Saraki under pressure to save Melaye from Okun voters

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Months ago Melaye thought there was no stopping the star as far as the Senate goes. Now he’s been jolted by a grassroots revolt about to pluck him down

By Olusegun Elijah

Sen. Dino Melaye had been patting himself on the back for what his yesmen said was his rising profile: a hodgepodge of a book; a near-miss in the ABU certificate scandal with Sahara Reporters; his machismo; his many motions and bullying; and his brazen arse-licking for and power-sharing with Sen. President Bukola Saraki.

And, perhaps, his fleet of exotic rides.

But the Kogi West senator has just flunked a popularity test in his Okun district. His yuppy swagger has become a fox-trot.

He needs help.

More than 188,000 (52.3 percent) of the over 500,000 voters in the district have petitioned INEC. They want him recalled. And by the commission’s rule, the yes have it after a referendum.

So it’s not, definitely, about Melaye’s seven-foot bulk.

It took only a brawl with his 41-year-old friend and Gov. Yahaya Bello, about three days of signature mobilisation, and will take a referendum within 90 days, to take the 43-year-old hulk down a peg or two.

If the recall effort sails through—and his boss Saraki fails to help swing it when INEC takes it to the Senate—Melaye will make his mark as a double loser. He had a tenure miscarriage in the House of Reps in 2010, and now in 2017, in the upper house.

It will also turn out a kiss of death to many of his ambitions. He let it slip last year on Channels—that he, too, was eyeing Aso Rock. “Everyone is ambitious,” he said while defending Saraki. “I am ambitious. Like I want to be the president of Nigeria.” Before then, he would have loved to get his foot in the Lokoja state house, too—the reason Bello, say Melaye’s supporters, fell apart with him.

But political analysts will like to believe Melaye had been riding for a fall all the way. His stand-off with the governor was just the stumbling block.

It started with his loyalty to Saraki, something he carried so far as threatening to impregnate (anything goes on the floor) his fellow senator and party woman Remi Tinubu on the other side. Melaye was also among the bullyboys that eased former House Leader Ali Ndume out of the Senate. (The Bornu senator said he was rusticated because he rooted for Ibrahim Magu’s confirmation as EFCC chair)

The way Melaye also carried on during his certificate scandal Sahara Reporters broke—his dancing, donning of an academic gown to the house—disgusted many.

Okun voters particularly  felt embarrassed one of theirs, taking advantage of President Muhammadu Buhari’s change, has decided to rubbish the records of the late Sunday Awoniyi, Senator Smart Adeyemi, Sam Aro, Sunday Karimi, T.J. Yusuf, and other cool cats from Okun.

“This distinguished beneficiary of this wholesales gift has now brought collateral damage to Okunland, Kogi State and Nigeria,” the Okun Progressive Alliance said last month in a statement. Which kind of echoed what the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption chairman also said about Melaye’s Senate—a childish lot.

“It is being occupied by the most unserious set of Nigerians in history,” Prof. Itse Sagay told the Punch.

The senators were roiled up by Sagay’s statement.

But Gov. Bello just confirmed it.

ALSO SEE: INEC receives signatures on Dino Melaye’s recall

He more or else described Melaye as a mama-stoning namby-pamby who grew up with no parental care, and should have no chance in hell getting a seat in the House.

The governor warned the Senate to keep a tab on a member like that.

“I think it is necessary that that wonderful House should, as matter of urgency, fact-check, any social deviant that exists within them before they could be adjudged birds of the same feather,” he told newsmen in Abuja when he went to brief Acting President Yemi Osinbajo about the security breach in Kogi a few days ago.

But Bello added he knew other senators were not like Melaye.

The governor has been mincing the man he made his transition committee chairman when he came into office by default in 2015.

The going was good then.

Bello’s media adviser Kingsley Fanwo in an interview said Melaye was excited, and hopeful of a new Kogi under Bello. The governor, in compebsation, also gave Melaye a slot to fill: the secretary to the state government.

And it would have remained a jolly ride for long had MC Melaye not made a Freudian slip during Bello’s swearing-in ceremony. It was a quip about “elephant sharing”, according to Fanwo. But Bello didn’t take it. “He became enraged when the governor refused to “share the elephant” to a select few,” the governor’s told a daily.

The friction has since grown hotter. Tony Momoh and his reconciliation committee were asked to look into it. They have not been able to bring the two together.

But Melaye has his own version of the story to tell. Bello, he said, is afraid of his star-spangled profile. That’s against the 2019 guber election in the state. And that fear, the senator said in a response to Premium Times enquiry, is “a characteristic of one suffering superiority complex and intellectual stagnancy.”

Going by this name calling from both parties, Nigerians are watching a duel between a cocky dunderhead and an uncouth bull. As a governor, many political analysts believe Bello is the only absolute in Kogi when it comes to power politics. He has all the instrumentalities: people, force, and finance. Melaye said the governor doled out N1 billion to mobilise bankroll the recall. Bello has denied it, though. Anyhow, governors, many agree, can make life hellish for lawmakers, state or federal, that break rank with them. Ekiti Gov. Ayo Fayose is a poster boy here.

That, however, is not to say Melaye will go down without a fight in this recall.

As INEC verification of the signatures goes, other procedures include a referendum, whose simple majority, a legal expert told the National Daily, will have to insist for the recall, after which INEC will issue a certificate of recall.

ALSO SEE: Five constitutional hurdles that must be scaled to remove Melaye

A lot can still happen in the process to favour the senator. The Bello camp has alleged Melaye is trying to tip the state into violence. The last rally organised for the senator turned violent. One person died, and Melaye’s car was also riddled with bullets. And if it continues that way, the federal government can declare a state of emergency.

Brinkmanship will do one of two things: it further ravels up the problem, or necessitates a roundtable.

If that fails, money, too, may help turn things around. It’s not just certain Melaye can outspend his governor in the contest.

The final decision will be on the floor of the Senate, after Sen. President Saraki must have got the certificate of recall.

One can only imagine the psychological moments, the final ones, between Saraki and his Man Friday.
“It would be an awkward scenario for him to lead his die-hard loyalist out of the upper chamber,” the expert told the National Daily.

And down there, in the backwater of the confluence state, there will be an eruption of joy.

Those wee-folks will be celebrating the fall of their beefy senator.

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