Home LATEST NEWS SPECIAL REPORT: Dino, Bello and the battle of Kogi’s Enfants Terribles

SPECIAL REPORT: Dino, Bello and the battle of Kogi’s Enfants Terribles

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Dino, Bello and the battle of Kogi's Enfants Terribles

 

By O’Femi Kolawole,

 

On January 7, 2016, exactly 20 days before Kogi state governor, Yahaya Bello, was sworn into office as the fourth executive governor of the confluence state, he set up a special three-man committee to coordinate all the activities leading to his inauguration. The chairman of that committee was Senator Dino Melaye.

Other members were Hon. Suleiman Kokori-Abdul and Hon. Benjamin Ikani Okolo.

Bello also saddled the trio with ensuring the effective take-off of his administration after succeeding the Captain Idris Wada government that was transiting.

The Beginning

On inauguration day January 27, 2016, Dino Melaye was full of nice words for the new governor.

Change had come to the state at last, he told the several thousands of Kogi people who attended the inauguration ceremony from the 21 local government areas of the state.

Yahaya Bello would also bring dynamism and good leadership to the state, Melaye added.

As the first minority from the Ebira tribe to govern Kogi (the last three governors were Igala), Bello, himself, did not also disappoint.

He read an inspirational inaugural speech that recounted his humble beginnings and how he had come prepared to tackle the developmental challenges of Kogi state after the oath of office was administered on him by Justice Nasiru Ajanah, the state’s Chief Judge.

Yahaya Bello taking his oath of office

Bello, who was just about five months to his 41st birthday, told the huge crowd how he suffered as a young fatherless boy under a very poor mother and what he passed through growing up.

He said his mother, despite the anguish of widowhood at an early age, continued to trudge on with taking care of him and his siblings even as his elder brother assumed the position of his father.

He then promised that his administration would not fail because he has a blue-print, a sort of “Marshall Plan” according to him, to rebuild the state aside tackling poverty, and paying the salaries of staff of the state civil service who were being owed their pay for months.

He also announced to the people that he remains responsible to them because they gave him their mandate.

But like most politicians, Bello accused previous administrations in the state of not having performed well enough.

Bello greets the crowd at his inauguration

He said his own case is different. And that his government would do its best to win back the people’s trust.

“Change has come to Kogi State,” he declared.

The huge crowd of Kogi people that attended the inauguration

Unfortunately, despite the lofty promises Bello made at this inauguration, and in spite of the hope many Kogi indigenes placed on his administration, most would soon become disappointed with his leadership.

And the cordial relationship he had with Melaye would also become history as both politicians fell apart in no time.

Open criticism and an early morning assassination attempt

Before Bello marked his first year in office, Melaye had started openly criticizing some of the actions of the governor’s administration especially the non-payment of workers’ salaries.

However, on April 15, 2017, the nation was greeted with the news that gunmen had invaded the Kogi residence of Dino Melaye, in the early hours of that early Saturday morning.

The gunmen, according to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), were about 10. They arrived the house in Ayetoro-Gbede in Ijumu local government area of the state through the bush and opened fire from different directions. The house was riddled with bullets while two of the vehicles parked in the estate were damaged.

Speaking on the incident, Melaye, who was in his country home for the Easter holiday, said the attackers arrived at about midnight and started shooting sporadically at the main building in the compound.

He said the attack was most likely due to his incessant verbal attacks on certain elements in the state.

“I got a rousing welcome from Kabba to my hometown on Friday and I know it angered the power that is in the state, which mobilised for this assassination attempt on my life,” he said.

“At about midnight, we started hearing gunshots. They fired more than 200 rounds of bullets into the house. This attempt to kill me will not stop me from speaking the truth.

“If I speak the truth, I will die, if I lie, I will die. I’ve decided to speak the truth and die. I’m not afraid of death. I only respect men, I don’t fear them.”

The senator also accused Taufiq Isa, administrator of Ijumu local government area of the state, and the police in Ayetoro of plotting against him..

However, Isa denied the accusation.

