From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
like him or hate him, Dino Melaye is one lawmaker many cannot ignore. To some he is an irritant and a rabble rouser, while others see him as a crusader. Either way, Dino remains a force to reckon with.
Just last week, he attended plenary in the Red Chamber dressed in an academic gown. His six years in the National Assembly has been characterised controversies. To say the least, the Okun born legislator is controversy personified.
Melaye was first elected into the National Assembly in 2007 to represent Ijumu/Kabba/Bunu Federal Constituency of Kogi State on the platform of the PDP.
In the sixth session of the House of Representatives, he was the Chairman, House Committee on Information and Orientation. For a man given to playing to the gallery, the legislator right from his tenure at the House of Representatives has always wormed his way into the hearts of the respective chamber’s leadership he belongs.
Melaye was just about four months old in the House, when he forced his way into public consciousness, albeit in a negative way, during the controversy that led to the fall of Nigeria’s first female speaker, Hon Patricia Etteh. For a man who craves the limelight, such an action may not be surprising more as he acquired the reputation during his days in student unionism at the Ahmadu Bello University.
While Etteh reigned as Speaker of the House, Melaye was one of her “yes men”. And when she ran into trouble waters over alleged N628 million spent on the renovation of her official quarters and that of her deputy, Babangida Nguroje, Etteh found an ally in the controversial lawmaker. Melaye stuck with Madam Speaker against members of the Integrity Group, who were bent on ousting the speaker.
On September 20, 2007, when the then speaker appeared at a public hearing on the alleged N628 million House renovation saga, the Kogi legislator was with her in solidarity.
As the then speaker approached the podium to give evidence in the matter, Melaye and other supporters clapped and cheered her up. As Melaye and others hailed the speaker, Emmanuel Jime and Samuel Sejoro, two members of the Integrity Group – jeered and throwed verbal punches at her as well as at the Kogi lawmaker.
Melaye would later engage the duo in a war of words and in no time it degenerated into fisticuffs. That ugly episode led to the postponement of the public hearing that day.
After the fall of Etteh, Melaye gravitated towards the new speaker Hon. Dimeji Bankole. However, the romance was short-lived as both men fell out in no time.
From then, a battle line was drawn between Melaye and the House leadership under Bankole.
On June 25, 2009, Melaye fired the first shot at the leadership, accusing some principal officers of corruption. Specifically, the lawmaker alleged that the then House leader, Tunde Akogun, deputy House leader, Baba Shehu Agaie and the Chief Whip, Emeka Ihedioha pocketed part of funds released to them to organise events in the House.
According to him, Akogun cornered some part of the N160 million given to him to organise a retreat for members in Kano and Uyo.
Melaye also alleged that Agaie and Ihedioha mismanaged the sums of N130 million and N160 million given to them to organise the Afro-Arab Parliamentary Conference, which the country hosted, and 10th anniversary of democratic rule in the country respectively.
The lawmaker, who narrowly escaped suspension for bringing the House to disrepute, eventually ate his words and apologised. He later explained that he only accused Ihedioha of “social sins,” “arrogance” and highhandedness,” and not fraud.
In the days that followed, the frosty relationship between lawmaker and the House leadership lingered. Melaye became more of a torn in Bankole’s flesh. Typical of an extrovert, Dino, poured his venom in moments of anger. Eventually, he was compelled to resign his chairmanship of the House Committee on Information and Orientation.
One year later, Melaye launched another offensive against the House leadership, this time his principal target was the speaker, Bankole. To successfully prosecute his war against the then speaker, Melaye assembled members of like minds in the House and formed “the Progressives”, a pressure group within the House.
The group had a one-point agenda: to sack Bankole as speaker for alleged corruption, bad leadership and on June 9, 2010, Melaye and his group gave Bankole, a seven-day ultimatum to quit his position for alleged corruption and high-handedness.
At the expiration of the ultimatum, the lawmaker and his supporters did not do anything.
However, on June 22, there was bedlam on the floor of the House following a move to suspend Melaye and his supporters. On that day, at the commencement of the day’s proceeding, Speaker Bankole recognised a member of the House from Benue State, Chile Igbauwa to move a motion. But as Igbauwa stood up to move the motion, Melaye, who sat behind Igbauwa, suspecting that the motion was targeted at him, thundered: “point of order” “No way! No Way! We will not take it,” he yelled blowing a whistle he had brought into the chamber.
Eventually, he succeeded in grabbing the motion paper from the Benue lawmaker, tore it and threw it at his colleagues.
In the free-for-all that followed, Melaye and members of his group, including Awhinawhi, who attempted to grab the mace, the symbol of legislative authority, were severely beaten and thrown out of the chamber with their clothes torn.
The House which had adjourned abruptly during the fight later reconvened to continue with the day’s business.
Relying on Order 5 of the House Standing Rules, Section 60 of the 1999 Constitution and Section 24 of the Legislative Houses Act, Igbauwa continued with his motion and called for the suspension of the members of the Progressive Group, for taking their case to the media, without first ventilating their grievances through the internal mechanism of the House.
As he left the chamber that day, Melaye accused the House leadership of tyranny. He said their suspension would not stand.
Melaye and his co-travelers later challenged their suspension at the Federal High Court, Abuja. The Court quashed the suspension and ordered their reinstatement.
In obedience to the court judgment, they were all readmitted into the House.
Melaye’s bid to return to the House in the 2011 general election was truncated by Hon. Tajudeen Yusuf, who defeated him in the PDP House of Representatives primaries for Ijumu/ Kabba/Bunu Federal Constituency of Kogi State.
After staying away from the National Assembly for four years, Melaye returned in 2015 as he won the election to represent Kogi West on the platform of his new party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Prior to the inauguration of the current session of the National Assembly, Melaye pitched his tent with the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki.
In the Red Chamber, the Kogi senator, who chairs the Senate Committee on Federal Capital Territory (FCT), has remained strongly behind Saraki, so much that he is generally viewed as the Senate President’s alter ego.
The easiest way to incur his wrath is to move against Saraki. It was in defence of the Senate leadership, that he was reported to have threaten to beat up Senator Oluremi Tinubu, wife of the APC National Leader, Senator Bola Tinubu.
Today, whenever Melaye stands to speak in the Red Chamber, not a few consider him as his “master’s voice.”
His Bills and Motions
Despite his many controversies, Melaye since his days in the lower chamber of the National Assembly has contributed his own quota to the legislative business through bills and motions.
Some of the prominent motions he had sponsored include the motion stopping the N64 billion Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport runway project, which he moved in 2010 as a member of the House of Representatives. The contract was cancelled on account of his motion.
There was also the motion calling the country’s attention to the illegal transfer of N13trillion by MTN from Nigeria to South Africa.
He is also credited with the motion questioning the construction of the dualisation of Airport and Kubwa Roads by Julius Berger at a whopping sum of N257billion.
Among the bills, Melaye has sponsored are: ‘A Bill for an Act to provide for the Prohibition of Facial Mutilation: Offences, Prosecution and Punishment of Offenders’; “Bill for an Act for the Regulation and Registration of Lobbyists in Nigeria and for other matters connected therewith, 2016’’
In October 2016, the lawmaker issued a statement saying that legislators do not deserve to be addressed as “Honourable” until Nigerians begin to live honourable life. In the same vein, he canvassed that the honorific “Your Excellency” attached to the President, Vice President, Governors, Deputy Governors and others should be scrapped until Nigerians begin to live excellent life.
He also canvassed a presidential amnesty for all those who looted public funds provided they return the loots within six months of the proclamation of amnesty.