By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
Bruised and battered and lying in the Trauma Centre of the National Hospital, Abuja, Senator Dino Melaye is unwilling to go home to his native Kogi State to face the charges of gun running among other charges levelled against him by the police. The senator claims that his nemesis, Governor Yahaya Bello has worked out a plan to eliminate him if he enters the state.
Irrespective of his physical impairments in Abuja, about 200 kilometers away in his constituency in Kogi West, Melaye could also from today be subjected to political impairment as his enemies at home take a major step towards recalling him from the Senate. The verification of signatories to the petition to recall the senator is holding today in all seven local government areas of the constituency.
Melaye’s journey to the hospital started after the police on March 19, 2018, accused him of gun running. Two weeks earlier, he had accused Governor Bello of illegal importation of restricted security gadgets without the end-user certificates from the National Security Adviser, NSA.
Police spokesman, Jimoh Moshood who levelled the allegations of gun running against Melaye had paraded two men who claimed to be working as thugs for Melaye.
Moshood alleged that 31 years-old Kabiru Saidu, a.k.a Osama had confessed to working as a thug for Melaye and was reportedly introduced to the senator by Mohammed Audu, son of the former governor of the state, Prince Abubakar Audu, Melaye’s deceased political leader.
“The suspect (Osama) further confessed that Audu told him that they should start working as political thugs of the senator and they should recruit and train other thugs to work for him in preparation toward 2019 general election to enable him ( Sen. Dino Melaye ) challenge his political opponents and disorganise Kogi state,” Moshood had said adding that Melaye gave Osama a bag containing one AK47 rifle, two pump action guns, and the N430,000.00 to share with his boys.
Based on the claim of Osama, the police filed charges of gun running against Melaye who remarkably failed to appear before the police when he was invited.
The harvest of misfortune and melodrama for the senator was a turnaround. Almost a year earlier, Melaye had caught national attention when he alleged that he was the subject of an assassination attack in his country home in Iyala, Ijumu LGA in Kogi State on April 15, 2017.
Ten days after the reported attack, the police paraded six of the alleged culprits including the chairman of Ijumu LGA, Taofiq Isah who the police reported as the mastermind of the attack. Though some of the culprits confessed to the attack, the case subsequently turned in its head as police subsequently accused the senator of providing false information.
THE GENESIS OF THE BATTLE WITH GOVERNOR BELLO
While Senator Melaye and Governor Bello had traded serial allegations against one another, beneath the surface of the allegations between the two men is the struggle for political dominance.
Melaye was a leg man for the late Prince Audu, who before his death was the unquestioned political leader of the APC in Kogi State.
Ironically Audu and President Muhammadu Buhari were not in the same camp as Audu supported Rabiu Kwankwanso in the 2014 APC presidential primaries. Bello, on the other hand, was a passionate supporter of Buhari and indeed formed a campaign group known as Kogi Arise to support Buhari.
Melaye, though a political disciple of Audu was not distinct on his preference. However, after Buhari won the primaries, he turned into a very vocal supporter of the candidate deriding the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and its candidate, Goodluck Jonathan everywhere. That was after Audu had handed over to him the APC senatorial ticket for Kogi West just as he did to nearly the APC senatorial candidates in Kogi Central and Kogi East.
It was remarkably based on the fact of the lack of primaries that the Court of Appeal annulled the election of the APC candidates who won in Kogi East and Central, but Melaye escaped, a development that has led to a petition to the National Judicial Council, NJC.
It is alleged that Buhari did not forgive Audu for his support for Kwankwanso and so even after he was inaugurated as president did not come to Kogi to campaign for Audu before the November 2015 off season governorship election.
When eventually Audu died in the midst of the election, and with the electoral laws unclear about the situation, the APC perhaps with the influence of the presidency found a way for Buhari’s man, Bello to emerge as candidate despite the stiff resistance of Melaye and others who wanted Audu’s running mate, James Falake to inherit the APC ticket.
After Bello’s emergence as candidate and governor, sources in Kogi say that both men agreed to put past political differences aside and work together. Senator Melaye, a source said eventually produced the present Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Folashade Ayooade.
The two men appeared to walk in harmony until the governor decided to appoint local government caretakers committees. It was at that point that they appeared to fall apart.
The point of disagreement it was leant arose over the appointment of the chairman of the caretaker committee for Melaye’s local government area, Ijumu LGA.
Saturday Vanguard learnt that Bello had prior to his election assured all his local government area coordinators that they would become chairmen of the local government caretaker committees if he won the election.
Bello’s coordinator in Ijumu was Taofiq Isah, a former associate of Melaye who backed Melaye in his successful bid to the House of Representatives in 2007. However, both men fell out in the period leading to the 2015 elections.
Isah, a political heavyweight even though from Ijumu as Melaye had opposed his senatorial bid on the ground that the senatorial ticket should go to Yagba Federal Constituency, the only Federal Constituency that has not produced a Senator since 1999.
Melaye it was learnt refused the appointment of Isah as the chairman of Ijumu LGA. Governor Bello was said to have offered Melaye the privilege of appointing the remaining four members of the caretaker committee with the exception of the chairman, an offer Melaye was said to have rejected.
The governor was said to have after much pleas waved aside Melaye’s opposition and gone ahead to appoint Isah on the basis of the pre-election promise to his coordinators.
Melaye has, however, discounted the claim of the governor’s associates on the appointment of Isah insisting that his bone of contention was over the governor’s reported failure in governance.
Sources say that the differences between both men subsequently ballooned with both men taking on one another at every opportunity. Their difference has not been helped with their different alliances at the national level. Melaye is a strong backer of Senate President Bukola Saraki while Bello is an unpretentious backer of President Buhari.