“I’ve never been a violent man. My running battle with Dino Melaye, if any, is because I have asked him to stop vilifying the state governor, Yahaya Bello,” Isa would later tell journalists.

But the storm was only just gathering.

Meanwhile, there were other troubles for Melaye.

A whistle-blowing site, Sahara Reporters, published a report that he never graduated from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

He denied the website’s claim but it was an embarrassing controversy.

To make matters worse, Ali Ndume, senator representing Borno south, also moved a motion on the floor of the senate that the scandal over Melaye’s certificate be investigated.

In the heat of it all, Melaye released a video, Ajekun iya, which would later go viral on social media.

It also became a national embarrassing reference concerning the quality of senator the country is unlucky to have in someone like him.

In the video, he taunted his opponents in Yoruba language: Aje kun iya ni’oje, aje kun iya ni’oje, eni ti o t’eni na, t’on de na de ni,  aje kun iya ni’oje. The translation of the song is: “He will be beaten mercilessly, He will be mercilessly beaten, The fellow who is not as powerful as one but waylays one on the road, He will be beaten mercilessly.”

The Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges would later invite Ibrahim Garba, Vice-Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), to appear before it. When he did, Garba disclosed that Melaye indeed graduated from the institution.

“From the records, distinguished senator Dino Melaye graduated as Daniel Jonah Melaye during the 3rd semester with a 3rd class degree,” Garba told the committee.

Despite the exoneration and vindication, ‘distinguished senator’ Melaye still went ahead to release pictures of himself surrounded by students of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, after collecting his certificate even as he also attended the senate plenary session clad in an academic gown.

A senator and his certificate

And unfortunately for Ndume, he would get suspended by the senate for six months for “embarrassing” Melaye and Saraki.

However, in the midst of Melaye’s controversies, Yahaya’s own troubles began.

Bello’s double registration as confirmed by INEC

A group, Kogi for Change, drew the nation’s attention to the fact that Bello had done voter registration twice with INEC. The group threatened to sue him.

Bello, responding to media probes, said the allegations against him were false.

Governor Bello

However, some days after he issued his denial, Solomon Soyebi, a national commissioner at INEC, said the commission carried out investigation and discovered that the governor did registrations on two occasions in contravention of the electoral act.

Soyebi explained that while Bello’s first registration was done in Abuja on January 30, 2011, the second one took place at government house, Lokoja, on May 23, 2017.

He said INEC intends to sanction the staff who registered Bello the second time.

The INEC clarification exposed Bello as a liar and rubbished his earlier denial.

Not one to allow such opportunity slip by, Melaye immediately called on the governor to resign or face impeachment. He described Bello as an embarrassment to Kogi state and the APC.

He said besides the move for impeachment, Kogi citizens would be mobilised to stage peaceful protest in strategic locations across the country.

“He has disgraced the party we are so proud of; he has disgraced the people of Kogi state enough by not paying salaries. Our people are dying. This 419 entrant into government should cease and we are going to follow it to the letter. This will give the APC electoral deficit in 2019 if we did not separate Yahaya Bello from the APC,” he said.

Polytechnic Attack

Although Bello initially refrained from publicly replying him, something notable would happen few weeks later.

Melaye was attacked by some gunmen as he was rounding off a speech at a rally in front of Kogi State Polytechnic.

A student, Saka Seidu, lost his life in the attack. Two operatives of the Dapartment of State Service (DSS) attached to Melaye also sustained gunshot injuries while his Prado Jeep was riddled with bullets.

This time, the governor reacted.

Speaking through Petra Onyegbule, his spokesperson, Bello described the incident as unfortunate but urged the senator to “desist from further plunging the state into needless political crisis capable of threatening the peace and security.”

Melaye would follow up later at the floor of the senate with a call that a state of emergency be declared in Kogi as the state is no longer safe.

But for the saving grace of the bulletproof vehicle he was using, he said he could have been killed.

He also said there were some of the aides of the governor he could identify among his attackers.

