Kogi’s Political Mess: Will Gov Bello be jailed or Sen Melaye recalled?
The state governor, Yahaya Bello, and the senator representing the western constituency, Dino Melaye are in their separate battles on the verge of changing the political narrative, as they may each have to struggle to retain their seats in cases that have no precedent in the nation’s political history.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) recently accused Governor Bello of double registration as a potential voter.
The commission alleged that Bello who previously registered to vote in Abuja, in January 2011, was again registered at the Government House Lokoja, on May 23, 2017, an allegation the governor has denied, and even said the commission may have registered a look-alike ghost, and not himself.
But the commission has stood its grounds, even vowing to penalize its officials who carried out the exercise, which it said was illegal.
A new twist has, however, been added to the drama, as INEC sources informed that it has succeeded in retrieving a back-up Direct Data Capture (DDC) machine on what transpired between the governor and the INEC team.
He said the commission will engage experts to download data in the machine, which will reveal how the governor’s name disappeared from the voter register.
According to the source, “Those who tampered with the DDC used to register the governor don’t know that every machine has a back-up. We will engage experts to analyse the CVR conducted on May 23 in Lokoja and how the governor’s name purportedly got missing.”
Section 117 of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) recommends sanctions for voters who have registered more than once, being in unlawful possession of a voter card, selling or buying of voter card.
The punishment for such an electoral offence is “a fine not exceeding N100,000 or imprisonment for one year or both.”
The questions now are: Will INEC be able to prove a wrongdoing on the part of Bello? If it does, will Bello as a sitting governor undergo trial, or will he be shielded by the immunity clause from prosecution over such an electoral offence?
It would be a first that would test the nation’s laws, as there is no precedent to fall on.
Senator Melaye, on his part, is fighting a recall battle initiated by his constituents who feel unsatisfied with his performance as a federal lawmaker. The petition for his recall was said to have been signed by 188,588 voters from electorate in the senatorial district, representing about 52.3 per cent of the district’s registered voters.
Although the senator claimed many of the signatories were forged, they were however delivered to the the electoral umpire in Abuja, which not only acknowledged receipt, but has fixed a date for verification of the signatories.
In his bid to halt the process, Melaye informed that he had dragged INEC to court, but had yet to give details of the relieves he is seeking from the court.
With the date for verification process fixed, and Melaye’s suit filed, the drama has just begun in another first that also has never happened before in Nigeria’s political history; a move to recall a lawmaker.
The questions now are: Will Melaye get reprieve of the court to stop the action geared towards his recall? Or, will INEC follow through with the process? Also, will a constituent take advantage of the law, and actually recall a senator?
As the two separate dramas play out, Nigerians, and indeed, political historians are watching to see how the laws on paper will actually provide guides, in the reality of Nigeria’s democratic journey.