The rivalry between a two-term senator, Smart Adeyemi and the incumbent senator representing Kogi-West, Dino Melaye, is back in full swing. WALE ELEGBEDE reports on the latest battle for the soul of Kogi West Senatorial District
The contest for Kogi West senatorial seat over the last 12 years has definitely been a two-horse race between Senator Smart Adeyemi and Senator Dino Melaye
Once again, the contention for the soul of Kogi West senatorial district is back in full throttle. The ruling of the Kogi State National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal last Friday, which nullified the election that produced Melaye as senator representing Kogi West has rekindled the fight for the zone.
Recalled that in the February 23 National Assembly election, Melaye, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was declared winner after polling 85,395 votes to defeat Senator Smart Adeyemi of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who scored 66,901 votes.
Not satisfied with the outcome of the election, Adeyemi approached the Tribunal seeking a reversal of the poll results. After about four months of judicial battle from both parties, the three -man panel of the tribunal, led by Justice A .O. Chijioke, in its judgment, quashed the election and ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a fresh one within 90 days.
Adeyemi, who represented Kogi West in the Senate on the platform of the PDP between 2007 and 2015, had in its petition argued that the election won by Melaye of the PDP was marred by over-voting and non-compliance with the Electoral Act.
While the chairman of the panel, Justice A. O. Chijioke, refused the petitioner’s prayers, the other two members of the panel accepted Adeyemi’s ground and ordered for a fresh election into the senatorial zone.
Adeyemi’s counsel, Chief Tony Adeniyi, had, during the trial, asked the court to nullify the election on three grounds. He particularly said that “INEC’s decision to collate and announce results in Lokoja against the Federal High Court judgement, which stipulated Kabba (headquarters of the senatorial district), is enough to show that the election negates the constitution and Electoral Act; hence a substantial ground to nullify the election.’’
He further averred that INEC’s disobedience to the Federal High Court ruling, when it did not appeal the judgement showed ulterior motives.
Secondly, he added that “whether 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, is not enough ground to nullify the election.’’
He also prayed the tribunal to look into the extreme mutilation of votes, which was visible in the result sheet, which he averred was occasioned by the change of venue of collation centres by the electoral umpire.
However, counsel to Melaye, Prof. Joash Amupitan (SAN), prayed the court to dismiss the petitioner’s prayer, saying the documents he presented were based on “mere hearsay.”
No doubt, the judgement has thrown up a fresh political battle between Senator Melaye and Senator Adeyemi on one hand, and the PDP and the APC on the other.
Expectedly, while the APC hailed the judgment, the PDP said it was not bothered about it, saying Melaye will remain the representative of Kogi West at the Senate.
The judgement has also rekindled the political battle in Kogi West, thereby setting up a fresh battle between the PDP and APC on one hand, and Senator Melaye and Senator Adeyemi on the other.
Firing the first salvo after the tribunal’s ruling, Melaye, who is also in the race for the PDP gubernatorial ticket ahead of the governorship election in the state, said the ruling was a “total miscarriage of justice.’’
In a press statement he signed, Melaye said the judgement was “full of importation of information that were alien to the case.’’ 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 have confidence in the Court of Appeal to right the wrongs as contained in the pronouncements of the judgement.
“I also want to tell those jubilating that their jubilation will be short-lived, while appealing to my teaming supporters to remain calm as their mandate is safe and secured and cannot be taken through any mischievous means,” he said. The embattled lawmaker noted that his legal team was already working on appealing the judgement.”
Melaye further said the judgement was a plot to distract him from his gubernatorial ambition in the forthcoming election in Kogi State.
“I cannot be distracted. My name is Daniel, I will not fall. There’s a deliberate plan since I have been identified as the man that has the capacity to unseat Governor Yahaya Bello. I will not only unseat him, I will liberate the wonderful people of Kogi State from perfidy, maladministration, poverty and hunger. Honestly, everything is fine, everything is okay. I believe the Court of Appeal will give us justice,’’ he said.
On his part, Adeyemi said: “We are looking forward to meeting Melaye in the Court of Appeal. We are probably going into cross appeal to say that over 40,000 of the votes were in excess and we should be declared winner.’’
Reacting to the ruling, the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said his party will appeal the judgement and secure victory at the Court of Appeal.
“We are not worried about the nullification because we still have the opportunity of going to the Court of Appeal. However, Kogi West where Melaye comes from is the home of the PDP in Kogi State. If elections are held there over and over, the PDP will always win. So, we do not have any issue.
“We are also confident of victory at the Appeal Court because Adeyemi lost that election roundly. His party is the ruling party in the state, but the people of Kogi West voted against him. He knows that he lost that election including in his ward and local government area. So, if the election is held 100 times, the PDP will win,” he said.
Regardless of whatever comes out of the appeal, it is clear that the two-horse race has kick-started again less than five months after it was settled. While much attention may not be paid to the looming battle in the senatorial district owing to the forthcoming November 16 governorship election, it is, however, not in doubt that the outcome of the appeal and the skirmishes between the two personalities will have a dominant influence on the Kogi governorship.
Interestingly, both Adeyemi and Melaye graduated from Ahmedu Bello University and were both involved in student politics while in the university.
For political pundits, the tribunal ruling may negatively affect the political psychology of Melaye as he battles to also pull his weight to oust the incumbent governor, Yahaya Bello, ahead of the election.
With the burden more on him, Melaye has much up his sleeves than Adeyemi who has the support of the state governor. Will Melaye survive the fresh onslaught or will he dump his governorship ambition to face his senatorial seat appeal? Only time will tell.