Bello gave his response after reporters accosted him at the Presidential Villa where he had gone to observe Ju’maat prayers on a Friday.

The governor said he was out of the country when he first heard the news of his double registration and advised INEC not to allow “some elements” tarnish its image.

Bello: Melaye not a human being

“I travelled on May 19th to Dubai for a brief break and I saw the press release and I was taken aback that I did double registration on 23rd. Probably it is my ghost that did double registration,” he said.

“I think INEC has earned itself a very high reputation and I think and I am very confident that the leadership of INEC will not allow some elements to drag the name of the commission into the mud.

“Surely, that’s a falsehood. I did not do double registration.”

It was Bello’s second denial although his claim was incorrect according to information from INEC.

When reporters further asked him about Melaye’s demand for him to step down for committing electoral fraud, Bello’s simple but pregnant response was: “I will respond when a human being is speaking. I don’t think I have to waste my time responding to distractions. Honestly speaking, I’m too focused to be distracted.”

And in what was evidently an attempt to take his own pound of flesh, a hastily-planned recall move would be initiated against Melaye right from his own Kogi West constituency with INEC also involved aside court cases and appeals.

To discerning watchers, the move was too glaring not to be seen for what it was: A move by the governor to simply humble the senator.

Sensing danger, Melaye went on the floor of the senate and told his colleagues that Bello was behind the move to eject him from the upper legislative chamber.

He pointed out that names of dead people even appeared on the recall register sent to INEC.

“The total score of both valid and invalid vote is 118,000 but my governor and his appointees in four days claimed they got a signature of over 188,000. They got INEC’s database of registered voters and copied in one writing into a recall register and forged all the signature,” he said.

“As I speak to you, over 120 dead certificates issued by the National Population Commission and these people’s relations and families have sworn to the affidavit and these certificates have been deposited.

“This orchestration, injustice, lies, malicious manifestation by my governor must not be entertained in a democracy, not because it is Dino Melaye but because it could be anybody,” he said.

His plea and appeals obviously impressed his colleagues who felt that an injury to one remained an injury to all.

As would be expected, Melaye’s supporters which included the Senate President Bukola Saraki and the deputy senate President, Ike Ekweremadu were too much behind him for the senator to be shaken.

Saraki and Melaye, both political allies committed and loyal to each other

Saraki, in fact, said those behind the action were only wasting their efforts, a statement that would prove prophetic as the recall process eventually fizzled out in no time.

However, while Melaye was getting out of one trouble, he was jumping into another almost immediately.

He caused a national scandal when he threatened to beat up Senator Remi Tinubu, wife of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) last July. This followed a brawl over the trial of presiding officers of the upper legislative chamber for alleged forgery of the senate rule book at an Abuja High Court.

Although he initially denied it, he would later claim Senator Tinubu called him a dog and a thug, insults which angered and forced him to use the invective on her.

To end the tension between both parties, the Senate, in an executive session, urged Melaye to apologise to Tinubu in the spirit of camaraderie.

While a gentleman would have agreed with his colleagues and simply do the needful so the matter is amicably settled, Melaye refused, explaining that “great minds don’t dwell on issues, they act and move on.”

But Melaye would still not allow the matter to be laid to rest.

In response to some threats that he shouldn’t visit Lagos, the 44-year old demonstrated how petty he could be by making a trip to the Bourdillon Road residence of the Tinubus in Lagos and making a video of it.

Despite his scandals, however, the press corps at the Senate still adjudged him the senator of the year, while also presenting him the award on October 9, 2017 at Sheraton Hotel, Abuja.

Prior to the ceremony, NUJ described the award as illegal, saying it was not recognised by its constitution.

Abdulwaheed Odusile, national president of NUJ, and Ella Abech, chairman of FCT council of the union, released separate statements saying the union had cancelled the award ceremony.

Odusile said, “the union dissociates itself from the so-called conferment as it did not comply with the provision of the constitution of NUJ on such issues, hence the nullification of the award” while Abechi said, “the press corps is not a legitimate organ to decide who to give awards to”.

