Last week, the Kogi state national assembly/state assembly election petition tribunal nullified the election of Senator Dino Melaye representing Kogi-west senatorial district, and ordered for fresh poll. In this piece, KEHINDE OSASONA asks whether or not the embattled senator can survive the new onslaught.
Can Melaye survive the new onslaught?
Against the backdrop of recent developments, it appears as if the embattled Senator Dino Melaye has already assembled his legal team to challenge the nullification of his mandate for the Kogi-west Senatorial district seat at the Court of Appeal.
However, pundits are of the view that the recent pronouncement by the Kogi state national assembly/state assembly election petition tribunal may have rattled the controversial lawmaker, the Ajekun iya exponent.
In a unanimous judgement delivered last week, the three-member panel, led by Justice A. O. Chijioke, annulled Melaye’s election and ordered that a fresh one be conducted in the Senatorial district.
Adeyemi’s lawyer Dapo Otitoju had, while making his final submission at the tribunal, prayed the court to nullify Melaye’s election on three grounds.
The first ground, the lawyer argued, was INEC’s decision to collate and announce the election results in Lokoja, despite a judgement of the Federal High Court identifying Kabba as the headquarters of the Senatorial district, stressing that it was a negation of the Constitution and Electoral Act which constituted a substantial ground to nullify the election.
Arguing further, the lawyer noted that INEC’s failure to abide by the judgement of the Federal High Court, which it did not appeal, showed it had a hidden agenda.
On the presentation of the certified true copy of PVC distribution in Kogi-west which revealed 48,200 excess votes in the result declared for the Senatorial district, Otitoju insisted that it was enough reason for the tribunal to nullify the election.
He equally drew the attention of the tribunal to the mutilation of votes that was visible in the result sheet, arguing that the mutilation was occasioned by INEC’s change of venue of collation centres.
The lawyer prayed the tribunal to void the election on the grounds that it was held in substantial non-compliance with the Constitution, the Electoral Act and against the wishes of the people who voted.
After the tribunal verdict, the troubled Melaye was quoted as saying that he had confidence in the Appeal Court to right the wrongs as contained in the pronouncement of the judgement.
Melaye, who described the verdict as “a miscarriage of justice” in a statement, said his legal team was already studying the judgement, adding that he would appeal it.
He said he was confident that the Appeal Court would upturn the judgment of the lower tribunal.
According to him, the judgement was full of importation of information that was alien to the case.
“My teeming supporters should remain calm as their mandate is safe and secured and cannot be taken through any mischievous means. I have confidence in the Appeal Court to rights the wrongs as contained in the pronouncements and my legal team was already working on appealing the judgement.
“I, however, commend the courage and moral strength of the chairman of the tribunal for resisting evil and standing on the part of justice. I also want to tell those jubilating that their jubilation will be short-lived,” he said.
In challenging Melaye’s victory at the tribunal, Adeyemi had cited irregularities, over-voting and non-compliance with the Electoral Act 2010 for his actions.
In 2015, Senator Melaye of the PDP, Blueprint Weekend gathered, had polled a total of 85,395 votes to defeat his main challenger, Smart Adeyemi, of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who scored 66,902 votes.
It was no mean feat for Melaye to have defeated Adeyemi who many pundits in the Kogi political sphere believed enjoyed the backing of Governor Yahaya Bello who allegedly had an axe to grind with Melaye after he fell out of favour with the governor.
While the election lasted, observers were of the view that Melaye’s victory was largely as a result of the overwhelming support and goodwill he enjoys from the people of his constituency.
Speaking on the issue, a political analyst, Mike Andah, who is of the view that Melaye’s kinsmen are not likely going to withdraw their support for him this time.
Andah, who hinged his prediction on the overwhelming support the self-acclaimed popular lawmaker from the Okun land enjoy amongst voters, said “there is every possibilities for him to re-enact the feat.”
The support base and his loyalists which spread across five LGAs as well as Lokoja and KotonKarfe had thwarted a ‘failed recall’ attempt in his favour in the past.
Melaye on Adeyemi
Meanwhile, as the war of words resume, Melaye has fired the first salvo by describing Adeyemi as his “political wife.”
Melaye boasted in an interview with newsmen after the verdict that he was not worried, saying he had always defeated Adeyemi.
“I want to assure you that Smart Adeyemi is my political wife. I defeated him in 2015, I defeated him in 2019 and any day any time, he is my political wife.
“I want to say that I cannot be distracted and I will not be distracted. My name is Daniel; I will not fall … I am focused on my governorship ambition and we will get it. The only time there will be election for the seat of the Senate in Kogi-west is after I am sworn in as the governor of Kogi state.
“That will necessitate vacancy but before then, there will be no by-election as a result of attempted robbery that is going on right now.
“Spiritually, we are already in the court of appeal; physically we will be there on Monday. The only election that will be conducted is the governorship election that I will win. My mandate is secured, my mandate is guaranteed,” he said.
Adeyemi on Melaye
Speaking about Melaye, Senator Adeyemi said the APC “is not afraid of a re-run.”
According to him, the people of his constituency can assess the two personalities based on their antecedents and track records and decide who they are and what they stand for.”
Adeyemi said as a student of law, he had always believed that the court “is where those who have been cheated get justice.”
He said he would reclaim his mandate in the re-run ordered by the tribunal, stressing that he had built the image to win the election over the years.
Kogi PDP reacts
Smarting from the tribunal verdict, the Kogi state chapter of the PDP has charged all its supporters to remain unperturbed by the nullification of Senator Melaye’s election.
In a statement the spokesman, Bode Ogunmola, the party described the tribunal’s ruling nullifying the election of Senator Melaye as “murder of democracy.”
According to the party, Melaye’s election was the only credible election held and adjudged as the fairest during the last national and state assemblies election in the state.
The party alleged further that the tribunal has murdered justice for a pot of potage, assuring that justice would be done at the appeal court because PDP won the election convincingly and overwhelmingly.
The party stated that, “It’s very certain that nobody can subvert people’s mandate, where God lives, and we are not worried, because the whole world is laughing at the charade ruling that claims to nullify the PDP victory.”
Melaye at a crossroads?
It is no longer news that Senator Melaye and his party are preparing to occupy the Lord Lugard House by vying for governorship in the November 16 election.
However, what is baffling to analysts is the fact that Melaye and PDP by virtue of the recent happenings would have two serious wars to contend with.
Although the senator looks good to clinch his party’s ticket by virtue of his popularity and war chest when placed side-by-side with other aspirants, what makes stakeholders to be skeptical about the whole thing is his ability to weather the impending political storm.
In the words of a Mike Andah, a political analyst, the probability of Melaye upstaging the incumbent governor is still high despite his current travail.
He said, “Don’t forget that Dino has become a cat with nine lives who has a survival instinct no matter what. Despite the fact that his party has not had a good showing lately, it might be a different ball game altogether if he square up with the incumbent Governor Yahaya Bello.
“Don’t be surprised that if he does not win at the appeal, the man could still spring a surprise during the re-rerun and retain his mandate, let’s just wait and see.”