“With the confluence of River Niger and River Benue alone, today, we should have the highest and largest tourist attraction in Africa.”
Senator Dino Melaye is a man of many virtues. He is representing Kogi West Senatorial District in the Eighth National Assembly. He means many things to many people. To some, he is a controversial politician, while some believe he is a freedom fighter. He opens up on many personal and national issues of interest.
How did you come about the name Imolede and Dino Marwa?
Imolede is my political acronym, which means light has come. That is, I bring light into any matter in darkness. Dino Marwa was given to me by people because I was in the forefront of heralding Buba Marwa’s political campaign when he wanted to become President of Nigeria many years back. I still believe strongly in his political ideology.
What is your definition of a True Nigerian?
A True Nigerian is one who believes in the unity, prosperity and togetherness of this country. He is someone who, when presented with an opportunity to judge, will not be tribalistic, ethnocentric or unfaithful. A True Nigerian is the fellow who will be a good ambassador of the country both at home and abroad by ensuring he propels the ideals of nationalism, patriotism and civic education. Nigeria should be a meritorious society and I stand by whoever upholds such view.
You have been a leader from childhood till date. How were you able to become special to people who trust you with leadership positions?
I won’t count myself special but I know I carry a huge amount of grace of God. It is not by my strength or might, it is just grace. I am not unique neither do I carry a name with NAFDAC number in Nigeria. I was not even born with a spoon at all, much less having one with silver. I have always been in the midst of children of the top echelons in the society yet I get recognised single-handedly. Even when I went to Harvard University, we were 57 in class and I was the only black, yet I was picked as the class representative. It has been the grace of God. And, I don’t abuse this honour at all. If you know me very well, you will know I am from a very humble background and I keep to my humility. So, I will say people probably naturally see me as worthy to represent them, that is why they trust me with leadership.
Tell us about some of your growing up experiences.
My growing up was very interesting, such that I may not be able to relate all. As I said, I was from a very humble background. My parents were very hardworking but could not pay my school fees beyond Form 3. I had to take up menial jobs like conductor, bread and kunu selling, block factory labourer, and many others to fulfill my financial obligations. As a matter of fact, while I was at Ahmadu Bello University, I spent two weeks off campus to do menial jobs to pay my school bills. I trained myself through school and, by the grace of God, I also trained my siblings. It was a really humble growing-up experience. We thank God for what all my growing-up experiences have turned out to be today.
Would you say your are satisfied with your activities as senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria so far?
I cannot be satisfied with whatever I have done. I certainly want to do more, considering the available resources and opportunities I could herald for the people I represent. But every legislator has got three primary objectives: first is to perfect the art of representation in a way that your constituency would enjoy a fair share of the national cake. The second is law making through motions and bills. The third is oversight function of the ministries, departments and agencies, of government, through committees and assignments. As I speak to you, I can confirm to you that I have about 18 bills already presented to the Business Committee. Some of them have passed through first and second reading. I can also confirm to you that I have the highest number of motions on the floor of the Senate. Most of my motions are either anti-corruption or pro-people. Also, as the chairman of the Senate Committee on Federal Capital Territory, we have been on top of our assignments. Recently, we revoked construction works on the plots of land acquired by some powerful Nigerians for national sake, among other oversight functions. I would like people to judge my performances through these cardinal functions of a legislator.
You speak with lots of passion for the youth and you are people-oriented. Where does this passion come from, is there a story behind it?
As a child, I read lots of books on liberation and freedom of people. These revolutionary books have made me know that oppression against the poor is the beginning of disaster for any nation, state or community. No single Nigerian is distinguished, honorable and important until all Nigerians are distinguished, honorable and important. I have known that, in an unjust society, silence is a crime. Hence, everything you do must be for the interest of the people. That is where I get my encouragement from. We do not need more politicians in leadership, rather, we need more leaders in politics because leadership is the ability to manage followers. It is through this formula that the followers can be put into consideration by those managing their affairs. What I have observed over the years is that we are too ethnic-conscious as a nation, and the total decay in our value system has killed the virtues of patriotism and nationalism in us. I live and fight for the people to kick against maladministration and ineptitude in government. We must carry out a total reorientation to recover our value system. We must do away with ‘state of origin’ and ‘religion’ in our public system operations. Nigeria should be a meritorious society, if we want to bring about the glory days of Nigeria.
Most of what you say are beyond what ordinary persons would say in public; what gives you confidence to unequivocally bare your mind in public?
Anyone who has God does not fear humans. I have conquered fear. I am a Christian. I only respect souls, I fear no souls. The only being to fear is God Almighty. Fear Him and His ordinances, then nothing else should frighten you. If I get molested, embarrassed or abused, I am unperturbed. Jesus Christ faced more tribulation than that.
You sound religious. How religious are you?
I have a perfect relationship with God. I have never been diabolic because I know everything starts and ends at the doorstep of God – The Owner of the universe.
The change we voted for in 2015 is coming with lots of economic hardship for the masses; what do you think the President Buhari led administration is not doing right?
I must be sincere with you, Nigeria is currently in a perilous situation. We have not been fortunate because of the global economic recession indices that affected not only Nigeria but several other world economies. This is coupled with the massive looting of our holy patrimony in the past. It is obvious that President Muhammadu Buhari is doing his best to reposition and reconstruct this country. He met a rotten country that had been looted with impunity. At this moment, Nigeria is in the labour room, everyone knows there is no labour without pains, agony, cries, etc, but at the end of the day, I believe Nigerians will feel the joy, relief and happiness that come with the delivery of a new baby. We just want the executive to be more a respecter of rule of law.
If you have the singular honour to remove one thing in the Nigerian Constitution, what would that thing be?
It is definitely to remove the immunity clauses in the Constitution. This would create fear in public office holders who take up public positions to siphon money, that they could be arrested and jailed while serving in office. But, presently, the immunity clause allows public office holders to steal enough to buy themselves victory after their tenure.
But some people defend these looters when they are being tried by government. Is this action not affecting our system?
One of the problems of Nigeria is that we celebrate corruption and impunity. Not until Nigerians realise the need to condemn corrupt fellows, we may never get there.
Is it true that you’re one of the wealthiest politicians in Nigeria, due to your expensive garage?
I say ‘Amen’ to your prayer. I am not wealthy but I have a passion for automobiles. I have no regrets for it.
Your state, Kogi, is one of the peculiar states, politically, with several shenanigans. As a senator representing the state, what are you doing different to bring sanity to Kogi?
My state needs divine intervention. We have not been fortunate in Kogi State. The state is like a glorified local government. If you drive round the state, you will ask questions of what we have been doing with our own share of federal allocations for several years. It is more pathetic when you know that Kogi is blessed with the highest natural resources deposits in Nigeria. But we have people who are not passionate about the development of the state lurking around the corridors of power in the state. With the confluence of River Niger and River Benue alone, today, we should have the highest and largest tourist attraction in Africa. There is no reason why the state should not have taken over the Ajaokuta Steel from the Federal Government through counterpart funding and international support. We should be milking from the natural resources that we have in commercial quantity but the reverse has been the case because we have always had inept and selfish individuals at the helm of affairs in Kogi. I can assure you that I am trying my best to advocate good governance in the state and we will get out of the woods soon. It won’t continue like this forever.