The proposed rerun election between Smart Adeyemi of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) and Dino Melaye of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may just be the final battle between two political titans. The two former senators from the same local government area, Ijumu, will face-off again on a yet to be announced date by the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC). The electoral umpire had declared the Kogi West senatorial November 16 re-run election inconclusive.
The contest was a two-horse race between Adeyemi and Melaye. The returning officer, Prof. Olayide Lawal, who made the declaration at the end of collation, said the decision was due to cancellation in 53 polling units with registered voters of not less than 46,127. The collated results showed Adeyemi was leading with a total of 80,118 votes while Melaye trailed with 59,548 votes. The returning officer said a winner cannot be declared, as the lead margin of 20,570 was lower than the cancelled votes of 46,127.
As both men brace for what promises to be a titanic battle of epic proportions, keen political observers are giving Adeyemi the edge, based on the situation on ground. “Melaye is caught between the devil and the deep blue sea,” one political watcher told Huhuonline.com. Melaye was a member of House of Representatives representing Kabba/Ijumu Federal Constituency from 2007 to 2011 on the platform of PDP. After failing to secure the PDP ticket for a second term, because it would have violated the rotation arrangement in the area, Melaye defected to All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP).
A Dog and Cage Fight
However, he lost the election to Tajudeen Yusuf of PDP. Melaye remained in the ANPP until 2014 when some political parties fused together to form All Progressive Congress (APC). Melaye secured the APC ticket for the Kogi West Senatorial seat and went ahead to defeat Adeyemi, the PDP candidate in the 2015 general election. Adeyemi was then a two-time senator. Before the election, political watchers had written Melaye off as PDP was believed to have a formidable candidate in Adeyemi, who was seeking a third term. When the final votes were counted, Melaye staged one of the most stunning upsets even after losing the five local government areas in his native Okun. From a distant third position, Melaye edge Adeyemi thanks to the Buhari tsunami as votes from Lokoja/Kogi handed him a surprise victory.
In July 2018, Melaye, alongside 13 other APC Senators, led by then Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki decamped to the PDP, and picked the ticket of the party to run for the same senatorial seat against Adeyemi who subsequently defected to the APC. Melaye again defeated Adeyemi, but had his victory voided by the election petition tribunal, which ordered for another election, which was declared inconclusive. Melaye is currently fighting the political battle of his life. Having survived a recall and his victory in 2019 senatorial election against all odds, some had predicted an easy win for Melaye in the rerun election, but the reverse was the case. Melaye lost in his strongholds – Lokoja/Kogi LGAs. These are areas that had always broken for Melaye.
However, Melaye cried foul, alleging irregularities, widespread violence and intimidation among others during the November 16 election. He rejected the results and petitioned INEC with video evidence of the alleged irregularities. The evidence was overwhelming forcing INEC to announce supplementary election rerun in some polling units.
Difficult but not Impossible
Barring any last minute change, Melaye might as well be prepared to permanently join a league of former senators. Considering the margin of lead, Senator Smart Adeyemi would most likely carry the day. In accordance with INEC’s guidelines, the rerun for Kogi West Senatorial election may hold within the next two weeks. According to INEC, the rerun would hold in seven LGAs, while the numbers of wards are 20. The election is expected to hold in 53 polling units, with total registered voters of 48,101. One of the factors that may work against Melaye is the number of permanent voter cards (PVCs) collected in the 53 polling units. According to INEC, the number of PVCs collected is 30,730. With a margin of lead of over 20,000 by Adeyemi, it’s doubtful if Melaye can make up the difference.
Already, indices presage a very low turnout thanks in part to the hangover of the violence in the affected areas during the November 16 poll that lead to at least three deaths and bodily harm to others. Some non-governmental organizations have also decried the electoral violence. The Challenged Parenthood Initiative (CPI) said despite the assurances given to Kogi citizen by the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) before the governorship election, the process was largely characterized with violence with the women folk most affected.
Its Executive Director, Eunice Abimbola Agbogun, noted that more women were victims of orchestrated violence, such as assaults, threats, coercions, intimidations and harassment. She said, “Worthy of note is that women were induced to vote other candidates that were not their preferred choice. Most victims of violence were voters and observers. The outcome of this election will impact negatively on women’s participation in elections subsequently. The implication of the above situation shows that our democratic practice in Kogi State requires lots of reflection and intervention as the ‘do or die mentally’ is still endemic in our political space.”