Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, has attacked a senator from the state, Dino Melaye, saying the lawmaker was not properly nurtured into adulthood by his parent.
The comment came Wednesday as a political feud between the two former allies deteriorates, following an outbreak of violence at a political rally in Kogi, for which the two politicians blame each other.
Mr. Bello said it had become apparent that Mr. Melaye’s “reckless” behaviour could be traced to his childhood, admonishing Nigerian parents to do their utmost and ensure that their children were properly cultivated.
“You see, I would rather admonish Nigerians that when a child lacks proper parental care and upbringing, he constitutes social menace in the society,” Mr. Bello told journalists in Abuja. “And if the society does not take steps to check and correct such a child, they can take into criminality, then it will be left to government to check such criminality.”
But the senator fired back, telling PREMIUM TIMES in an unusually swift response to a request for his reaction to his governor’s jibe that he is a victim of his own rise to political prominence.
Mr. Bello is “afraid of anyone with rising profile, a characteristic of one suffering superiority complex and intellectual stagnancy,” Mr. Melaye said. “He is shooting the moon and boxing the wind.”
The governor also scolded senators for doing little to rein in alleged exuberance of their colleague, saying they risk being viewed as cut from the same cloth as Mr. Melaye.
“I think it is necessary that that wonderful house (Senate) should, as matter of urgency and as a matter of fact check, any social deviant that exists within them (sic) before they could be adjudged birds of the same feather,” Mr. Bello said, but quickly added: “I know they are not of the same feather.”
The governor was responding to State House reporters who queried him Wednesday afternoon about growing political tension in Kogi State.
He had emerged from a meeting with Acting President Yemi Osinbajo in the State House, a discussion he said went well.
“I came to brief the Acting President of development in my state,” Mr. Bello said. “We all know Mr. President is taking a rest and the men at the helm of affairs need to be periodically briefed.”
His visit to Mr. Osinbajo came two days after a political rally attended by Mr. Melaye turned deadly.
Kogi State Polytechnic confirmed a student died in the fracas, which broke outside the school’s campus where the rally was held.
Two State Security Service agents attached to Mr. Melaye were also said to have been injured during the fracas, and Mr. Melaye’s SUV was defaced by bullets, the News Agency of Nigeria reported.
Mr. Bello accused Mr. Melaye, who represents Kogi West district, of hurriedly putting together the gathering in order to beat back an ongoing effort to recall him from the Senate.
Some electorates in Mr. Melaye’s constituency began submitting their signatures to end Mr. Melaye’s tenure at the upper chamber.
The irate constituents said in a document forwarded to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, that their action was to save the constituency from further ridicule that Mr. Melaye had subjected it to.
Mr. Melaye said the move to recall him will fail, while his supporters gloat that the effort would be futile because it is cumbersome and time-consuming.
In his exchanges with State House reporters, Mr. Bello denied claims from critics like Mr. Melaye that he had earmarked up to N1 billion to finance the ongoing recall of the senator.
The governor said the claims came from “hallucinating individuals”, saying he had better things to do than to preoccupy himself with Mr. Melaye’s activities.
“Sincerely speaking, Kogi State is living in peace. Projects are ongoing. We are all happy over there. Salaries are being paid as and when due and we are making serious progress,” the governor said.
But Mr. Melaye insisted that civil servants and retirees in Kogi still go without salaries and pensions, respectively, calling on the governor to “pay” forthwith.
Controversy over salaries for workers in Kogi State remains one of the most contentious issues Mr. Bello has grappled with since assuming office nearly a year and a half ago.
Shortly after his inauguration, the governor ordered a personnel revalidation exercise throughout the state civil service in a bid to winnow out ghost workers and save the state some funds it said were hitherto going to faceless employment racketeers.
The slow pace of the process has been roundly criticised within and outside the state.
The Bello administration recently admitted some public servants had gone up to 15 months without pay, but blamed it on the workers’ failure to properly go through the revalidation process.
The salary squabbles had rendered Mr. Bello vulnerable from the opposition, and widened the reconciliation gulf between him and Mr. Melaye.
Messrs. Melaye and Bello, both of the All Progressives Congress, were political allies before supremacy battle slammed them against one another.
Mr. Melaye emceed the inauguration of Mr. Bello when he was sworn in Nigeria’s history on January 27, 2016.
A reconciliation committee set up by the APC national leadership to look into raging political division in the North-Central state submitted its report last week, but its detailed have not yet been made public.