During his courtesy call at LEADERSHIP Newspapers headquarters, Abuja, Senate Committee chairman on FCT, Senator Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi West) averred that he gets threats everyday for being an apostle of generational change. He also said he he has no personal problems with Governor Yahaya Bello, adding that he is the most investigated Nigerian. Melaye also speaks on other national issues. Ankeli Emmanuel captures some of his views.
What is your mission of coming to LEADERSHIP headquarters?
I am here in two capacities; one as a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and a northerner; two as the chairman, Senate Committee on the FCT. I want to congratulate LEADERSHIP Newspaper as the first national newspaper to be published by a non-journalist. And not just that; it is the most sought after newspaper in this country.
I appreciate LEADERSHIP Newspaper for its objective reportage, for your civilized approach to journalism and for your in-depth editorials – very objective editorials, and I go through LEADERSHIP Newspaper every day.
And I must say that I am particularly impressed that to establish a media outfit is not the problem but to maintain its standards over the years, and even improve on standard to me is very, very amazing, encouraging and is a great delight.
I want to ask that LEADERSHIP Newspaper will continue to do only those things that will promote the peace, the unity and the progress of this country.
I will also ask that you deepen your involvement on the areas of investigative journalism especially as it concerns the fight against corruption. No country in today’s world can survive the fight against corruption without a vibrant media. And the media house must approach its activities with every sincere purpose and commitment.
So I want to encourage you to keep it up and to continue to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves, especially in the areas of anti-corruption. Corruption is the reason why we are where we are in this country. Country is the reason why Nigeria has the highest number of abandoned projects in the world. Corruption is the reason why our roads are deathtraps. Corruption is the reason why our schools are dilapidated.
Corruption is the reason why our hospitals have become mere consulting clinics. Therefore, corruption is actually the bane of our development as a nation and to fight it, the media has got a strategic role to play, especially in the exposition of corruption, and I would want you to deepen your activities especially in the area of investigative journalism.
So, I think especially in the areas of fight against corruption, if possible, each media outfit in this country should establish or create a desk for corruption and anti-corruption activities. That is the way to confront it, so that there will be a desk officer and a department. That will help seriously in this country in the area of fight against corruption.
Without the media, all our anti-corruption agencies put together cannot make any success. The media must help us as a nation, that instead of building strong men, we should build strong institutions.
I have come today to encourage you; you have been consistent even in the face of calamitous situations. You have been steadfast. LEADERSHIP has continued to maintain the same momentum and speed, and your standard has not fallen. Your reportage is constant. Very explosive and educative editorials and I have nothing to say than to encourage you to do more.
I pray that we all be alive to celebrate the 50th anniversary of LEADERSHIP Newspaper.
The FCT Task Force has had bitter affray with drivers and traders lately over unnecessary harassments. As Senate Committee chairman on FCT, what do you see as the way out?
That has been a problem in the FCT and, fortunately, I have been on the neck of the minister and the management of the FCT. Even aside that, the level of insecurity in the FCT is growing on daily basis. Car theft, vandalisation of vehicles and all that are on the increase.
I had a meeting with the FCT minster recently and these are issues that we have already deliberated upon.
Security issues in the FCT have really been a source of worry but, unfortunately, the strategies to address these issues cannot be discussed in public because they are security issues. But I can assure you that we have put strategies in place to address these anomalies.
Do you think the federal government is handling the Maina issue as it should?
To start with, I will say that I am one of those who spoke on that issue on the floor of the Senate.
The Maina issue is an aberration, and it is actually alien, if not sacrilegious, to any democracy globally.
First, from my own perspective, there is an abuse of office on the part of those who actually allowed Maina to come back to office. A man that is under probe, a man that is under investigation, even by mere convention and practice of the civil and public service rules, he should not be back to the office until the matter is determined – because there is a pending case in court.
But the ‘bolekaje’ approach of bringing him back to office is a cause for concern. So, what I can say is that the federal government must do the needful. The issues of Maina must be investigated, not just his corruption charges but even the manner in which he came back. Government must show capacity and capability by being swift in investigating the issue and everybody involved, no matter his status, his class should be prosecuted.
This is the reason why I am shouting on daily basis that the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and that of the Minster of Justice must be separated. A man who is a card carrying member of a political party and a political appointee of Mr. President cannot prosecute in the public’s interest. It is not possible; he must show bias. Therefore, the office of the AGF must be completely separated from that of the minister of justice.
Whoever is involved – irrespective of their relationship with the party or even Mr. President – should be immediately prosecuted. If that does not happen, what you are doing is that you are killing the confidence of the people in government.
We must all become agitators and peaceful demonstrators in order to build a new Nigeria where justice, equity and egalitarianism become the order of the day.
Tasking Nigerian media on special department to investigate and report corruption; would there be any constitutional backing from the lawmakers in that regard?
You see, people who become apostles of the truth carry their cross themselves. When journalists, individuals who are pro-democracy elements, begin to ask for protection before they speak the truth, then that means the truth can never be spoken, because the people you are asking for protection from are the people you are supposed to expose. So, I will not advocate for protection for journalists who want to do any investigation.
Doing the right thing most times is individualistic.
