MELAYE: Let the People Decide

(Published by Daily SUN on 26 June, 2017 at page 17)
By Carl Umegboro
PURSUANT to section 69 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, Senator Dino Melaye (APC) representing Kogi West senatorial district in the National Assembly is presently on a hot seat facing recall actions from his people for allegedly failing to meet their aspirations. The people by the action are passing vote of no confidence accusing Senator Melaye of inter alia ineptitude, ungainliness and recklessness. As alleged, over 51.1percent which makes the constitutional requirement for a recall action to proceed has been attained.
As a result, the atmosphere in Kogi is intense with records of civil disturbances and casualties on account of violent resistance from both factions. Embattled Senator Melaye’s fans on a side are fighting mercilessly to frustrate the action while the opposing side allegedly spearheaded by the state governor, Yahaya Bello is putting up strong resistance insisting that the controversial senator must return home. Melaye, on the other hand, is putting up a cover that the governor’s plot is to silence all oppositions against obnoxious leadership style which according to him is characterized by maladministration, monumental fraud and deceit. Incidentally, both sides are anchoring on a particular issue; welfare of the people.

Possibly, on account of our young democracy, most political officeholders inconceivably mistake elective portfolios as absolute positions after swearing-in and electoral disputes. In a true democracy, power ultimately resides with the people. The doctrine of ‘hire and fire’ is also operative in democracy. The enabling clause for a recall in the Constitution provides “A member of the Senate or of the House Representatives may be recalled as such a member if:  (a) there is presented to the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission a petition in that behalf signed by more than one-half of the persons registered to vote in that member's constituency alleging their loss of confidence in that member; and  (b) the petition is thereafter, in a referendum conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission within ninety days of the date of receipt of the petition, approved by a simple majority of the votes of the persons registered to vote in that member's constituency”.
Similarly, section 110 (supra) empowers the people to recall elected members of the states’ House of Assembly in like manner if dissatisfied on the performance. In other words, to recall a senator, member of the House of Representatives or House of Assembly is no taboo rather a legitimate democratic norm, precisely a tool for checkmating excesses and safeguarding the mandate entrusted to the elected representatives.  The fundamental element is that the people owe no explanations for embarking on the recall-action same way they voted freely without any clause on rationale for voting in favour of a particular candidate. The requirement is simply to sign the register in support of the action and it is a done deal. It is independent of circumstances, and immaterial even if the people are cuckolded to sign up as long as they exercised the franchise without duress.
It therefore implies that any violent resistance to such action will amount to crimes. Critically, a recall is aimed at entrenching accountability and productivity in government. Suffice to say, that the only positive reaction permissible in fighting back if the target considers it unjustified is to reach out and persuade the people to vote against the plot. Thus, to violently stand against the action under any guise is tantamount to aborting a scheduled election by the electoral institution. A recall is, in a nutshell, also synonymous with the ‘people decide’ as termed the elections. No person has a right to halt it for any reasons. It is a constitutional right available to the people; be it biased or justifiable.
It is germane to state further, that democracy is principally all about numbers and not mores. The majority will always have the way while minority their say. It is immaterial if the majority is opting for the wrong person or action. And this is where enlightenment and campaigns come to play.  What is important is that eligible voters can freely exercise their franchise which starts from election to recall at any point in time. Interestingly, whilst the constitution empowers the people to directly checkmate the legislators, it titivated the equation by placing the governors and president alongside their deputies and vice president under the jurisdiction of the legislators. Thus, a well-crafted checks and balances.
At this juncture, the finest action and way forward for the embattled senator is to rally around the people as during his election campaign, of course, this time showcasing his accomplishments, if any, in the senate for the past two years, and essentially as they affect the people of Kogi West senatorial district. It is a moment of accountability or stewardship on the entrusted mandate. The onus is thus, exclusively on Melaye to prove his credibility and proficiency to continue in office. As for now, the arrowhead or motive is a story for another day, at most, the senator may adopt a reprisal mission through the state legislators provided the constitutional requirements will be followed.  Principally, the National Orientation Agency (NOA) is under a duty to enlighten the people, to appreciate the development as a democratic norm instead of opting for civil disturbances and bullying. Above all, federal government must ensure through the Nigeria Police Force that adequate security is provided for a hitch-free exercise. Let the people decide!
Umegboro is a public affairs analyst and publisher

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