The battle gets messier

The battle of wits between Governor Yahaya Bello and Senator Dino Melaye is heating up the polity in Kogi State, writes WALE ELEGBEDE

Like a recurring decimal, the simmering political crisis in Kogi State is in the front burners again, but this time, the stakes appear to be high and the gladiators are headed for each other’s jugular to put an end to the crisis once and for all.

The gladiators in the state, Governor Yahaya Bello and the lawmaker representing Kogi West senatorial district, Senator Dino Melaye, and their supporters, are daily pouring venom at each other and what started like a mere disagreement has tended to fight to finish in the state.

Interestingly, some few months back, both were an item as they moved across the state campaigning for Bello’s election after the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship mantle fell on him following the death of its candidate, Prince Abubakar Audu in the the November 21, 2015 poll.

Like a Rock of Gibraltar, Melaye stood behind Bello from the period of his supplementary election to even the inauguration period about one year ago and gave him a sense of cover all through the intrigues that trailed his replacement of Audu.

At a point during the governorship supplementary election campaigns, Melaye aptly captured Bello as the chosen one for the Confluence State, adding that anyone fighting Bello is fighting God.

“Kogi people voted for Audu but God voted for Bello,” he said then. Aside serving as the chairman of the three man committee for the January 27, 2016 inauguration of Bello as governor, the senator was also in charge of programmes at the gathering as the master of ceremony. But all that is history as both are at daggers dawn over irreconcilable differences.

For political analysts, the manner at which the table turned between the duo is quite interesting, especially when there are impressions that the youthful governor is perhaps picking some stones of political lesson from the vocal legislator. Less than one year after the consummation of their friendship, the centre could not hold between them and both chose to go their separate ways.

This has apparently set the roof of the APC which both of them belong to on fire. While different issues have been speculated as being responsible for their parting of ways, the underlying factor is clash of interest.

With series of bashing on the governor by Melaye, the first public salvo fired at the youthful governor was when the lawmaker alongside some stakeholders in the party, gathered in Abuja to pass a vote of no confidence on the government of Bello exactly one year that he took over the saddle of leadership, alleging that the governor is using staff audit to deny civil servants in the state of their entitlements.

Expectedly, the government fired back and accused the lawmaker of itching to become a godfather to the governor. Speaking through his Special Adviser on Political Matters, Pius Kolawole, the governor accused Melaye of hurling unbridled attacks at him and waging a “selfish and egocentric” war.

“All he (Melaye) does is to engage in useless fight with colleagues and associates.

Where is the quality representation he promised his people? Coming back home, we wish to reaffirm for the umpteenth time that His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Bello remains the number one leader of the APC in Kogi State, and there is no type of gimmicks adopted by Senator Dino Melaye and his cohorts that can change that,” Kolawole said.

With that seed of discord publicly sowed, other tantrums followed and since then it has been one day one trouble in the Confluence State. At some point, Melaye was allegedly attacked by gunmen, who invaded his house at Ayetoro-Gbede, Ijumu Local Government Area of the state.

Six suspects including the sole administrator of the local government, Taofiq Isah and his orderly, Sgt Ede James, were arrested over the assassination attempt and this perhaps give a fresh narrative to the bitter politics being engaged in the state

The acrimony perhaps got to a head last month, when Melaye alongside some other stakeholders in the state called for the resignation of the governor over accusation that he (Bello) registered twice for the Permanent Voters Card (PVC).

Melaye said the people of Kogi State and the party were dissociating themselves from the act and called on Bello to resign immediately or risk impeachment.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), had in a statement issued in Abuja, accused Bello of double registration for the PVC in contravention of the Electoral Act.

The statement noted that Bello had his first registration on January 30, 2011 in Wuse Zone 4, Abuja and the second registration on May 23, at the government house, Lokoja. According to Melaye, “Kogi people are responsible people and we expect to have a responsible governor.

As at the time he was contesting that election, it showed that he was not a registered voter in Kogi State. “Since he knew he was not registered in the state, why did he in the first place accept the candidacy of the party?