For speaking the truth about my state, I have been physically attacked twice. One in my house at night and the other in the afternoon like this; they opened fire on me. But that will not deter me from speaking the truth because you know why, you must be resolute, you must be determined if you want to bring a change. It comes with a lot of sacrifice; it comes, sometimes, with imminent threat to your life.
So, if you want to be an investigative journalist, in America, Britain and Europe nobody protects private investigators. Police will not say because you are a private investigator they should give you 10 policemen to be following you about. No. They would not do that. Your protection comes from God Almighty. But if I be a crusader of the truth, God who is the supreme controller of the universe will continue to protect me. I am not ‘killable’ by man.Yahaya Bello cannot kill me, because he did not create me, because He that is in me is far greater than whatever he is carrying. So, in that confidence, I carry on with my activities.
Between 2014 and 2015, I was arrested by former President Goodluck Jonathan 14 times, but at the end of the day, where is Jonathan today and where am I, because every lie has an expiry date. And the truth has no volume. Once you reduce it, it is no longer the truth; once you increase it, it is no longer the truth. Truth is always constant.
So, it is left for journalists, activists and pro-democracy elements to put on the armour of courage.
Media houses must look for people with such characteristic to head such desks because they will come after you. There is no way they would not come after you. They will definitely come after you. I get threats every day, including diabolical frustrations.
Why are you always having issues with your state governor despite supporting him into that position?
You see, let me make it very clear here that I have no problem with Yahaya Bello personally, and it is true that I am one of the strongest people who facilitated his emergence. It is true. Why? Because I am an apostle of generational change. And I do believe that the young people in this country should take responsibility.
General Yakubu Gowon was a bachelor when he became head of state. He married his wife, Victoria, while in power. Tafawa Balewa, Obasanjo and a host of others were all less than 40 when they were deciding and calling the shots in this country.
I thought having being governed by analogues in the past in Kogi State, that by bringing a younger person we will see a change. So, I supported him, but today we have seen something else.
Therefore, it is not out of place for somebody to take a decision yesterday and take another decision today, because the first decision you took is from a futuristic perspective and I do not have the celestial powers to see tomorrow, not yet.
But the decision I take today is from an informed perspective; having seen, having heard you now take another decision. That is why people marry and spend billions on wedding day, and two months later they divorce.
Because I supported Yahaya Bello, or I was the chairman of his inauguration committee, then I should support everything he does? No! it is not possible.
For Yahaya Bello, every day I do like 1000 Hasatfulilah, which means asking for forgiveness. What is the purpose of governance? Yahaya Bello held the Holy Qur’an in his left hand and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on his right hand and took an oath to defend and protect the people of Kogi State.
So, it is not that I have anything personal against Governor Yahaya Bello, but I am a democratic evangelist and I have sworn to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. My philosophy about life is that, in an unjust society, silence is a crime. We will continue to suffer if we keep quiet. Even Jesus Christ, at a point in time, flogged people when they were trying to defile His father’s house.
So, in every town, community and nation, God will raise men – they are not necessarily going to be prophets, so they might not be perfect, but they are people who want to right the wrongs of the society and God will not forgive me if I keep quiet. We are in perilous times in Kogi State.
And why are people taking it that I am after Yahaya Bello?
I fought Ibrahim Idris as governor of Kogi State. I even took him to court. I took pictures of all his properties all over the world, including South Africa and America, and I took it to EFCC and today he is still being investigated on that same matter by EFCC. Not only that, I also took Governor Idris Wada to court for corruption. So why do people now think that is about Yahaya Bello? I have a history. Even Abubakar Audu that I share the same political philosophy with, at a point I fought him.
So, I have a history. It is not just about Yahya Bello. I have protested on the street of Abuja against Ibrahim Idris before with Kogites in Abuja joining me. So let’s nobody think is a personal problem. It is just that I want him to do the right things.
You see, the first bailout, second bailout came to Kogi State, Parish Club 1 and Parish Club 2 came to Kogi State, yet salaries are not being paid. People are owed people 22-month salaries. Why wouldn’t there be attempted suicide? There are lots of civil servants in Kogi who take hypertensive drugs on daily basis. There are people who are diabetic and have to take it every day but cannot because of lack of salaries.
It is only in Kogi State that I have ever seen where they call somebody a ghost pensioner. Somebody who works for 35 years and retired but because you don’t want to pay him, you now say he is a ghost pensioner. One of my lecturers in ABU, Zaria, who transferred his services to Kogi State University because he is from Kogi, today you stopped his salary that he is a ghost professor! Who does that? And you expect men of conscience to keep quiet. No. there must be somebody who will come out to say, if I die, I die but for saying the truth.There must be men of conscience who will dare to tell the governor the truth. So, it’s not as if we don’t love our governor, but he must he must carry out what he promised the people of Kogi State – the security and welfare of the people. It is there in the Qu’ran that a labourer should be paid before the sweat of his body even dries Same way the Bible said it, too, that the labourer is worthy of his wage.
So my issues with him are from the point of the welfare of the people of Kogi State. If Yahaya Bello wants to shut me up today, he should just come and pay all the salaries he is owing Kogi workers and pensioners and see if tomorrow I will not come out and praise him?
