The Dino Melaye Saga, By Yakubu Mohammed

The news of the abortive recall process that would have suddenly signalled his exist from the Senate came to him on his hospital bed – not the best of places to pour libation to the gods of Okunland. Nor, in the least, the right atmosphere in which to toast to the health of the nation’s democracy, currently in danger of being battered and shackled by demi gods who have mistaken transient power for the true sign of political immortality.

Yet Dino Melaye, the embattled Kogi State senator representing the West Senatorial District in the Senate, has every reason to sing and dance for joy. He has triumphed over his political archenemies who want him out of the Senate by all means including the instrumentality of a democratic recall process. It all began on June 24 2017 when the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, received a petition from members of the electorate in Senator Melaye’s constituency, requesting the commission to set in motion the democratic process of recall. Senator Melaye, they claimed, was not representing them well.

This democratic process was put to the test at the weekend and the result was a pathetic exercise in futility. The first step was for INEC to verify the signatures and determine the authenticity of the petitioners. It did that on Saturday and it discovered that only 5.34 per cent of the total 188,500 signatures on the petition list were genuine. It needed at least 51 per cent or 98, 364, to qualify for the next round which would have been a referendum.

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Announcing the premature death of the petition, INEC declared it as invalid, ineffective and incompetent. What happened was obvious. Forged signatures dominated the petition. And that was not surprising. The state, by official account, is filled up with ghosts. And they seemed to have outnumbered the living. One man who is in a position to know this has confirmed it to be true. Haddy Ametuo, the state chairman of the All Progressive Congress, APC, the ruling party in the state, said some ghosts which initiated the recall process, filled the pages of the petition document with forged signatures and gave it to one Cornelius Olowo, to deliver to INEC headquarters in Abuja. Hmm! Foul is fair in this business of desperation.

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But now that we know the truth – that it was the ghosts, not the genuine voters of Okunland, that were behind it, would it not make sense to ask Mr Olowo, if he exists, to explain how he allowed himself to be led by the multitude of ghosts for an exercise that was doomed from the beginning because it was ill-conceived, ill-motivated and ill-fated. There is a law against giving false information with intent to deceive, exploit and even extort money and favour. Does INEC intend to take any action against the said Mr Olowo who succeeded for nearly one whole year in getting the busy INEC officials to do his miserable bidding at so much financial and material cost?

This whole exercise represents, in my opinion, a triumph of truth and decency over lies, damned lies, intrigues and fraudulent manipulation of people’s wishes. This show of shame was foisted on the people to teach Dino a lesson. Dino, they insist, is no good, a voluble, loud-mouthed irritant. He can’t be trusted to keep quiet in the face of iniquity and even incipient or full-blown tyranny. His offence, his major offence, is that he has appointed himself the defendant of the defenceless. Vocal and loquacious, he has become the mouthpiece of the silent and the down-trodden, the voice of the voiceless. A non- conformist, Dino must have taken to heart the memorable advice of late John F. Kennedy who said that “conformity is the jailor of freedom and the enemy of growth.”

In one of my humble interventions, I had likened Dino to Jesse Helms, North Carolina senator in the American Congress who was reviled and detested if not feared for his abrasiveness and his politics of confrontation. He wielded the prickly power of the porcupine – the power of obstruction, oftentimes kicking against bills even if his actions ran diametrically opposite the stand of his party and even in opposition to sweet reasonableness. His capacity for filibustering was tantamount to a guerrilla tactics in Congress. Senator Helms shared the same proclivity with Dino – the urge to move in harm’s way, to confront popular views and the willingness to speak truth to power.

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Nobody, in or out of Congress, made any attempt to square the senator or to squash him and the members of his constituency, to say the least, were proud of him. If for nothing else, at least in the Congress, they had a voice that was loud, recognisable, respected – feared even. Instead of recalling him, they rewarded him at the poll with a return to his seat in the Senate.

But Dino’s own insatiable appetite for acts of bravado has landed him in trouble many times. But for the sophistication of his people, sophistication built over the centuries with sound, moral education, principles and character, shared values and cultural imperatives coupled with political astuteness, Dino would have gone with the wind, politically that is. The masterminds of the recall process would have pushed the good people of Okunland into sacrificing they’re strong-willed, even if impetuous, son.

Incidentally, the never-say-die senator is not oblivious of the genesis of his current travails. Without any equivocation, it has to do with his principled stand on crucial issues and his willingness to speak out against those things which others are diplomatic about, to dance and stomp around where angels fear to tread. As he has said many times, if you speak the truth, you die and if you don’t speak the truth you die. He seems to have sworn to speak the truth as he knows it. This truth-telling, according to him, has pitched him in an eternal battle of wits with his governor, Yahaya Bello, his friend now turned foe.

They have ceaselessly traded accusations and counter-accusations of attempts by each party to incite violence even to maim or to kill. The governor has always defended himself and washed his hands off Dino’s travails. Each party has had a recourse to the police as the neutral arbiter. But in the endless feud between the two political gladiators, the police have been found playing an intriguing role – baffling role even.

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And that makes it difficult for the public to follow the sequence of events. One time the senator had reported an assassination attempt on him in his hometown. Police swiftly moved in and made arrests. The suspects were even paraded on national television and were reported by police spokesman to have confessed their roles in the assassination attempt. But at another time, Abubakar Malami, the chief law officer of the federation, was reported to have taken Dino to court charged with giving false information against the chief of staff of Governor Yahaya Bello.

Before the public could make some sense of this charge, the senator was declared wanted, having been accused of buying guns for some thugs. The same police that declared him wanted was, however, on hand to welcome the same senator to Lokoja on condolence visit.

Eventually, this hide and seek game between the senator and the police came to a head when last week they stopped him from travelling abroad, then waylaid him in his residence and finally captured him with the intent to take him to Lokoja to be paraded with some criminal elements.

The next scene in this macabre drama, which went viral on social media, had Dino sitting on the road having, according to the reports, bolted out of the police vehicle. As of the time of writing, Dino’s saga continues. He remains in Abuja hospital with at least 30 armed policemen guarding him.

Apparently he has had no room yet to dance the victory dance.

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