The ceremony, however, proceeded as scheduled.

What is not in doubt though, even to his critics, is that Melaye is vocal on the floor and actively pushes various bills and motions.

His ‘Senator of the Year’ award was presented to him by the minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Muhammad Bello.

Bello’s mansion and a controversial public holiday

Meanwhile, in August, images of a mansion Bello was constructing went viral, with the public getting to know that he had even converted the entrance to the street on which the property is located to his private gate.

After residents complained to the media, Kingsley Fanwo, an aide to the governor, rather than admit it was one abuse of power by his principal, explained that an alternative provision had been made for those living in the neighbourhood.

And this was also despite the fact that the governor owed workers in the state’s civil service months of salary arrears, aside from the multitude of pensioners who he didn’t even give a damn about.

But there are certainly many other things Bello gave no damn about.

One of such absurdities was his declaration of August 21, 2017, as a public holiday in Kogi.

Many Kogi people accuse Governor Bello of spending more time in Abuja with President Buhari than being in his own state

Bello declared the public holiday and ‘thanksgiving day’ because President Buhari safely returned to the country since leaving Nigeria on May 7, for medical treatment in the UK.

While there is truly a lot to thank God for concerning the life of the President and indeed every other citizen, many Kogi indigenes at home and abroad asked what sense was in their governor’s action declaring a public holiday and wiping off the productivity in the state on a Monday of all days!

Others asked whether a public holiday was even necessary in the first instance.

Meanwhile, on October 25, 2017, Melaye, while speaking on the floor of the senate again took Yahaya Bello to the cleaners, saying the people of Kogi are living in perilous times.

Drawing the attention of the legislators to the plight of Kogi workers who have not been paid salaries for months, he appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene in the situation, adding that as a representative of the people, he could not remain quiet over the matter.

His argument got traction with many Nigerians more so, when the nation had earlier received the shocking news of a man who committed suicide after his wife gave birth to triplets. The man, a civil servant, was owed 11 months in salaries by the state.

And still on the matter of videos, in December, Dino Melaye, threw away the dignity and decorum expected of his office and status and appeared in a music video titled after him, ’Dino’ by Uche Kachikwu, Kach, a rapper, in which luxury cars, indecently dressed ladies and wads of cash were wantonly flaunted.

Dino the ‘Legend’

At various points in the video, the senator danced alongside the artiste.

Whatever reason he had in mind when he wore a white T-Shirt with the inscription ‘Legend,’ the video clearly made it clearer that Dino’s pettiness has become legendary.

What is worse, however, according to Nigerians who spoke with POSTERITY MEDIA on the matter, is the fact that Melaye got no caution whatsoever for improper conduct unbecoming of the status of a senator from the Senate.

They said this only speaks to the quality of leadership in place.

A Judge’s curious death

In spite of Melaye’s shenanigans and Bello’s eccentricities, Aromeh Benson Akogu, the high court judge assigned to handle Melaye’s assassination case, suddenly died on December 31, 2017 during a cross-over service to 2018.

Akogu, a former director of public prosecution in the state, was said to have vowed not to sleep before the cross-over to 2018 and was neither sick nor showed any symptoms of ill health before his shocking demise.

The wife of the late judge, Vicky, said she watched her husband’s death like a movie and could hardly believe herself.

For many in Kogi, Akogu’s death remains a mystery.

On Sunday, January 7, just a week into the New Year, the senator took his antics a notch higher by hosting a costume birthday party dressed as Jack Sparrow in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean.’

He released another video in which he sang and danced before revealing that he had a dream where he saw Bello in “prison uniform specially decorated with a wonderful embroidery.”

Bail, SARS, ‘Angelic escape’

However, on the assassination case, the federal government, last month, charged Melaye for allegedly framing Edward David Onoja, chief of staff of Bello. Melaye had also accused David of being behind an alleged assassination attempt on his life in April 2017 in Kogi.

In the charge signed by one Magaji Labaran, the federal government accused him of deliberately giving false information to the police to frame Onoja as the mastermind of the assassination attempt on him.

