By Louis Odion, FNGE
It is quite hard to reconcile the plague currently engulfing Kogi’s political space and the memory that the province is also the cradle of the great Sunday Awoniyi. Or the colossal Silas Daniyan.
Before he drew his last breath in November 2007, the Aro of Mopa, once private secretary to immortal Ahmadu Bello, was an embodiment of political accommodation, temperance and intellectual profundity.
On the other hand, though a political rival to Awoniyi, Daniyan was cut from no less durable fabric. Serving as private secretary to monumental Nnamdi Azikiwe about the time his kinsman served the Arewa folk hero, Daniyan never really ever lost sight of the larger critical duty – deploying politics as tool to advance the community.
Though preferring to invest most of his energies in the corporate world and philanthropy in the later years, he nonetheless provided what could then be termed a healthy ideological counter-foil to the Awoniyi tendency in the quest to push the development frontiers in their native Kogi State, until his death in 2011.
But, apparently, harmony and balance prevail in the household only to the point when the political bastard has not yet come of age.
Viewing the ongoing show of shame starring infantile Yahaya Bello and delinquent Dino Melaye, both Awoniyi and Daniyan must be turning in great discomfort in their graves indeed. The rich political heritage bequeathed by the two referenced Kogi patriarchs is now under grave assault.
To say Kogi has been unraveling in the past few months will, therefore, be an understatement. A partnership forged between Governor Bello and Dino in sheer opportunism and perfidy has, alas, broken down irredeemably, exposing politics in its hideous form, the character flaw of man at its basest.
With little or no inhibition, the parvenu from Ebiraland has, for instance, continued to demonstrate the grave danger a society faces when a small mind – an intellectual midget – finds himself in custody of the gubernatorial staff.
Allowing himself to be hailed publicly as “White Lion” by barefoot sycophants, it is however clear only the metaphor of a rodent befits Bello’s ways. His ingrained infantilism was very much in evidence in a little drama at the Government House in March.
Fresh from his habitual peregrination to Abuja, he announced the sack of the state cabinet and 21 local council administrators.
But the ink with which the statement was written had barely dried when he had another brainwave. In less than an hour, he reversed himself.
Maybe, that should be expected. The young man found himself in power only by the grace of perhaps the darkest political sorcery in recent memory. He ran away with the trophy earned by someone else who had suddenly dropped dead on the battlefield after slaying the enemy. The same way Dino’s victory in the Kogi West senatorial polls of 2015 was tainted by allegations of electoral heist.
Obviously, the robe is oversize and the shoes too big for Bello’s pygmy feet ever since.
Decked in one of his trademark gaudy apparels, this was how then groveling Master of Ceremonies Dino once introduced the governor at the Lokoja stadium: “The Almighty God voted Yahaya Bello!… May I also have the honour of introducing the youngest governor of the Federal Republic of Nigeria!!…intellectually mobile and sagacious!!!… indomitable and indefatigable!!!!… powerful and enterprising!!!!!… young but married!!!!!!… join your hands together (sic) for Yahaya Bello!!!!!!!”
Predictably, disagreement over political spoils soon set them apart.
Today, were a case to be made against entrusting leadership position to youthful players in contemporary Nigeria, Bello and Dino would undoubtedly furnish a robust exhibit. In the absence of ideas, filth has been elevated as the sole driver of government policies and programmes in Kogi.
Nothing perhaps illustrates this shared seething psychosis by the duo more graphically than the very circumstances they both suffered physical handicap lately. It was not until tongues started wagging following Bello’s appearance on crutches for a crucial party meeting in Aso Rock with a leg cast in POP that his publicists admitted that it was all caused by a minor domestic incident.
But unofficial accounts provided a clearer picture. Actually, the usually easily excitable governor was said to have lost his balance in a failed stunt after jumping off a moving bullet-proof SUV while throwing Naira notes at a crowd hailing him.
Precisely the same story we heard after the Kogi senator was stretchered into the Intensive Care Unit of an Abuja hospital.
In what clearly belittles the exalted office he occupies, Dino had also reportedly jumped off a moving vehicle in an escape bid from police custody. This followed an earlier self-diminishing admission on what had transpired at the Abuja airport when the Immigration barricaded his way.
He probably thought it cool to boast on Tweeter that, “I snatched my passport back after the Immigration snatched it from me.” But it did not seem to occur to the supposed distinguished senator that only cheap thugs act that way.
The viral video of a senator sitting on bare asphalt of Abuja highway apparently battling to recover his breath after that suicidal jump was no less pathetic. The image of a subdued overweight clown bellowing “I can kill myself!” in that clip certainly contrasts the picture of a fearless superman Dino had tried to build for myself through relentless homemade musical videos poured into the social media in the past eighteen months.
As for Bello, not done with the outlawry of double-registration for voter’s card, farting loudly at the communal feast and auctioning inherited state assets to pay debts and fund today’s ostentation, his political tomfoolery seems further exposed by the outcome of the recall verification exercise conducted last weekend by INEC.
How pathetic that the governor and his fixers could not summon the rigor to finish what they started zealously with state might last year. Having dissipated much energy and resources in mobilizing locals to append their signatures to the originating petition, Bello’s fumbling enablers apparently forgot that the verification exercise was even more critical.
Not only was the turnout abysmally poor, of the 39,285 signatures eventually verified, only a miserly 18,762 were found to be genuine. Yet, a whopping 188,500 were earlier conjured to support the recall petition filed against Dino last year.
In most locations last weekend, a grotesque pattern emerged. Signatures of constituents were either shabbily forged or the dead mindlessly impersonated in the farce.
The dire implication of the foregoing is that the 5 percent turnout is a far cry from the 50 percent + 1 constitutionally required to set the stage for a referendum to seal Dino’s fate.The Kogi West senatorial district has a voting population of 351,140.
Not surprising, comical Dino has seized the result as another platform to gloat, summing it a blanket endorsement of his performance at the Senate chamber, if not solidarity with him in his present ordeal.
It is not only Bello’s political nudity thus invariably exposed; no less culpable is the INEC. That the voter’s registers displayed across Kogi West senatorial district on the verification day were mostly riddled with multiple name entries and forged signatures as widely reported by the media surely says a lot about the corporate integrity of the umpire. Otherwise, one would have thought such impurities would have been sorted administratively before INEC announced voting.
As for Dino, if nothing at all, no one can deny him credits for creativity. Shortly after falling out with the governor in 2016, that ingenuity supervened. He had no difficulty in adapting a Yoruba folk song, “Ajeku Iya Nio Je…”. It translates roughly as “Woe betide an inferior who challenges his superior to a battle”.
The skit was still topping the national chart of political mischief when Dino followed up with another blockbuster which literally prophesied that his political enemy in Lokoja was jail-bound at the expiration of his current gubernatorial mandate.
But with the dramatic turn of events in Abuja last week, the maverick senator would now seem cast in a role reversal of sorts. For his current travails only mirror the unsavory ending he himself had predicted for Bello in the melange of caustic songs.
One, even though the Kogi police have cited gun-running as the charge against Dino, not a few however believe his real trouble started the moment he challenged the Kogi Governor to a public duel.
Meanwhile, while the poor turnout at the verification exercise for the recall process last weekend may have put paid to attempt by those bent on yanking him off the Senate chamber, it will however be premature to assume the sword of Damocles has thus vanished.
Now, with the gravity of the charges preferred against him, Melaye’s supporters will indeed have to intensify their prayers, lest he be the first to don prison’s uniform long before the foe derided in his song.
But by and large, the cruel joke is on Kogi State.