By Philip Agbese
Listening to Senator Dino Melaye’s blanket indictment over the Abuja Light Rail Project, one would be forgiven for concluding that the Kogi born politician is the best saint since Nigerians discovered the gospel of anti-corruption fight. Only that Senator Melaye, the Chairman of Senate Committee on the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), for those who know him up close, is the exact opposite of the good PR job he has now been packaged to have the world believe.
This late convert of the newfound national frenzy, if baying for the blood of those people perceive to be better than them is new in this country, has suddenly realized that the austere living he openly committed to living is not as romantic as chanting change for the sake of conformity.
The people finally got sick of the padded living available to lawmakers and they now monitor public spending the way predatory species guard over their young ones. The likes of Dino Melaye’s must thus supplement the legitimate jumbo pay he earns as a lawmaker and what better approach than to revert back to paid activism. In this instance the Senate Committee he chairs is just perfect for providing access to information and giving the institutional muscle to shake down his marks. Only that he got it wrong, enough of him.
No matter how broke or desperate one is for money, former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Kaduna state governor, Mallam Nasir El Rufai, should not in any way feature on the list of those to be blackmailed for money. Both men have that reputation for being thorough in their commitment to the assignments they execute on behalf of the people.
The attempt by Senator Dino Melaye to use the Senate Committee FCT to shake down the Kaduna governor for some chow therefore stinks even from miles away. The official narrative is that the committee raised a legislative query on the cost of the Abuja intra city rail project, initiated under the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo while Mallam Nasir El-rufai was FCT Minister. The unofficial narrative, in the tradition of activism for money, will entail the series of ‘reaching out’ to the former minister through emissaries whose success would have ensured this matter didn’t get to public knowledge. The response of the El-Rufai that we have come to know need not be imagined in this case as he wouldn’t have made any attempt to garnish his rebuff with any civility.
Had Dino Melaye, of the cumstomized champagne bottles fame, invested a few minutes in thinking through this his latest venture before executing, he would have probably settled for another mark instead of the ones he has taken on.
These people know Melaye, possibly better than he knows himself. They are aware that the anti-corruption stance upon which he rode into the Senate was a source of livelihood for his stomach and family. He once proudly declared how he has never executed a contract or worked for the government, yet he is today worth billions of Naira with over a dozen exotic cars and mansions thrown in.
Who is Dino Melaye fooling? Did the wealth he has amassed in the last five years while out of public office come about from fairies waving magic wands or did a benevolent river goddess smile upon him? I dare Dino Melaye to publish his asset declaration with the Code of Conduct Bureau in line with the blowing wind of change and I will tell him what transpired at Oriental Hotel between him and Ifeanyi Uba and many other persons.
Here is a man, who as the self-declared family bouncer, has never failed to attend a single court session with Senator Bukola Saraki, who is being tried for corruption allegations and numerous sleaze against his fellow Kwarans. Melaye was on ground for his boss’ wife as she went on trial for the atrocious looting she committed against the masses of Kwara state, whose only crime was voting her husband as governor. The family home now referred to as Kwara House of Corruption was not for a moment odious to Dino, a latter day convert after achieving his aim from the street, who is now in a position to lecture the deserving on how to canonise a demon.
An online news outlet has accused him of operating a foreign account and published evidences against him which are enough for him to join Saraki in the accused box when the trial resumes. He has curiously refused to address this but is a hurry to burry others after laying his own bed in the shrine of corruption.
Senator Stella Odua who kowtowed in the Dino led pro-corruption Saraki struggle was harassed, intimidated and accused of approving a multi-million Naira car loan while in office, all in a bid to call her to order. With the benefit of hindsight, whatever else Nigerians may think of this woman, she is a deaconess in Dino’s New Church of Saints and Corruption Ministry where Saraki is the Pastor to Dino’s Bishop among the brazen gangs facing corruption charges before one court or the other.
When he got this committee job against other experienced legislators, Nigerians knew that Saraki must have unleashed another loosed volcano on the Senate as we saw in the Dimeji Bankole days when Dino’s shirt was torn in a “sharing formula” inspired melee. It apparently didn’t occur to Saint Dino at that time to take his oversight powers as a legislator seriously and review how rail contract was being awarded.
Why didn’t Dino Melaye’s latest blame game start until Chief Olusegun Obasanjo recently drew the attention of the House of Representatives to the level of corruption in the National Assembly? If this is Melaye’s way of diverting attention from the issues raised by Obasanjo on the National Assembly budget and how they conduct their oversight then I am sure it will be a fruitless journey to convince Nigerians who are now better informed since access to information improved. They will certainly be ticked off that these wild allegations, without any verification or public hearing, is aimed at getting back at Obasanjo on one hand and making El-Rufai part with ‘something’ on the other.
One cannot deny Dino Melaye of a lifestyle to which he has grown accustomed just as dissuading him from financing the lifestyle the only way he knows would be difficult. But he will do well to leave these two men out of his propaganda. Nasir El-Rufai will not give him any penny even if he shouts from today till tomorrow. The man is busy developing Kaduna state for those that voted him into power and not ready to host the Moët party where Dino’s anti-corruption crusades have always ended.
Agbese is a public affairs commentator based in the United Kingdom.