Disturbing Signals from Kogi

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How the moves to recall Senator Dino Melaye turned out violent in Kogi State is to say the least unfortunate. Olawale Olaleye writes

The moves to recall Senator Dino Melaye representing Kogi West assumed a violent dimension last week, when a counter-rally by the senator was attacked by suspected gunmen, claiming one casualty.

The suspected gunmen were reported to have attacked the senator while addressing his supporters in front of the state’s polytechnic and shot sporadically into the air. Three people were initially feared dead, reports later confirmed one dead.

Melaye, reports had it, had stopped in front of the institution to address his supporters due to the current political crises surrounding his office, when the gunmen emerged from the NATACO end of the road and started firing. The attack was said to have lasted some 30 minutes resulting in serious traffic and scamper to safety by people along the popular Lokoja-Abuja highway.

Melaye, who immediately took to his twitter handle to call out Governor Yahaya Bello of the state, said in some of his tweets: “Yahaya Bello is shooting the moon and boxing the air. Spending over one billion naira tax payers’ money on an unproductive venture, when salaries and pensions have not been paid is wicked. I will continue to defend the poor and defenseless masses of Kogi State.”

He also had some words for former Senator Smart Adeyemi, whom he defeated to become senator, saying efforts to displace him for the journalist-turned politician was in futility, because he would remain on the side of the people and no amount of intimidation would scare him from pursuing that which he considered the right thing.

Bello however responded by warning Melaye to desist from causing breakdown of law and order in the state in his bid to save his political career. He said the idea of using “violence to revive his drowning political career” was an ill-conceived tactic that would not be allowed by the relevant security agencies in the state.

The governor, who spoke through his spokesperson, Petra Onyegbule, noted that the death of a protester in the state must be blamed on Melaye, who also claimed to have escaped assassination after unknown gunmen attacked him as he was rounding off his speech at the rally.
Moves to recall Melaye assumed full cycle last weekend in all the seven local government areas of the district with people actually queuing to sign the referendum on his recall from the Senate. The local governments involved in the recall process were Ijumu, Kabba/Bunu, Lokoja, Kogi, Mopa/Amuro, Yagba West and Yagba East.

The exercise, which was monitored in several polling units across the local governments, reportedly witnessed large crowds of people taking turns with their voters’ cards to sign the register.

Melaye was believed to have been having it rough with the sole administrator of Ijumu Local Government Council, Alhaji Taofiq Isah, following alleged assassination attempt on his life. Their disagreement, coupled with his confrontation with Governor Bello, was believed to have triggered the recall process.

When THISDAY visited some of the local government councils, it was discovered that the collection of signature took place in Lokoja and Kogi local government council penultimate Friday, while that of Ijumu, Yagba West and Yagba East took place last Saturday as people came out with photocopy of their PVCs to write their names.

The administrator of Ijumu council area, Alhaji Isah was in Unit One Ilu Avon in Aiyetorogbede, the unit of Melaye mobilising people for the recall of Melaye. Many of those who spoke to THISDAY said they were mobilised to put down their names to recall Melaye from the National Assembly and to also submit photocopies of their PVCs as evidence.

At the Odo Ape Market Square Polling Unit, most of the signees were said to be non-indigenes, who berated the Senator for failing in his promises to them and deserting them after the 2015 elections.

Leader of the youths in the community, Muhammad Danjuma, said “We gave Dino full support in 2015, because we love APC and President Buhari. But now, Dino got there and has been insulting the president. He has shown no respect to the party, no respect to the National Leader, Bola Tinubu, and no respect to us. He abandoned us after the election and has not bothered to see us since. We have made many attempts to reach him but he refused. We are tired of his arrogance.”

There is no doubting the fact that Melaye and Bello have not got along since the election of the governor, because some major members of the party have refused to see him as one of them. Although there have been efforts to reconcile them in the interest of the state, it is becoming increasingly clear that neither of both parties is ready to shift grounds and their animosity may tarry longer than anyone could imagine.

However, whilst the intrigues precipitated by power game are allowed, that the recall process of Melaye turned violent and claimed one life is worrisome and condemnable. Nothing in such an exercise should have instigated violence much less a gun battle as the recall process later turned out, when it is not an event of some transport union.

A lot, no doubt, is at stake for both parties. But the fact that a process meant to test the nation’s constitution assumed a needlessly violent twist must be investigated and a scapegoat made of the development, especially the roles believed to have been played by both the governor and the senator. This cannot be glossed over, albeit if the security agencies know their onions.