There seems to be no end in sight to the lingering face-off between Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State and Senator Dino Melaye who represents Kogi West Senatorial District at the National Assembly.
Both were good friends before “things fell apart” and “the centre can no longer hold”.
To many watchers of the unfolding political scenario in Kogi State, the feud between Bello and Melaye may have come as a surprise.
This is because prior to the inauguration of Alhaji Yahaya Bello as governor on January 27, 2016, he had enjoyed cordial relationship with Senator Dino Melaye as one of his close political allies.
Dino was believed to be among the strong forces that supported Bello when the All Progressives Congress (APC) national leadership nominated him (Bello) as the replacement for its late flag-bearer, Prince Abubakar Audu, who died on the verge of victory in the November 21, 2015 governorship election.
Indeed, Senator Melaye served as chairman of the transition committee that worked out the modalities for a hitch-free handover of power to Bello and his eventual inauguration on January 27, 2016.
Given the close affinity that existed between them, Dino also served as the master of ceremony for the inauguration of Governor Bello at the main bowl of the Confluence Stadium, Lokoja.
Dino did not hide his support for the governor when he told the mammoth crowd of dignitaries and well-wishers that turned out for the inauguration that Kogi people voted for Audu but God voted for Bello.
The obviously elated Dino went on to urge the people to give unalloyed support and cooperation to the new government, which he said was “divinely orchestrated.”
But a few months after the inauguration, the political honeymoon has been replaced by sour relationship amid discordant tunes and cacophonic beating of war drums from the two camps.
The two camps have over the past two years thrown a lot of tantrums at each other, either directly or indirectly, and engaged in a number of protests for and against each other.
Many analysts say the genesis of the lingering political impasse could be traced to some of the political appointments made by the governor and the alleged sidelining of the party structure in the scheme of things.
Dino was said to have been particularly irked by Bello’s choice of Alhaji Taofiq Isah as the caretaker chairman of Ijumu Local Government Area without recourse to the existing power rotation principle.
Besides the issue of political appointments, Senator Dino had on different occasions insisted that his main grouse with the governor was over the alleged nonpayment of salaries and pensions to workers/pensioners and general poor governance in the state.
Melaye’s spokesman, Gideon Ayodele, said: “Senator Dino started disagreeing with Yahaya Bello when he started working outside the party structure. Governor Bello has no respect for the party that produced him. That accounts for the various appointments he made.”
But Governor Bello’s Director-General on Media and Publicity, Mr. Kingsley Fanwo, said the political impasse between them was beyond the issue of appointments.
“Senator Dino Melaye was the chairman of the transition committee that ushered in the current administration under the leadership of Governor Yahaya Bello. He doubled as the master of ceremony at the inauguration and he made instructive statements. He said Governor Bello was anointed by God and that anyone fighting him was fighting God.
“He was so excited and hopeful of a new Kogi State under Governor Bello. The governor also gave him the privilege of nominating a woman for the position of the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) and he brought the current SSG, Dr. Ayoade Folashade Arike.
“But the senator spoke about “elephant sharing” at the stadium that day, without knowing the aversion of the governor to corruption and corrupt practices. He became enraged when the governor refused to “share the elephant” to a select few, but rather decided to use the commonwealth for the common good”, he said.
The political impasse between the duo had since continued to degenerate and at a point, there were alleged assassination attempts made on the life of Senator Dino Melaye.
The first attempt was on April 15, 2017 in Dino’s country home at Aiyetoro Gbede, Ijumu Local Government Area of the state, while the second occurred on June 12, 2017 at the gate of the Kogi State Polytechnic, Lokoja, where the senator was holding an anti-government rally. One person died in the ensuing mayhem.
Dino had accused the Governor Bello-led government of orchestrating attacks against him for daring to speak for the “voiceless civil servants and pensioners in the state who are being owed salaries and pensions for about 15 months,’’ insisting that he would not be silent.
But Governor Bello has denied having any hand in the alleged attacks on Senator Melaye.
As the political feud between them lingers, Melaye on different occasions raised issues on the floor of the senate about ill happenings in his home state, which often did not go down well with the powers that be.
He particularly drew the attention of the senate to the alleged importation of military wares by the Kogi State government for its vigilante group as well as illegal establishment of a state police by the government, among others.
In the midst of the ensuing political feud, a recall process was initiated against the senator purportedly by his constituents.
Over 188,000 constituents had in June 2017 collected signatures to recall him from the senate.
Dino blamed his recall on Governor Bello, alleging that the signatures for the recall process were not those of his constituents but forged.
But the governor denied having any hand in the ordeal of the senator, insisting the recall attempt was purely by Kogi West constituents.
The attempt to recall the senator failed last Saturday when only 5.4% of the petitioners that signed for his recall were verified as against the 50% plus 1 that is required by law.
Although, Melaye may have won the recall battle, it is not yet uhuru as he still has various criminal charges preferred against him by the police in courts in Abuja and Lokoja.
Analysts say the ongoing feud has grave implications on the security, governance and socio-economic wellbeing of the people of Kogi State.
There are concerns that a lot of energy and resources that would have been channeled for the overall good of the people Kogi State are being wasted as a result of the ongoing political feud.
Besides, if the feud continues unabated into the 2019 general elections, it might lead to a volatile political climate in the state.
Hence, analysts believe that it is high time the actors listened to the voice of reason and sheath their swords before it becomes too late.