By Boluwaji Obahopo, Lokoja
THE attempt to recall Senator Dino Melaye, (APC, Kogi West) flopped on Saturday following a low turn-out for the verification of signatures of petitioners. Results announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC at the end of the exercise showed that only 18,742 signatories to the recall petition could be verified out of the 189,870 signatories on the petition.
Verified signatories were below the requirement of the law that 50 per cent and one, of the signatories must be verified before the recall process can continue to the next stage.
Consequently, the embattled Senator Melaye who is in hospital after the drama that followed his arrest with the Police survived the recall attempt.
Many who had thought that incarceration of the senator in the hospital, coupled with his running battle with the police will make his recall easy were disappointed. Not only did he survive, he did so with a large margin as only five percent of the signatures were actually verified.
Melaye’s problems started after a petition by some of his constituents in 2017 that he was not representing them well.
The senator’s accusers gathered signatures to demand his recall but Melaye counter-accused the state governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, of being the mastermind of the plot.
He subsequently approached the court to stop the process but could not get the relief he sought at the Court of Appeal. With the embattled senator incommunicado after his incarceration, many forces rose to his defence.
Among those who rose to defend him was ironically, his former party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Members of the National Assembly, leading elites of the Okun nation, also strongly mobilised strongly against the recall.
President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki, for whom Melaye had worked as a foot soldier was said to have rallied National Assembly members, especially those from the state to reach out on behalf of Melaye.
The three House of Representatives members in the senatorial constituency were said to have been helpful.
It was particularly amazing that Reps. Tajudeen Yusuf and Sunday Karimi who are from the PDP and had indicated interest in replacing Melaye in the 2019 General Election rallied to Melaye’s defence.
Although, they were not visible at home during the Saturday verification exercise, their underground work was believed to have helped in frustrating the exercise.
Nobody or group of persons, however, carried the campaign, #Istand with Dino more than the PDP. Firstly, the party dissociated itself from the exercise and called on its members to shun and vote against the verification.
Aside that, PDP National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan who is also from the senatorial constituency was a rallying point against the exercise. His was a strong voice and campaigner against the recall exercise.
At the end of the exercise, Ologbondinyan said the governor failed to hearken to the appeal to stop the recall, and left them with no option but to mobilise against it. Ologbondinyan said the failure showed that darkness cannot prevail over light.
Okun people of Kogi are an enlightened set of people in the state. They spoke with one voice and stood against the idea. To them, they saw the recall as the project of the governor and saw Melaye as the main challenger to the laxities of the governor.
Though many did not like the embattled senator’s style; especially his unbridled tongue, but they averred that they won’t allow the presidency or state governor dictate the political carriage of the area. Many said that Melaye did not offend them; so they would not be used as the political tool for his removal.
Indeed a week to the verification, the catch-phrase among the Okun was: “WHATEVER YOU CALL HIM, DINO IS OUR OWN AND WE WILL STAND WITH OUR SON.”
Besides, it was evident during the verification exercise that the recall process could have been manipulated from the beginning. Many people were shocked that their names were attached to the petition without their consent.
Outraged, they turned the heat on INEC’s ad- hoc staff, fuming that they will take legal action against the commission.
Some also said they were induced by monetary reward to sign. Names of dead persons were found as well as forged signatures, and verify those forgeries become a Herculean task.
APC is the loser
However, the Deputy Governorship candidate of the APC in the 2015 elections in Kogi State and member representing Ikeja Federal Constituency, James Faleke, was quick to describe the failure of the exercise as a confirmation of the unpopularity of the governor.
In separate tweets through his handle @JAFaleke, he said the ultimate loser in the failed recall exercise is the All Progressives Congress (APC).
“Until those who worked so hard to win elections for the party in Kogi are given due recognition, Governor Yahaya Bello will continue to struggle politically without results.”
Mocking Bello, Faleke said Melaye defeated the governor despite being in Police detention, “The recall project has failed. The people won. The outcome today is not just about Dino but the open rejection of the Yahaha Bello led state government.
“Even in detention, @dino_melaye defeated them. Clear sign that Yahaha Bello is very unpopular in Kogi state”.
BELLO WASTED N5bn KOGI MONEY — PDP
In a related development, the PDP has accused Governor Bello of wasting N5 billion public fund on the recall exercise.
The party while describing Governor Bello as “heartless” lamented that the N5 billion would have paid at least two months’ workers’ salaries in the state
The party in a statement signed by Achadu Dickson, Director Research and Documentation, PDP, Kogi State also called for thorough investigation of the claim by some of the electorate who turned out for the exercise that their signatures were forged.
“Those who were involved in the petition submitted to INEC for the recall of Senator Dino Melaye must be arrested and tried for forgery,” the PDP said.
“The huge human and financial resources deployed to the “Dino- Melaye-must-go” agenda would have made meaningful impact on the lives of the downtrodden people of Kogi State, especially the workers that are being owed several months’ salaries.
“The open rejection of the recall agenda by the people of Kogi State was a clear signal that APC and Governor Yahaya Bello have been rejected in the State. Reacting to the failed recall move, Melaye commended his constituents, saying that it was an energiser for him to do more.
“Thank you my people. God bless you all. Thank you for the confidence reposed on me. I will not let you down. I will always stand by the truth and the people at all times. God bless Kogi West,” he posted on Twitter. “Every lie has an expiry date. Forces of evil will never triumph over forces of light. God is with us.”