Only the voters can decide the fate of Dino Melaye
The failed attempt last week to recall Dino Melaye, the loud and controversial senator representing Kogi West, suggests something very troubling. Nearly a year after it was initiated the attempt floundered, thanks to the will of the people. But the exercise which, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) cost about a N100 million leaves several questions that the authorities must unravel in the interest of our democracy.

The whole issue started when a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Cornelius Olowo, led a delegation from Kogi West ferrying seven bags of signatures and petitions to the INEC headquarters in Abuja, insisting that Melaye’s constituents were unsatisfied with the quality of his representation. “We want Senator Melaye back because of poor representation; he is not accessible to us, he is unreachable and has no constituency projects. There is a major gap between the senator and the people he claims to represent,” Olowo said.

Meanwhile, Section 14 (2) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) approves of Olowo’s mission as sovereignty lies with the electorate. They have the right to recall a legislator who is deemed to be underperforming or working against the interest of the people. But there is a process to follow. After Melaye had exhausted all legal means to prevent the exercise, INEC which is empowered to supervise the recall process, conducted the verification of signatures last week and concluded that what Olowo’s delegation brought to the commission were bags of lies.

Only 18,742, a mere 5.34 per cent of the total number of registered voters in the senatorial district, were confirmed to be authentic thus failing the crucial requirement of the law which demands a simple majority of the signatures of voters registered before moving to the final stage of a referendum. Indeed, many of the registered voters reportedly were unaware of the verification exercise itself as they went about their daily routine. The register of the petitioners is said to have been puffed up with ghost names, or even worse, names of the dead.

Evidently relieved, Melaye who is battling with the police whose men practically still hold him hostage, thanked members of his constituency for staying away from an obviously manipulated exercise. “Thank you for the confidence reposed on me. Every lie has an expiry date. Forces of evil will never triumph over forces of light,” he said.

The failed recall of Senator Melaye was simply dirty politics at work and the overriding motive is power. The subtext is Melaye’s feuding relationship with the sitting Governor Yahaya Bello, said to be desperate to get the garrulous senator out of the way by any means. But in dispiriting times such as these, stupendous amount of money was reportedly expended in the exercise by a state where civil servants easily take to suicide, mainly due to backlog of salaries owed them.

Even though the government has denied the allegations, the outcome of the process has shown that the ultimate power to discipline any wayward legislator rests with the people. By refraining to rubber-stamp the orchestrated recall petitions, the people of Kogi West have made it clear to all: there is only one way to recall Melaye, and that decision lies with them. But it is also important that this kind of falsehood, which the Melaye recall is all about, is not repeated. The logistics of the exercise did not only cost INEC and by extension the tax payers so much time and money, forgery is a serious crime. That is why those who perpetrated the crime must be fished out and made to face the full wrath of the law.