… The SSG’S Connection

The political war between the Kogi state governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, and the senator representing Kogi west senatorial district, Senator Dino Melaye, has continued unabated, YINKA OLADOYINBO, in this report, looks at the real issues and the dimension the crisis is assuming.

THE theatre of political war in the North-Central senatorial district of Nigeria in the last few months has been Kogi State, where the state governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, and the Senator representing Kogi West Senatorial district, Senator Dino Melaye, have been at each other’s throat despite emerging from the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). It is an open secret that there is no love lost between the two gladiators and both have not hidden it from the public that they have scores to settle between themselves.

They have been using every opportunity to get at each other with the latest move culminating in an attempt to recall the senator from the National Assembly, which Melaye believed was being engineered by the governor. However, this may be a way of paying back the senator over the role he played when the governor was allegedly involved in double voter registration, following which Melaye demanded for the resignation or impeachment of Bello.

However, the imbroglio in Kogi has continued to baffle observers, considering the role played by Melaye in the build up to the emergence of Bello as a replacement for the initial governorship candidate of the APC in the last gubernatorial election in the state, the late Prince Abubakar Audu. Many people were more dumbfounded when they remember the role played by the senator during the inauguration of Bello as the fourth governor of the state. Indeed, Melaye was the chairman of the inauguration committee of Bello, which took place on January 27, 2016.

Following the death of Audu while the election in Kogi was yet to be concluded, some options were opened to the leadership of the APC, one of which was to allow the person that came second in the governorship primary of the party to inherit the votes on ground and go ahead to participate in the supplementary election two weeks after the initial election was declared inconclusive by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Another was to allow the deputy governorship candidate to Audu, who was James Faleke, to inherit the votes based on the fact that he was holding a joint ticket with Audu, while the last option was to allow for a fresh election in which APC would bring forth a fresh candidate to participate in the election.

However, the national secretariat of the APC, in its wisdom went for the option of the second position in’ the primaries inheriting the votes and this was the beginning of the current major crisis in the party. Majority of the party executives supported the Audu/Faleke movement and the bid of Faleke to be declared the winner of the election. The party chairman in the state, Alhaji Hadi Ametuo, the secretary, Salam and Adejoh and about 30 other members of the State Working Committee (SWC) and many other leaders are in this category and they followed Faleke’s agitation up to the Supreme Court.

Till today, many of these people have relocated outside the state and have been running the party affairs from their new bases. Since the coming of the APC-led government in the state, the party executive and the government have been working at cross purposes.

One of the leaders of the APC that supported the idea of the person, who came second in the primary election to inherit the initial votes, was Melaye. Many had thought the senator would support his kinsman, who also hailed from the same Ijumu Local Government Area with him, but Melaye ditched Faleke and threw his weight behind Bello, to the extend that he was made the chairman of the Local Organising Committee of Bello’s inauguration.

On the day of the inauguration, despite being the committee chairman, Melaye performed the function of a compere as he paid glowing tributes to Bello. One of the remarkable statements that he made that day was “Kogi voted for Audu, but God voted for Bello.” But, the government had barely settled down for the serious business of governance when things started falling apart between the two gladiators and up till today, the centre cannot hold again.

Immediately after the inauguration, people started jostling for positions and Melaye was said to have been asked to nominate someone for the post of the Secretary to the State Government (SSG). He thereafter brought, Mrs Folasade Ayoade, who has since aligned with Bello and dumped the person that brought her. Everybody in the state knows that her allegiance is 100 percent to the governor.

That there was crisis between Bello and Melaye first became obvious with the appointment of administrators for the 21 local government areas of the state. The appointments of the council bosses, which came after the expiration of the tenure of the elected chairmen in May 2016, was followed with reactions and counter reactions from both sides.

The governor had gone ahead to appoint many of the people that acted as his campaign coordinators in their respective local government areas during the build up to the party primary election as local government administrators. Sunday Tribune gathered that the appointments were done by the governor and his inner caucus without consultation with the larger stakeholders, a step that was believed to have further exacerbated the situation on ground. The senator was said to have demanded for the slots of the seven local government areas in his senatorial district, a demand considered to be outrageous by the governor.

Apart from this, when Bello wanted to appoint commissioners into his cabinet, sources said Melaye made some demands as a stakeholder and senator from the state but again, his request were never granted. This later led to Melaye joining forces with the people that had already declared “war” on the governor and he became their mouthpiece.

However, the noise from both camps are as a result of the attempt to consolidate towards 2019. The decision of Melaye to support Bello against Faleke, who is from the same Ijumu local government area with him, was political. The source said: “When Dino was supporting Bello against Faleke, many people didn’t know that he was trying to consolidate his political base and machinery. He knows that the moment Faleke becomes the governor, he will automatically become the leader of the party in the state and coming from the same local government area, this may jeopardise his (Dino’s) second term ambition in 2019.

“So, all the attempts he was making by looking for grassroots appointments for his loyalists from the Bello’s government were to further entrench himself at that level and continue to oil his political machinery.”

