By Boluwaji Obahopo
WHEN in 2015, Senator Smart Adeyemi declared interest to run for third term, to become the voice of Kogi West people at the upper chamber of the National Assembly little did he know he was going to face one of the bumpiest voyages of his political life.
He was greeted with injustice, intimidation and elite’s conspiracy. The elite and political class, who ganged up against him were not interested in his political antecedents or his vibrant representation on the floor of the National Assembly. To them, no one had got a third term chance in the state and Adeyemi would not be an exception.
The onslaught against Adeyemi started in August 2015 when he overwhelmingly won the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP senatorial primaries for the Kogi West. In what was widely adjudged as credible, free and participatory exercise, Adeyemi defeated his major opponent, Tolorunju Faniyi. It was unprecedented and the people who came out to vote went frenzy celebrating in the district. It was a unique victory.
However, the unimaginable happened overnight, starting within his party, PDP, as major bigwigs within the party kicked. Senator Tunde Ogbeha (himself, a former two-term senator) led the war within the party in the Lokoja/Kogi Federal constituency.
The leadership of the PDP and some highly positioned appointees of government were convinced to work against Adeyemi in the general election.
Adeyemi like the two previous elections, won the five council areas in the Okun-speaking part of the zone, namely: Kabba/Bunu, Yagba West, Yagba East, Mopamuro and Ijumu. Despite the intra party gang up, Adeyemi led with Accord Candidate, Sam Aro, coming second, while Dino Melaye of the All Progressives Congress, APC, was third with over 10,000 difference.
But in a dramatic twist, Adeyemi’s lead was upturned in Lokoja and Kogi council areas as Dino raked up votes in the two councils but not without three polling units cancelled in Kogi LGA. Election in the cancelled area was conducted twice before Melaye was declared winner.
Adeyemi pursued the result to the tribunal, insisting that Dino was holding a stolen mandate. Also, he alleged that the APC, on which platform Dino ran, did not conduct primary for all their senatorial candidates.
The other two senators lost their seats on the same premise of no conduct of primary but Melaye wriggled his way out. Political observers were stunned by the judicial inconsistency.
Adeyemi’s case was thrown out on ground of technicality. He moved to Appeal Court, a retrial was ordered. The same tribunal judge, Justice Akon Ikpeme, knocked it out. Adeyemi appealed that judgement and lost.
However, an alleged audio recording of ‘transaction’ between Melaye and the judge surfaced. Adeyemi petitioned the judge to the Nigeria Judicial Council, NJC, but had to overlook the case when the network provider was not ready to release the call log of the judge unless Adeyemi secured a court order.
Defined by civility, Adeyemi knew he had exhausted all entreaties with his party hierarchy, which according to him acted the script of deceit and compromise. The die was cast. Adeyemi’s political foot soldiers and associates pressured him to move to the APC, which had already formed government at the centre.
As Adeyemi was moving to APC, Melaye a few months to the last general election, did a counter movement and returned to the PDP. He was compensated with the Kogi West Senate ticket at the expense of other aspirants. Adeyemi too contested and was rewarded with this yearhe APC ticket, and the stage was set for another duel with Dino.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, declared Melaye winner of the February 23 Senate poll. Adeyemi kicked alleging that manipulations, alterations, cancellations, and over-voting characterised the election. He added that the Senatorial collation centre in Kabba was abandoned and the result was announced in Lokoja despite a court judgement sought by Dino himself stipulating Kabba. Adeyemi said the manipulations were carried out through change in venue.
Consequently, Adeyemi filed a petition at the Tribunal, whose members sat in Abuja on the grounds that Judicial workers in Kogi were on strike. Adeyemi engage his political and legal gear with the services of Chief Tony Adeniyi The tribunal ruled in his favour, Melaye appealed but lost two months after.
With the Appeal Court judgement calling for rerun within 90 days, another rematch was set between him and Dino. Adeyemi deployed all arsenals as he mounted the campaign podiums criss-crossing the length and breadth of his senatorial district while acting as the Director General of Bello/Onoja Campaign organisation, which governorship election came up same day.
He toured all the local government areas in the senatorial district with coordinated campaigns that the people joined in echoing his message of redeeming the image of the zone from the previous occupant.
He made the job of the governor very easy in Kogi state as he coordinated the activities of Bello/Onoja campaign. The reward of hard work is success as Adeyemi didn’t only deliver himself in the senatorial election, which was concluded with supplementary election on November 30, he garnered majority votes for Governor Yahaya Bello in the governorship election.
The INEC, on Saturday, November 30 announced him as winner of the Kogi West rerun senatorial election. Senator Smart Adeyemi scored 88, 373 votes to beat Melaye who got 62, 133, as the SDP candidate polled 659. Adeyemi won with a margin of 26,240 votes.
A fortnight before the supplementary election, Adeyemi’s joy of winning was postponed. Even though he polled 80,118 votes compared against Melaye who scored 59,548 votes, leading with a margin of 20,570, the returning officer, Prof. Olayide Lawal declared the election inconclusive and ordered supplementary elections to be conducted in 53 polling units where elections were cancelled or not conducted.
The affected polling units have 46,127 Registered Voters, but 30000 PVC holders. However, the postponement gave Adeyemi the opportunity to extend his lead margin.
All is now set for Senator Smart Adeyemi to begin a robust representation in the red chamber of the National Assembly. Though the excruciating legal tussles since 2015 appears to have sapped his time, energy and drained available resources, Adeyemi has a task to deliver for his people just like his first two terms.
For Senator Smart Adeyemi, this is indeed a long torturous journey to the Senate for the third term; the first person to achieve the feat in the state in the state.
With this victory, the stage is set for Adeyemi, who was sworn-in yesterday, to provide vibrant legislative governance that people of Kogi West yearn for.