The move to recall Senator Dino Melaye by his supposed constituents in Kogi West senatorial district has failed.
The results of the signature verification conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) at the weekend as part of the recall process show that the petitions were not from the constituents.
In the results announced after the exercise on Saturday, INEC stated that out of a total of 351, 140 registered voters in the senatorial district, only 18, 743 signatories representing 5. 34 per cent, showed up. Curiously, the commission observed that 189, 870 petitions were received by it but 20, 868 petitions were presented for accreditation, suggesting fictitious claims.
For a recall process to proceed to the level of referendum, the number of signatories must reach 51 percent of the total number of registered voters in the district, but the exercise in Kogi West fell short by 45.66 percent, which means that the constitutional requirement was not met.
The failed recall has implications for the national polity, particularly politics in Kogi State. Apart from the fact that the majority of the petitions were spurious, the outcome of the verification indicates that the voters have power to resist the impunity of political actors.
By refraining to rubber-stamp the orchestrated recall petitions, the people of Kogi West seem to have stood by their choice of Melaye, resisting the exercise as a political witch-hunt within the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The senator has been having a running a battle with Governor Yahaya Bello and the presidency.
Some observers are of the view that the refusal by the national leadership of the party to intervene exposed the conspiracy in the move to recall the senator. Also, the zeal with which INEC pursued the recall effort, in spite of the well-known voters apathy that attends even major elections, calls to question its impartiality.
But INEC, through its national commissioner in charge of Kogi, Kwara and Nassarawa states, Alhaji Mohammed Haruna, explained that the commission was not concerned by the turnout of voters, but the transparency of the verification.
The INEC presiding officer for the verification, Prof. Okente Morthy, said the exercise was conducted in 552 polling units in seven local government areas in Kogi West senatorial district.
In Kogi Local Government with 46,727 registered voters, INEC was told that a total number of 24,459 voters signed the petition, but during the exercise, the commission discovered that only 2,566 actually signed, out of which 2,335 were verified.
He said that at Kabba/Bunu Local Government with 59,319 registered voters and 27,910 petitioners, only 2,085 signatures were verified to be genuine out of 2,151 that came out for the exercise.
At Ijumu Local Government with 46, 810 registered voters and 24, 389 petitioners, 2,664 were confirmed out of 2, 811.
Morthy said in Yagba East with 35, 329 registered voters and 18, 229 petitioners, 3,506 were verified out of 3, 580 recorded.
In Mopa-Amuro Local Government with 18, 350 and 9, 173, signatures, 710 were verified out of the 729 recorded.
The returning officer said that there was violence in six polling units at Mopa town towards the end of the exercise, forcing INEC to nullify the exercise in the affected wards.
In Yagba West, which has 35, 506 registered voters and 19, 444 signatories, only 3,729 petitioners were verified out of the 4, 221 that turned up while in Lokoja Local Government with 109,105 registered voters and 66,266 petitioners, 3,763 were verified out of the 4, 810 recorded.
Supporters of Melaye had accused Governor Bello of masterminding the recall attempt, alleging that agents of the governor assembled the signatures against the senator.
In a statement by his Media Assistant, Mr. Gideon Ayodele, Melaye expressed gratitude to his constituents for honouring him and “rescuing him from his political enemies.”
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kogi State has accused Governor Bello of wasting over N5 billion public fund on his failed plot to recall Melaye.
The party described Bello as “heartless”, adding that the money would have paid the salaries of workers in the state for two months.
The PDP made the allegation in a statement by its Director, Research and Documentation, Achadu Dickson.
On the boycott of the INEC verification, PDP called for a thorough investigation of the claim by some of the voters who turned out for the exercise that their signatures were forged.
“Those who were involved in the petition submitted to INEC for the recall of Melaye must be arrested and tried for forgery,” the PDP said.
According to the party, the huge human and financial resources deployed to the “Dino Melaye must go” agenda would have made meaningful impact on the lives of the downtrodden people of Kogi State, especially the workers that are being owed several months salary.
PDP declared that the open rejection of the recall agenda by the people was a clear signal that APC and Bello had been rejected in the state.
The immediate past Governor of the State Captain Idris Wada said: “If you tell lies for so long, one day the truth will overturn everything.”
He said it showed that in 2019, the people’s PVC would speak for them no matter the influence of those who want to manipulate the electoral process.
“There is a lesson in this for all of us in the political arena to respect the will of the people,” he said.
Former deputy to Wada, Yomi Awoniyi, said: “The good people of Kogi West have spoken. Ordinarily, a recall shouldn’t be an issue unless it is initiated by the people.”
This fact of the process has shown that the will of the people will always prevail. I just hope that leaders will learn from this so that peace would return to our great state.”