So, on this note, we are calling immediately for the resignation of the governor because a criminal awaiting trial cannot be representing the people of Kogi state as governor.

“If he has integrity, he should honourably resign and if the governor refuses to resign, we are going to mobilise our members in the House of Assembly to start an impeachment process against him.”

But defending himself, the governor told newsmen in Abuja that, “I think INEC has earned itself a very high reputation and I’m very confident that the leadership of INEC will not allow some elements to drag its name into the mud.

Actually, that is a falsehood; I did not do double registration of permanent voter card.’’

Just when it appears that the dust is settling on the issue and the wind of tranquility is blowing on both divide, an audio surfaced on the social media ,where Melaye was accused of attempting to bribe a judge.

The audio appears to contain exchanges between Melaye and the judge, Akon Ikpeme, as they discussed the bribe money.

The judge, Ikpeme, was the head of the Kogi State National Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal, which handled a case brought by Smart Adeyemi, a former senator, against Melaye’s election in 2015.

The lawmaker subsequently denied that the voice heard in the tape was his, stating that “it is a satanic collabo between Smart Adeyemi, Sahara Reporters and others. If they are convinced, they should approach the police to prosecute me.”

In no time, the tide turned against Melaye and in what appears to be the process to recall him, some electorate in the seven local government areas that make up Kogi West Senatorial District besieged polling units in the area to endorse the request for the recall of the senator.

The local government councils in the area are Koton Karfe, Lokoja, Kabba/Bunu, Ijumu, Mopa Amuro, Yagba East and Yagba West. The electorate affixed the photocopy of their voters cards to the recall form in a sort of referendum that lasted for four days.

A community leader in Odo Ere, Yagba West Local Government Area, Mr. Korede Alabi, described Senator Melaye as lacking in class and a “garage guy.” “He talks like a garage guy and our people are determined to recall him from that National Assembly,” he said.

“You can see the large crowd here. We sent signals to him but he has never been to this Yagba West. He nearly slapped Senator Remi Tinubu, wife of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. He must be recalled,” Alabi said.

But describing the process as boxing the air, the lawmaker fingered the governor as the brain behind the referendum, adding that his achievements in the Senate were enormous and as such the people of the constituency were solidly behind him.

His words: “Quote me, Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, has released N200 million for each of the seven local government areas in my senatorial district to facilitate my recall from the Senate.

“The money has been released but they are facing resistance in all the polling units, as people refused to sign the recall form. But he is a joker, my achievements  speak for me.

“So far, about 30 persons, including the Ward/Unit chairman in Ife/Olukotun, Mosunmola Shittu, have been arrested on the government’s orders. Everywhere they go, they are facing resistance and have not been able to get signatures because the people are resisting them.”

An unfortunate twist to the whole power game was the alleged killings of no fewer than three persons on Monday at the Kogi State polytechnic gate, Lokoja where Senator Melaye was holding a protest against the state government.

The protest which stated around, was said to have turned bloody when unidentified gunmen invaded the venue of protest.

The senator’s Prado SUV was riddled with bullets and was towed to the Police headquarters in Lokoja.

The Commissioner of Police in the state, Wilson Inalegwu, who rushed to the scene, told newsmen that the assistant commissioner of police in charge of Criminal Investigation Department had been directed to commence investigation in the case.

Inalegwu, however, said Melaye did not notify the police of his intention to hold the rally.

The state governor, Bello, who later visited the scene, urged security agencies to investigate the incident with a view to bringing the culprits to justice.

For both Bello and Melaye, the old saying that when two elephants fight the grass suffers should resonate in their minds as governance and service to the people will be lost in their bitter exchanges.

Also, the leadership of the APC at the national level should urgently wade into this brawl before it degenerate to full-blown tussle.

With the specification of duties which is not in any way ambiguous or interrelated, it is expected that both the governor and the legislator will co-opt each other into their programmes for the overall wellbeing of the masses. Unfortunately, this has not been the case.

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