BY Bonaventure Melah
It is quite ironic that a very poorly performing governor like Yahaya Bello of Kogi State is alleged to be the person sponsoring efforts to recall one of the brightest and obviously the most out-spoken and audacious Senator in Nigeria’s recent history, Dino Melaye. In serious societies, those who should be preparing to contest the 2019 presidential election should be the likes of Senator Dino Melaye, former governor of Cross River Donald Duke, Governor of Kaduna State Nasir El- Rufai, former Central Bank Governor Chukwuma Soludo, Governor of Gombe State Ibrahim Dankwambo, Founder of Heirs Holding, Tony Elumelu, the former Agriculture Minister Akinwumi Adesina and Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala. There are many other Nigerians that are fit to make this list.
But this is Nigeria where leaders emerge on the basis of the religious, ethnic and other mundane considerations, instead of merit and track record of achievements. And so, in making political permutations and calculations, we disqualify our best eleven, due largely because it is not the turn of their geopolitical zones to produce president. Or that we cannot have a Muslim-Muslim or Christian-Christian ticket; and all sorts of retrogressive excuses.
Placed side by side with his colleagues in the current Eight Assembly and others in recent times, even the worst political enemies of Dino Melaye would agree that he has done well as a lawmaker. The only thing they can say in a muffled voice is that “The man talks too much,” or that “Dino is an irritant,” or that “He is so flamboyant;”all such balderdash.
How do well meaning members of the society rate a lawmaker and decide whether or not he or she has done well or is doing well? The generally acceptable measure is in active representation which can be seen from how many bills and motions the representative initiated or co-sponsored; how active and articulate he is during debates at plenary; how much the representative has influenced his colleagues or ministers to attract developmental projects to his constituency and at the national level, how such a representative has contributed to making quality laws.
There is no Nigerian therefore that would say that Dino is a dull Senator. No one can count him among the bench warmers who sit all days without saying either ‘aye’ or ‘nay’. I don’t think anybody has caught Dino on camera sleeping while debate is going on. Rather, Dino has helped to place Kogi West Senatorial District on national consciousness.
From the House of Representatives where graduating to the red chambers, (the Senate), Dino has always been visible at plenary, raising motions, debating, arguing, sometimes dramatising.
Apart from actively representing his constituency, Dino has been a voice for the voiceless, standing against injustice and obnoxious, anti-people state policies as well as shouting to expose corruption, all these without fear of whose egg would be broken. It was Dino, more than any other Senator that resisted the introduction of an offensive policy asking car owners to go and pay for Duties which was purely a responsibility of dealers and importers. Although the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service insisted not to appear before the Senate in uniform, but the organisation was compelled by the Senate through a debate led by Dino, to suspend the implementation of that policy, indefinitely. How better then can a lawmaker perform before he is awarded medal of honour by his fellow countrymen and women?
Yes, Dino fought on the floor of the House when he was a Representative. His clothes were torn in the process. But that is not an abomination for a lawmaker. Lawmakers fight and throw chairs and tear clothes, all over the world.
In November 2010, Argentine lawmakers fought physically following disagreements over budget after opposition MP Graciela Camano slapped another member Carlos Kunkelo in the face. In October 1997, members of parliament in the Uttar Pradesh State used microphone stands as spears on themselves during a violent dispute. On 17th September, 2015, Japanese lawmakers punched, pushed and shoved themselves during a hearing over a bill for Japan to abandon pacifism for the first time since the Second World War. It was a worse scenario in 2007 when Taiwanese House erupted into fisticuffs as members of the ruling Democratic Progressives Party became angry with Speaker over questions why budget was delayed. Not to forget Bolivia in August 2007 when a debate on whether or not judges should be tried for corruption turned into a mass fight; and the uprising in the Ukrainian parliament when a bill seeking to give Russian Language equal status in some parts of the country. There are many more incidences of parliamentary fights almost in all parts of the world including Britain and the United States.
Although there is no specific constitutional provision on reasons why a lawmaker can be recalled (which is one of those constitutional loopholes deliberately dug by a dubious elite in favour of the executive), responsible citizens are expected to append their signatures on any paper seeking to recall their representatives on the basis of poor performance which includes non-sponsorship of motions, repeated incidences of sleeping while debates are going on, inability to attract government attention and projects to your constituency, unacceptable number of absence from plenary sessions, being convicted for criminal offences and similar acts.
But in this case, there are allegations that money is being used to induce people to sign the recall register even as reports have emerged that ghosts, spirits, dead bodies, foreigners and unidentifiable objects (UFOs) are among the names in the register submitted the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), all in order to recall the man who has made Nigerian youths proud due to his audacity and fearlessness in the face of many political tigers in the country.
Up until now, we have not been told in clear terms what allegations are contained in the petition written against Dino Melaye and for which reason(s) the plot to recall him is hinged. Should an active representative of the people be recalled just because he is having frosty political relationship with his state government as alleged? This is especially when such a government cannot pay workers their due entitlements after collecting billions of Naira from the Paris Club refund windfall, even as you can hardly point at roads, bridges, hospitals, schools or other infrastructures that the government can claim to have executed, enough to justify the loads of Naira from Federal allocations and other revenue sources.
– Melah is an Abuja based Media Entrepreneur and Public/Political Analyst. Ou can reach him on Email: [email protected]