Kogi West: Another battle between Smart, Dino

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has fixed November 30 for the conduct of supplementary and re-run elections for Kogi West Senatorial District and Ajaokuta Federal Constituency, respectively. INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr Festus Okoye, said in a statement that the decision was taken at a meeting held in Abuja on Thursday.
Senators Dino Melaye of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Smart Adeyemi of the All Progressives Congress (APC) are to go for another round of election battle for Kogi West Senatorial seat after INEC declared the November 16 senatorial re-run inconclusive because the margin of win was less than the total cancelled votes.
INEC’s Returning Officer for the election, Prof. Olayide Lawal, said Smart Adeyemi of the APC polled 80,118 votes while Dino Melaye of the PDP got 59,548. He however said votes were cancelled across 53 polling units in the senatorial district with 46, 127 registered due to violence and snatching of ballot boxes. He explained that the margin of win between Adeyemi and Dino (20,570) was less than the number of cancelled votes (46,127), hence, no declaration could be made until a supplementary election is held in the affected polling units.
This is coming on the heels of Melaye’s Wednesday protest at the headquarters of the commission, where he demanded the cancellation of the entire election and submitted documents with 21 video evidences to back his demand. Okoye said after the conclusion of the court-ordered re-run election on November 16, supplementary polls were indicated by the Collation/Returning Officer for the senatorial district, affecting 20 registration areas, 53 polling units and 46, 767 registered voters across seven local government areas of the district. “In addition, the court ordered the conduct of supplementary poll in Ajaokuta Federal Constituency affecting 22 polling units. Collation procedures shall be in line with extant guidelines for collation at the supplementary polls,” Okoye said. He said the list of affected RAs and PUs will be uploaded on the INEC website and communicated to the stakeholders in the respective RAs and PUs. He also enjoined all the political parties and stakeholders to cooperate with the commission for conclusive free and credible elections in the affected areas. For Dino Melaye and Smart Adeyemi, it has been a long round of political battles both on the field and in the court rooms. Daily Trust Saturday reports that Senator Melaye of had in the earlier senatorial election held on March 23, 2019 polled a total of 85,395 votes to defeat Smart Adeyemi who scored 66,902 votes before the tribunal upturned his victory. The Court of Appeal in Abuja on October 11 also upheld the decision of the tribunal and ordered the removal of Dino Melaye as senator representing Kogi West Senatorial District . The three -man panel led by Justice Abubakar Yahaya ordered INEC to conduct a fresh election for the senatorial district within 90 days . The panel upheld the two-to-one majority judgment of the three-man Kogi State National/State Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal delivered on August 23 , 2019 . The majority decision of the tribunal had upheld the petition filed by Smart Adeyemi challenging Melaye’s victory. Melaye, not satisfied with the ruling of the tribunal, filed an appeal at the Abuja Division of the Appeal Court. The PDP and INEC had also filed separate appeals against the tribunal’s verdict. The Court of Appeal in its judgement however dismissed all the three appeals and upheld the tribunal’s judgment. Senatorial re-run election marred by violence, vote buying The November 16 senatorial re-run election held across the seven local government areas that constitute Kogi West Senatorial District was marred by widespread violence, snatching of ballot boxes and other irregularities. This was responsible for the cancellation of votes across 53 polling  units with over 46,000 registered voters in the senatorial district, thus resulting in an inconclusive poll. During the re-run election for Kogi West, suspected thugs attacked Senator Dino Melaye’s polling unit in Aiyetoro Gbede in Ijumu Local Government Area. Daily Trust Saturday learned that Senator Dino Melaye had earlier cast his vote and left the place before the thugs invaded the area to disrupt the process and carted away ballot boxes and papers . Besides carting away the ballot boxes, the  thugs also shot and killed a nephew of Senator  Melaye. Dino in his reaction described it as a “civil war” which claimed lives and never an election. He called on INEC to cancel the election. There were also reports of vote buying and inducement of voters during the re-run election. But a coalition of Kogi West senatorial district candidates that participated in the  election have condemned calls by some civil society organizations for cancellation of the entire poll. At a press conference  in Lokoja, the spokesman of the candidates, Bode Omoluabi, said the calls were not only an attempt to usurp a legitimate democratic process as performed by INEC but also to undermine the will and wishes of the people of Kogi State. “We are aware that there were skirmishes in a a very few polling units during the election and we condemn such act of violence, but we however condemn the wicked attempt to use same as justification for asking for the cancellation of the entire election”, he said. He said the Kogi West senatorial re-run election was peaceful in more than 90% of the entire senatorial district. Any hope for Dino in the re-run? With Smart Adeyemi leading with over 20,000 votes ahead of the re-run, observers say it would be a herculean task for Senator Dino Melaye to equal the margin and go ahead to carry the day. Besides, given the level of violence witnessed during the November 16 governorship and senatorial re-run election, there are fears that voter apathy and low turnout would most likely be experienced on November 30. Some voters in the district said they would not risk their lives coming out for the election given the spate of violence witnessed during the November 16 election. To others, “the election is as good as won” and the re-run is merely for INEC to satisfy  requirements as stipulated in the guidelines. As it stands, the stakes are still very high and only time would tell who eventually occupies the Kogi West Senatorial Seat.

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