The first salvo thrown by the stakeholders of the APC was the vote of no confidence passed on the governor over his performance in office and allegation that he was not appointing members of the party into positions.In a letter dated April 12, 2016, and addressed to the national chairman of the APC, John Odigie-Oyegun and signed by all the 34 members of the state executive council, the Kogi APC accused Bello of sidelining members of the governing party and hobnobbing with members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). They accused Bello of failing to appoint even a single card-carrying member of the APC, stressing that “all the 45 appointments made so far by His Excellency Gov. Yahaya Bello are given to the PDP.”

However, on January 27, 2017 when the administration of Bello was one year in office, the leaders of the party met in Abuja to assess his performance and at the end of the day, scored him low and consequently passed a vote of no confidence on him. This time around Melaye had joined the people and he was their spokesperson. The group then gave the governor four weeks to make amends.

But, the state government, through the then Commissioner for Information, Awwal Imam, attributed the action of the APC leaders to the governor’s refusal to ‘ascend’ to their godfatherism ego, and ‘pampered’ their high level of greed. According to him, the governor’s refusal to ‘submit’ the state to their control as had been done by past governors, bruised their ego is the reason for their selfish attack against him.

He said those fighting Bello, especially Melaye, who was the leader of a committee set up to probe the governor, had been attacking the governor for not allowing him to produce the SSG, commissioners from the western senatorial district and members of the local government administrators.

“Melaye’s grudges started when he (Melaiye) asked the governor to allow him produce all local government caretakers from the district, which the governor refused.

“It is laughable when someone who has been given the opportunity to produce the SSG of the state is still demanding for other positions as if he is the only member in the party. The same stakeholders have earlier claimed that they don’t recognised the Yahaya Bello’s led administration. We wondered why such people are busy in Abuja crying fowl over the lauded appointments made so far by the governor,” Imam stated.

Since then, the governor and Melaye have always been at loggerheads for one reason or the other. But, a new twist was introduced earlier in the year, when some unknown gunmen attacked the residence of the senator in his country home, Ayetoro Gbede. The alleged assassination attempt later became a political issue, with Dino accusing the governor and the administrator of Ijumu local government area, who is also the chairman of the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON) in the state, Alhaji Taufiq Isa, of planning to eliminate him because of his ceaseless criticism of the state government.

Melaye said: “I got a rousing welcome from Kabba to my hometown on Friday and I know it angered the powers that be in the state, which mobilised for this assassination attempt on my life. At about midnight, we started hearing gunshots. They fired more than 200 rounds of bullets into the house. This attempt to kill me will not stop me from speaking the truth. If I speak the truth I will die, if I lie I will die. I have decided to speak the truth and die. I am not afraid of death. I only respect men I don’t fear them.

“This attempt is being championed by the chairman of my local government. He had said it many times that he will do everything to stop me from coming home. Besides, those assailants, when leaving were chanting, ‘we will know if it is Taufiq that owns the land or you’. I am championing an administrative course. I will continue to speak and be the voice to the voiceless. I’m not deterred, I remain resolute to make Kogi better. Nothing will stop me from coming home.”

The alleged assassination attempt is now a subject of litigation before a Kogi State High Court, where Isa and four others are standing trial. But, the dust raised by the development had not died when another violence dimension was recorded following the plan to recall Melaye from the National Assembly.

The process of the recall started last week with the collection of signatures and voters card of constituents across the seven local government areas of the district. Many voters were said to have come out to sign the list asking Dino to leave the red chambers to enable them elect another person to represent them. However, the senator was said to have also come home to mobilise and address his supporters on the move. The rallies took him to Kabba, Ijumu, Mopamuro during the weekend. But, when it was the turn of Lokoja on Monday, it turned bloody, as some gunmen invaded the entrance of the Kogi State Polytechnic, venue of the rally and after the melee, three people were killed with several others injured.

The development has however led to accusation and counter-accusation with the governor putting the blame of the death of the people on the door step of the senator. Speaking during an on-the-spot assessment of the scene at the incident, Bello said he had written to the Inspector General of Police over alleged plans by the senator to use hired thugs and cult members to unleash mayhem on the state.

The governor said: “I have written petition and received reports that the president has ordered the IGP to investigate but up till now, nothing has happened. The petition was to the extent that the senator was planning to cause mayhem and violence in Kogi state to rubbish the administration of the president and my government and paint a picture that Nigeria is ungovernable.

“Today, because Dino has noboby to collaborate as such, he has decided himself to come and cause mayhem, as I speak, we have a lifeless body lying in the hospital. Immediately I got wind of the rally I called the commissioner of police and the director of SSS if they granted permission to the senator to hold the rally and they said no. That means somebody that suppose to make law has taken law into his hands and a life is already lost with properties destroyed.”

But the senator in his own account on the floor of the Senate, accused Bello of orchestrating the violence that led to the killing, adding that the deceased, claimed to be a student, was a hired thug working for government. He said he had finished addressing the crowd when the hoodlums invaded the venue and started shooting sporadically with the aim of killing him. The senator said that was the second assassination attempt on his life in less than two months.

The war between Bello and Melaye is on a daily basis assuming frightening dimension with no end in sight. Even the reconciliation efforts of the national secretariat of the APC seems not to have had any impact as the duo appeared to have forgone any reconciliation. While Bello is planning to get back at Melaye through the recall, the senator is anxiously waiting for the next election to show the governor the way out of Lugard House.


– Nigerian Tribune

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