Bello Versus Melaye: Kabba Day Assault as Precursor to 2019

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Ordinarily, Kabba Day celebration is an annual cultural event that brings sons and daughters of Okun land together. But those who witnessed the 2017 edition could easily have described it as a political event, based on the crossfire that happened.

Some commentators argue that such cultural festivals can hardly be separated from politics since politics is all about the people. And because such occasions offer the rural dwellers opportunity to gather and have fun, politicians see the events as good opportunity to show that they are one with the people.

Also, organisers are wont to take advantage of such events by tying them to sundry fund raising platform for various developmental projects in the community.

It was against that mixed background that the 2017 Kabba Day was programmed to catch two big fishes: Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello and the Senator representing Kogi West senatorial district, Senator Dino Melaye.

Although the two influential citizens were invited to the occasion, it is not known whether the organisers took the long-standing political differences between the two into consideration, because the presence of the two men provided the setting for their followers to exchange mischief in various forms of physical confrontations.

The organisers must have intended to score a big political point by setting the stage for a much expected reconciliation between the two former allies turned-foes by their future political interests.

In fact, most of those who heard that the state governor and the controversial senator were to attend the Kabba Day, expected that the state would get a positive mention by way of bold headlines announcing their cease-fire.

However, the day ended on a different note, and as a missed golden opportunity. It was gathered that the governor in his bid to score a major political point at the expense of his perceived rival, mobilised his supporters with over 20 buses from the neighboring Kogi Central, his own domain, through the various local government administrators in the zone.

However, before entering Kabba town, the traditional rulers of the district were said to have trailed Governor Bello, ostensibly to plead with him to stay away from the venue based on the uneasy security situation and the political bad blood between him and Melaye.

The royal fathers had earlier sent representatives to Abuja to meet with the Senator, to see how they could convince him to stay away from the event, as they foresaw a possible clash, but it was gathered that the Senator rebuffed them, saying he could not remember keeping any appointment with them.

Yet, Bello, it was learnt; moved to a nearby hotel in Kabba in spite of that effort, from where he was said to have given the organisers the condition for him to grace their occasion as the special guest of honor, that they should ask the Senator to leave the venue.

That could be reason why emissaries were also sent to the senator who arrived the occasion at about 1pm, to a rousing reception from the sons and daughters of Kabba, to as a matter of goodwill deliver his speech and make his donation and leave before the governor arrives.

Expectedly, Melaye obliged the elders, perhaps, in the belief that success of the event could be interpreted as his own. In his speech, the Senator avoided his usual dramatic style of singing and dancing to mock his traducers, rather he prayed openly that any dignitary with the intention to cause crises at the Kabba Day would not enter the venue even as he shouted, ‘Holy Ghost…’ and the mammoth crowd chorused, ‘Fire!’

Done with his speech, the Senator donated N3m and must have felt in his mind that he carried day, only for thugs to start pelting him with stones, sachet water , dangerous weapons, including assorted charms, just as he was walking majestically to his bullet-proof Mercedes Benz Jeep (Sports Utility Vehicle).

Although the rambunctious senator escaped, some of the thugs were arrested and taken away in a Prison vehicle with registration number PS 300A 0/1, even as the security agents resorted to the use of tear gas to bring the situation under control.

While Governor Bello was at Golden Grand Royal Hotel, Kabba, his advance security team, led by the ADC and the Chief Detail, were already at the venue, since the governor was being expected at the occasion. The Guardian gathered that it could be the security report from the personnel that made the governor to change his mind and detour to Lokoja.

Sources close to the organising committee disclosed that the alleged attack on Senator Melaye might have prevented the governor from coming to the venue, either out of apprehension that Melaye’s supporters may try to embarrass him or not to be accused of sending those that attacked the Senator.

Nonetheless, a source indicated that the governor turned back because some persons averse to his style might also capitalise on the fragile situation to escalate the crisis if the governor had showed up.

It appears that the Senator is getting used to such attacks. For instance, Melaye was attacked in Lokoja, during a rally and he also escaped unhurt. He was also attacked in Lokoja during a rally at the gate of the state polytechnic. He also escaped unhurt, but in that fracas, one of the thugs who was shooting with a pump action gun was killed.

The Senator escaped an assassination attempt at his country home in Ayetoro Gbede in February this year. But in the recent case, in a statement by his media aide, Gideon Ayodele, the Senator directly accused the governor of being the mastermind and sponsor of the attacks on him by the unknown thugs at the Kabba Day event.

“Two out of the Ebira boys that attacked him in Kabba on Saturday were sent by Kogi State Government, but were arrested by the Police but later granted bail following the intervention of the state apparatus,” the statement said.

The Senator alleged that his successful outing at the event had infuriated the governor and his entourage, recalling how the thugs invaded his constituency office, in Kabba, shooting sporadically, apparently in the mistaken notion that he was at the building to commission the facility.

But the Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, in a swift reaction said he took a proactive step to avert an impending chaos that would have resulted in the loss of lives and property at the annual celebration of Kabba Day, by making a detour and returning to Lokoja.

Spokesperson of Kogi State Police Command, Mr. William Ayah, said what happened during the Kabba Day was not a serious issue. He pointed out that the two persons arrested was to safeguard their lives, since according to him, they were to be mobbed by some youths who wanted to have their share of money given to them by some people at the venue.

But, the Speaker of Kogi State House of Assembly, Prince Mathew Kolawole, berated Senator Dino Melaye for putting a scar on the Kabba Day Celebration by not heeding the people’s call on him to stay away. “Though we planned to make the occasion hitch free, unfortunately, things went out of hand.”

Kolawole disclosed that Governor Bello was meeting with the royal fathers while Melaye was already addressing the gathering, adding that the clash was a very big setback on Kabba, Senator Melaye has really slighted us in Kabba.”

Opinion leaders have urged caution between the two politicians to stop heating up the polity, while others appealed to Governor Bello to as a matter of his position, be magnanimous by allowing peace to reign.

Running mate to the late prince Abubakar Audu in the 2015 Governorship election in Kogi State, Hon. James Faleke, had earlier taken a swipe at the governor for failing to play the expected fatherly role in his faceoff with the Senator.

There are fears that unless reason prevails, the continued faceoff between the two political actors, who are members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) may be a harbinger of worse things to happen in 2019 election.

Credits: John Akubo | Guardian

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