In the second count, Melaye was accused of allegedly making false statement of facts in a phone conversation with one Mohammed Abudu Abubakar, a son of the late former governor of Kogi State Abubakar Audu, with the intention of harming the reputation of Onoja.

Melaye showing his toothpaste and toothbrush to journalists when he appeared in court. He said he was ready to be sent to prison.

In a suit filed by the office of the attorney-general of the federation (AGF), the federal government said the police found out that Melaye’s claim was false.

On March 1 when he appeared in court to answer the perjury case charged against him by the police, he pleaded not guilty to both charges. He had earlier showed journalists his toothbrush and toothpaste, explaining that he was ready to be sent to prison. He would later be granted a N100,000 bail by the court at about 1:00 p.m.

But the day was not without its drama as he outwitted and outperformed a contingent of well-armed policemen who were waiting outside the court premises to arrest him.

While the court building was still surrounded by Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) officers, Melaye managed to sneak out to a waiting sports utility vehicle about 150 metres from where he was trapped.

For many who were still at the court premises at the time, including media reporters who were still waiting to know how the face-off would end, how he left the court was a mystery.

But while speaking on the floor of the senate last Wednesday, Melaye said ‘angels of God’ rescued him from the court to the consternation and bewilderment of the operatives.

He also later accused Bello’s government of importing military equipment illegally into the country.

Ike Ekeweremadu, deputy senate president, who presided, asked the ad-hoc committee chaired by James Manager, senator representing Delta south, to look into Melaye’s claim.

So far, Bello is yet to officially speak on the matter.

For Bello, Prosecution waits!

Meanwhile, despite the explanation by Mr Kingsley Fanwo, the Director-General, Media and Publicity to Bello in the last week of February justifying the fresh PVC issued to the governor by INEC, saying it was sequel to a form Bello filled seeking the transfer of his Permanent Voter Card (PVC) to Okene, and his further explanation that the governor is a law-abiding leader who will continue to follow due process, INEC has insisted that  the allegation of double registration against Bello still stands and he would face prosecution for the offence.

James Apam, resident electoral commissioner (REC) in the state, said in Lokoja that INEC had not swept the matter under the carpet but was only bidding its time till when Bello would be out of office since he currently enjoys immunity as a state governor.

“The allegation of double registration has not been swept under the carpet; we cannot prosecute Bello now because he enjoys immunity as a sitting governor. He has committed an offence and we shall prosecute him when he is out office,” the resident electoral commissioner said.

He added that the recent issuance of a temporary voter’s card to the governor on February 26 did not mean that the issue of double registration had been swept under the carpet.

When two elephants fight…

So far, Bello hasn’t responded to INEC and the possible prosecution waiting for him at the end of his tenure as governor.

However, while speaking in an interview on Politics Today, a programme on Channels TV few days ago, the governor insinuated that a major reason for his friction with Melaye was because of his refusal to share the resources of the state. The senator is yet to counter what the governor said.

While Melaye has over the years showed himself as a politician with no iota of decorum, Bello, on his part, has failed to distinguish himself as a young leader millions of Nigerian youths can look up to as their proud representative in government.

When weighed on the scale of leadership, both, so far, fail to measure up.

But in the midst of the clashes of ego, however, it is good governance that suffers.

Rather than focusing on how they could work together to develop their state and ensure that the quality of living condition is improved for their people, both men, evidently lucky to have risen fast in Nigeria’s fierce political space, have instead allowed petty rivalry to becloud their sense of reasoning.

And so, the earlier the two politicians sheath their swords in the interest of the good fortune and development of their state, the better for the people of Kogi. Because it’s still so true after all: When two elephants fight, it’s the grass that ultimately suffers.

With Bello’s dissolution of his cabinet on March 11, Kogi people would be waiting to see the impact he can yet make in the remainder of his tenure.

But it’s also in the individual and collective interests of both men to work together, more so, when their full stories will be told by generations to come long after they have left the political scene.

 

 

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