Ibro was governor for eight years and I did not go to Kogi Government House; I never did one contract in Kogi State. Capt Idris Wada was governor for four years, I never went to Government House; I never did one contract in Kogi State. I am one of the most investigated Nigerians. I have never done government contract before and I can say that authoritatively. Anybody who says he has any allegation of corruption against me should come and publish it. During Jonathan, I was investigated thoroughly and they found nothing against me.
Prior to your becoming a Senator, you were in LEADERSHIP Headquarters in Abuja on solidarity with the Bring Back Our Girls campaign. Now, what are you doing about that?
Thank you for that question. My third motion as senator was on the Bring Back Our Girls issue and we reached a resolution that made the President of the Senate visit Maiduguri while the deputy Senate president went to Yobe. And as a result of that motion, each senator contributed money and it was put together for the IDPs in Borno State.
Not only that, after the motion, I have gone to personally visit the IDP camps and I continue to collaborate with the Bring Back Our Girls movement to continue to agitate for the release of the remaining girls.
The centenary project fraud seems to have died down. What is the true position of the investigation of your committee?
That is why I was talking about investigative journalism. If journalists had followed it up, they would have known what transpired. We actually did an investigative hearing. We we came up with resolutions and a report that was laid on the floor of the Senate and considered, and that report also went to the minister of FCT for implementation.
There are 17 companies that benefited from what we called the Land Swap programme, including the Centenary City concession. Out of these 17 companies, only three were qualified; others were political distribution of land. So, we recommended that only those three with capacity, had met the financial requirements, had technical partners to develop the place be given the job. What they did was simply land grabbing.
Nobody got less than 50,000 hectares and what they do is as soon as they get it, they now start cutting them to sizes and start reselling to people. Meanwhile this is something they got free. Hundreds of billions of naira will be realized from this.
So, we only accepted three firms. They are the companies owned by Kwakwa Homes, a company owned by Alakija who, they said, is the richest woman now in Africa, and the third is a company owned by Dangote. All the others, we recommended revocation. And that has been communicated to the minister of the FCT and we are supposed to do follow up whether it has been implemented or not.
What is your take on agitation by Abuja natives that FCT minister should be an ‘indigene’?
On this issue, you see, I am a democrat and a nationalist. Tribalism, sectionalism and discrimination are against the spirit of our constitution, because if you read the constitution very well, it states that you shall not segregate on tribe, sex, region or religion.
What I will support is that an indigene of the FCT becomes a member of Federal Executive Council (FEC), because that has some constitutional background, hence the constitution has said the FCT shall be treated as if it were one of the states of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. And the same constitution added that every state shall have a minimum of one minister.
The ideal thing is that the FCT must be represented in the FEC because the Constitution clearly spelt that out.
Lastly, are expecting expeditious passage of the 2018 Budget as presented by PMB recently?
You see, I am not one of those who believe in anything expeditious. The budget of a country is not something you rush. That is the truth. And the Senate is not supposed to be a rubberstamp. If not, the framers of our constitution will not design it that the president should come and lay the proposal.
Budget is something that deals with details, and it determines the economic framework and short/medium term expenditure of the country. So, it is not something to be rushed. I am not one of those who will support any expeditious passage; rather we should try to produce a made-in- Nigeria budget – a budget that is made for Nigerians, not a budget made for contractors; not budget made for senators of ministers; not a budget where if a minister travels to London to remove his tooth, about $200,000 will be provided; not a budget that is for the comfort of the elite, but a budget that will restore the middle class of this country that has been completely eroded.
I’d rather advocate for such a budget, and to do such a budget it then means that each committee must do a diligent work on the budget. However, all these must be done within the stipulated period as stipulated by the constitution.
What are your achievements so far in the area you represent as senator?
Thank you. You see, every legislator has three cardinal responsibilities. One is the act of law making through motions and bills. And I can proudly tell that, as I am sitting here, I have the highest number of motions and bills in the history of the National Assembly. And to the glory of God, I won award as Best Senator 2016 and 2017.
That is one aspect of my responsibility as senator.
The second is the act of representation – making sure that your people get their fair share of the national cake. I have attracted projects to my senatorial district. The highest road contract awarded by FEC since inception is to my senatorial district, and that is about over N22bn Kaba-Ilorin express road. And as I speak to you, by the grace of God, on Thursday this week, we are going to be doing the final reading and consideration for the establishment of Federal University of Agriculture, Kabba.
And we are also assisting in the areas of employment, empowerment, skill acquisition and all that for our teeming population.
So the third responsibility, which is the last, is oversight functions which we have been doing, especially as chairman of the FCT committee, and that explains why I am here basically.
We have recovered a lot of lands that were fraudulently allocated. I personally asked for the revocation of lands allocated to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Diezani and several other big Nigerians on Maitama Hills.
Some of the ongoing projects have been stopped because that place is supposed to be a green area but unfortunately, the last administration shared it to themselves. In the last administration, the only place that was not allocated was possibly the roundabouts. We insisted that we are maintaining the Abuja master plan, and any obstruction of that plan will be revoked.