Melaye’s Recall Fiasco


Penultimate Saturday, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) mobilized thousands of human and material resources to Kogi State to conduct the verification of petitioners for the recall of the embattled senator representing Kogi West Senatorial District, Dino Melaye.
The verification exercise was the first step in efforts to authenticate the alleged 188,500 signatures on the petitioners’ list submitted to INEC in Abuja on June 24, 2017.
A group of electorate led by one Cornelius Olowo had accused Melaye of poor representation, and claimed to have met the 51 per cent constitutional requirement of total registered voters of 351,140 in Kogi West to trigger a recall.
But announcing the results of the verification exercise, penultimate Sunday, INEC’s Returning Officer, Prof Okente Morthy, said that the petition failed because only 18,743 signatories, representing a mere 5.34 per cent of the alleged petitioners were genuine, leaving 169, 757 signatures, representing 45.66 per cent as either forged or fictitious.
He clarified that the petitioners required at least, 51 per cent of the registered voters in the district to qualify for the next round, which would have been a referendum, and therefore, declared the recall process invalid, ineffective and incompetent.
While The Tide is satisfied with the outcome of the much orchestrated recall of Melaye, we feel particularly worried at the high-level of witch-hunt, desperation and perjury laced together to effect the premature recall of an elected federal legislator.
We are especially piqued that some power brokers in Kogi would go the extra mile to commit a criminal offence such as perjury, among others, just to disgrace Melaye out of office as senator.
Although the Melaye recall process has hit the rock, we think that the whole brouhaha deserves to be properly investigated to determine how a large number of ghost names and forged signatures found their way into the alleged recall petition. We say so because we know that there is a law against perjury and giving false information with intent to deceive, exploit and even extort money and favour.
Indeed, we believe that the whole intrigues and fraudulent manipulation of not just the people of Kogi West but also INEC should not go unpunished, especially when the entire drama lasted for almost a full year, with so much financial, human and material costs.
INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu’s disclosure, last Friday, that the commission spent well over N100 million mainly on ad-hoc staff and logistics to undertake the exercise is not only painful but also saddening.
We, therefore, expect the law enforcement agencies, especially the police, to swing into action, and arrest and prosecute Cornelius Olowo and his cohorts for concocting fictitious names and signatures. In fact, we expect the law enforcement agencies to also investigate the alleged expenditure of N5 billion public fund on the failed Melaye recall exercise, especially against the backdrop of a backlog of salaries, pensions and gratuities being owed workers by the Kogi State government.
However, the Melaye recall process should serve as a huge lesson to politicians across the country, that Nigerians are now paying rapt attention to their actions and inactions while in public office. In fact, it shows that Nigerians are becoming wiser, and are now ready to punish politicians who take them for granted. Of course, the significance of this is that the bar has been raised for politicians who aspire to occupy elective offices across all tiers of government, thenceforth.
We commend INEC for its meticulous compliance with laid down procedure for the recall process, especially the conduct of free, fair and credible verification exercise in Kogi. This suggests that the commission was learning fast, and is ready to plug all loopholes observed in previous elections. It, therefore, places unpopular and desperate politicians across Nigeria on notice, that the forthcoming elections in Ekiti and Osun, this year, as well as the 2019 general elections, would not be business as usual.
We, therefore, urge INEC to sustain the tempo of transparency recently recorded in Kogi State by conducting free and credible elections in 2019.