringing, he constitutes social menace in the society. If the society does not take steps to check and correct such a child, they can take into criminality, then, it will be left for the government to check such criminality.
“The good people of Okunland and indeed Kogi West senatorial district have learnt from a bitter mistake of not taming and curbing that social deviant, and they have decided to take lawful steps in recalling him.”
Not wanting to be outtalked, Melaye swiftly replied Bello, saying; “Governor Bello is afraid of anyone with a rising profile, a characteristic of one suffering superiority complex and intellectual stagnancy. He is shooting the moon and boxing the wind.”
Apart from accusing Bello of sponsoring his recall with the sum of N200 million shared to all local councils in his senatorial zone, Melaye disclosed that key politicians in the state have been compromised by the state government to join the bandwagon for recall from the Senate.
However, a frontline activist in the recall process, Abdulmalik Suleiman, argued that people of Kogi West were not induced by the state government to seek for the recall of Dino, just as he stressed that disenchantment of the electorates on Melaye’s representation is the key issue, especially his penchant for delving into unnecessary controversies.
“Dino has become an embarrassment to Kogi West in particular and the state in general. Since we elected him to the Senate, the primary work expected of him as a parliamentarian was not done. Dino has evaded his responsibility and has been pursuing pecuniary and selfish interests.
“He has never thought about how to bring dividends of democracy to his people. He is rather taking on individuals. If he is not molesting Tinubu’s wife today, he will be there diverting attention to the issue of how Ali Hameed must wear the uniforms of customs.
“We did not elect him to be meddling in all these petty issues. We elected him to serve the people. Buying all those roadside awards, being the best senator and all those worthless things are not the reason we sent him there,” Suleiman said.
Melaye, Others Oppose Recall Process
However, Senator Melaye has described the recall process as a comedy that can stand the test of time. He insisted that he is a victim of state sponsored falsehood aimed at silencing his position and defence of the voiceless in the state, especially public sector workers that have been denied salaries for over a year.
This recall process cannot succeed, adding, “It is a hoax and absolute comedy of errors. This comedy of error will soon end. No shaking at all. This won’t solve the problem of not paying salaries for over 15 months.”
A group that goes with the name, Coalition of Enlightened Voters, from Yagba Federal Constituency in Kogi State, comprising Yagba West, Yagba East and Mopamuro LGAs vehemently dissociated the people of the constituency from the recall process.
In a press statement entitled, ‘Yagba people not part of Senator Dino Melaye recall farce,’ and signed by Kehinde Abayomi (Yagba East), Temitope Olajide (Yagba West) and Adebayo Michael (Mopamuro), the group, which claimed to represent 85,000 registered voters across 34 electoral wards, said that they have in recent days, observed some strange developments witnessed by Yagba people within their domain which, according to them is not healthy politically.
“We wish to dissociate Yagba people in the three local government areas of Yagba West, Yagba East and Mopamuro, and the 34 electoral wards in Yagba Federal Constituency, from the farce tagged recall process.
“We uncovered that the comedy falls short of the expectations of the drafters of the relevant law on the recall of a parliamentarian. It is not in our character as Yagba people to orchestrate the recall of elected representatives, especially when such a project is not founded on proven allegations of misrepresentation or non-performance.
“Our findings showed that the recall process did not emanate from the electorate, but is a sponsored enterprise based on political malice, initiated by interests outside Kogi West Senatorial District and anchored by state and local government appointees,” the group said.
Process of Recall
Going by the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, sections 69 and 110 provide for the recall of members in both federal and state legislative houses. According to Section 69:
“A member of the Senate or of the House of representatives may be recalled if:
“(a) there is presented to the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission a petition in that behalf signed by more than one-half of the persons registered to vote in that member’s constituency alleging their loss of confidence in that member; and which signatures are duly verified by the Independent National Electoral Commission;
“(b) the petition is thereafter, in a referendum conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission within ninety days of the date of receipt of the petition, approved by a simple majority of the votes of the persons registered to vote in that member’s constituency.”
According to Kehinde Adegbite, a lawyer and writer, “The petition must be signed by more than one-half of the registered voters in that member’s constituency. For example, if a member’s constituency has 1000 registered voters, not less than 501 registered voters must sign the petition.”
Upon the submission of the petition to INEC, the commission must do two things: verification/authentication of signatures and conduct of a referendum within 90 days of the receipt of the petition in order to get it approved by a simple majority,
“For example, if only 500 out of 1000 registered voters turn out for the referendum, a simple majority of which may be anything from 251 votes upward will be enough to approve the petition,” Adegbite noted.
Will Melaye’s Recall Scale Through?
With Melaye’s constituents formally submitting a petition allegedly signed by over 50 percent of registered voters to demand his recall, can the hope of recalling the senator scale through? Considering the fact that the signatures supersede the constitutional requirements of more than half of the registered voters, will Melaye’s traducers smile at the end of the day?
Considering the fact that no recall has been successful in Nigeria, pro-Melaye group are optimistic that nothing much will come out of the process. Those opposed to the recall may put spanners in the wheels as to roundly make the verification and authentication of the signatures an impossible task.
Already, the discordant voices in Kogi APC are an obvious signal that the various groups will engage themselves in a fight of supremacy. No doubt, the citizens of the state have a lot to contend against Bello, whom they see as unpopular and wicked, who has not brought development to the state. Many of the public sector workers are wont to see Melaye as a defender of their interest and will spare no effort to frustrate his traducer-in-chief, Governor Bello.
According to a source, the difficult part will be after the INEC might have conducted its verification and authentication of signatures as well election that gives Melaye’s enemies victory, will the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, succumbs and allow one of his strongest ally to be recalled without a fight?
“I don’t have any doubt in my mind that Saraki will attempt to fillibuster the recall of his major ally. You may say that won’t go far and you could be right, but don’t forget that, that is the least a Senate with strange powers to suspend a Senator ad infinitum can do. For me, Dino’s constituents have made their point already: they have demonstrated that they have lost confidence in him.
“They want out of the Senate a Senator that has given them a ‘bad’ name. Those who think the recall provision is a mere academic exercise must begin to see that it is doable here too as it has been employed in other more advanced democracies, particularly the US. This may not get the loquacious Senator out of the Senate, but at least the point has been made. In any case his days are numbered. He knows he cannot return in 2019 because he was elected in the first instance by default.”
For now, the recall process has started on a good note and the future will determine where the pendulum swings to. How the entire process turns out in future will depend on how the key actors in the recall process play their cards. Will Melaye survive the seeming sunset that is beckoning on him or will he turn it into yet another political mileage?