Dino Melaye’s recall : A Litmus Test or a noisy power tussle?

By Taiwo Okanlawon
The Nigerian constitution as amended made it very uncomfortable for electorate to recall a Senator going by those stated 10 stages in Section 69 of the 1999 Constitution.
The steps are:
1- More than half of the registered voters in the Senator’s senatorial district write, sign and send a petition to the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC alleging their loss of confidence in the senatorial.
2- The petition must be signed, and arranged according to polling units, wards, Local Government Areas, and constituency.
3- INEC notifies the Senator sought to be recalled, stating that it has received a petition for his or her recall, if the petition is valid.
4 – INEC issues a public notice or announcement stating the date, time and location of the verification of signatures to the petition.
5- INEC verifies the signatures to the petition at the designation. The signatories must be individuals who appear on the voters’ register.
6 – INEC conducts a referendum if more than one half (50% + 1) of the signatories are verified
7- INEC writes to the petitioners stating that the minimum requirements for a referendum were not met, if the number verified is less than one half of the registered voters in that constituency. The petition will therefore be dismissed.
8 – INEC conducts a referendum within 90 days of receipt of the petition if the minimum requirements for a referendum are met. The referendum will be a simple yes or no vote on whether the Senator should be recalled, and will be decided by simple majority of the votes of the persons registered to vote in that Senator’s constituency.
9 – If majority of the voters in the constituency vote ‘yes’ the Chairman of the INEC will send a Certificate of Recall to the Senate President to effect the recall.
10 – The Senate President will show affected senator the way out of the Senate.
Many people including lawyers were not optimistic about the outcome because of the difficulties involved and also the Section has never been used.
Particularly, the provision in the constitution that demands aggrieved constituents to mobilize the signature of 50% of all registered voters in a particular constituency before a recall process could happen, almost makes it impossible to recall legislators.
On Thursday, INEC said it has received six bags of signatures of the electorate in Kogi West Senatorial District, demanding the recall of Melaye. They stated grounds of poor representation in the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly.
As at now, four stages have been met in the process.  The most difficult stages to me is now 5 and 6, and if those stages are met, we may be having the first Senator to be recalled in the history of Nigeria.
Dino Melaye, having spent two years in the Upper Chamber of National Assembly is one of the most controversial senators. He’s known for his extravagant lifestyle.
He talks and behave like a tout, he is always in the news. Melaye has been slammed by the public on several occasions for showing off his wealth on social media which he does often.
Mrs Tinubu had in a statement said ‘whenever Senator Dino speaks in this chamber, he is always threatening people and behaving childishly and at times like a thug.’
His certificate scandal is still fresh in Nigerians memories. Dino took to his social media page to mock those he perceived as his enemies for doubting his claim he actually graduated with a 3rd class.
The latest is the battle between him and his state Governor, Yahaya Bello, who recently described Senator Melaye as a social deviate in the Senate.
He said his constituents were in the process of recalling him, because “they have learnt from their bitter mistake”.
When the recall process started, Melaye laughed it off and described it as a mere joke, Alleging that the recall is been sponsored by Yahaya Bello, but will soon end.
However, as the recall process continues to gather momentum, Dino Melaye has again ran to court and filed his case against INEC. He filed the case on Friday at the Federal High Court in Abuja.
In a series of tweets deriding his proposed recall by his constituency, the lawmaker also alleged that dead people were among those who signed the petition seeking to have him recalled.
According to him, “I have filed my case against INEC today at the Federal High Court Abuja today.
“Even dead people were among those who signed petition to recall Dino Melaiye.”
But why should Melaye be worried over a constitutional matter that was deliberately made inoperable by the same constitution that provided for it by throwing such heavily built gates on the way to its implementation?
Maybe Melaye has realized that not only vote is a great weapon to elect the right candidates and voting out the wrong ones, the electorate can also recall that candidate if he failed to protect and defend the interest of the people.
Some of Melaye’s sins as listed by his constituents include: “not having a constituency office, instituting no projects in the constituency after two years as a senator, insulting leaders, elders and personalities, irresponsible utterances and thuggery”, among a host of other misdemeanours.
It is obvious that the people of Kogi West were very determined to sever this stronghold and yank Melaye off the senate.
If Melaye’s recall is successful, it will be a wake up call to other lawmakers, who think after they have been elected to various positions to represent their people, they have become the Alpha and Omega of those positions.
If this recall is victorious, it will give Nigerians more confidence that democracy is the best system of government so far. Although, we are not there yet but we will continue to struggle until we get there because with democracy we can say what we want, do what we want.