The ruling on Monday, September 11, 2017 by Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of a Federal High Court in Abuja, giving the nod for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to continue with the recall process against Distinguished Senator Dino Melaye, did not come as a surprise given the fact that his lordship apparently did not actually understand the concerns of Melaye, hence he described the plaintiff’s suit as “hasty and premature”. Typical of Melaye, he respects the court ruling but disagree with it, hence his decision to appeal at the appellate court.
For the avoidance of doubt, Melaye did not institute the suit to stop INEC from proceeding with the recall in order to arrest or ambush the process in the first place, far from the truth. He only exercised his constitutional right by seeking redress from a curious and instigated recall against him by people, who are not his constituents.
A neutral media house, Daily Trust newspaper of Tuesday, July 25, 2017 had this to say in its editorial of that day: “Senator Melaye’s resort to the court is also within his rights as a citizen. This is especially true because the process is openly driven by Governor Yahaya Bello and his aides so he has reason to be anxious.” “Some registered voters in Kogi West, clearly prodded on by Governor Yahaya Bello and the Kogi State government, initiated Dino’s recall for what they alleged was his portrayal of their senatorial district as hostile to the administrations of President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Yahaya Bello,” the newspaper noted. One cannot understand how the electoral umpire – INEC – will proceed with the purported recall on a faulty basis – collection of signatures – when the very foundation of the process is fraught with fraud.
It is therefore convenient to conclude that it is only natural and a matter of time for INEC to produce a faulty outcome from a faulty premise even if the verification of the signatures proves otherwise. Interestingly, the Kogi State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has expressed the same fear about the neutrality of INEC and this is not unfounded given the electoral body’s string of misadventures in recent times. It will be difficult to trust an umpire that is embroiled in an unprecedented bribery scandal in Rivers State and the one that cannot prosecute culprits of electoral offences like double registration and others.
It is also interesting to note that the Kogi State government, which has been labouring to disassociate itself from the instigated recall moves, has now openly and shamelessly displayed its ownership of the whole saga – as the achitect, promoter and would-be beneficiary of the mess called recall or how would one explain the presence of the state’s Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice at the Federal High Court when Melaye Vs. INEC case was being decided even when state government was not a party in the suit? Although, a recall of a lawmaker is allowed by the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and it could be described as one of the beauties of our democracy, the onus is however placed on the living and willing constituents of the lawmaker to carry out such act, and not the dead ones and prompted ones because of pecuniary gains.
But, while one may not be able to prove coersion and prompting of some of the constituents to sign a recall register, that is not so about the forgery of names and signautures of the dead in order to achieve the sinister motive of recalling Senator Melaye from the Senate because INEC ought to ordinarily fish them out but the problem is that the body cannot be trusted to do the right thing because of its hastiness in commencing the process abinitio.
Beyond the issue of Melaye getting justice in this matter is an expanded plot to use the Kogi case as an experitment in order to get at other Senators perceived as enemies by their respective state governors. Why are our state governors, who canvassed for votes during electioneering campaigns, proving too big to be criticised by the same people, who voted them into office or helped them in one way or the other to achieve electoral victory? Melaye didn’t even criticed Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, he only advised him to pay workers’ salaries alongside pensioners in the Confluence State and this Melaye did alongside other APC stakeholders and well-meaning sons and daughters of the state.
Bello has consequently picked on Melaye for the ‘offence’ of daring to speak the truth and showing concern about the welfare of Kogi people. Incidentally, at about the same time Justice Dimgba was dismissing Melaye’s application on Monday, President Muhammadu Buhari was hosting the National Council of Traditional Rulers in Aso Rock presidential villa, where he expressed displeasure with the way some state governors mismanaged the Paris Refunds disbursed to them to address specific concerns. The governors are yet to revolt against the President because of his position but lawmakers both at the state and federal levels dare not speak the truth to power in their respective states, a sad development some lawmakers like Melaye will not allow to stand in our democracy.
Gbadebo is an editorial staff of LEADERSHIP Newspapers Group