His voice is as thunderous as he is loud. He loves luxury cars, craves attention, and mocks his enemies in awkward renditions. Once, he feigned a gun attack in Abuja, and some investigative journalist poked serious holes in his claim. In his past life as a representative in the lower house, Dino Melaye gained infamy as the lawmaker who fought openly in the green chamber and had his clothes ripped into shreds. That melee earned him and his co-travelers suspension from the Dimeji Bankole-led House of Representatives.
When, in 2015, he reincarnated in the National Assembly, it was as a senator this time, and the All Progressives Congress, APC, was the womb through which he was born. But his choice of a Senate President pitted him against his party. His choice was Saraki, the fox, the then Kwara godfather who wrestled his own ageing biological father, and blood sister, on the home turf. Saraki, a veteran of many political battles back home had grown in confidence, and dared those he considered insensitive to the political rule of reciprocity.
He reasoned, and rightly so, that APC was an agglomeration of different political blocs, each of which had been settled with top positions: the old Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, produced Buhari the president, the old Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, produced Osinbajo the vice president. He wanted the New PDP (nPDP) to produce the Senate President, and he was to be that president. But the party was not having that. It preferred the more pliable Ahmad Lawan. Ahmad didn’t command Saraki’s kind of charisma. Ahmad wasn’t as ambitious. It would be easier to manage him.
But in defiance to his party’s fiat, Saraki soldiered on with ambition, reaching out to those he could win over. And on the morning of voting, while his fellow Senators from same party were meeting with president Buhari, Saraki struck a deal with opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP, senators and got elected first among equals. A new senate president was born. A stunned APC leadership cried blue murder and treachery. That internal coup set the stage for the battle of the deviants. It was a war by the party against the treacherous. It lasted four years, and it is still on. The first casualty was the fox himself. It was in the general election. Saraki could not return to the Senate. He had already left the party by this time and was back to the PDP. Like a bee, the APC stung him at the polls. Saraki, the powerful, the Senate President, the former chairman of the governors forum, the man of means and networks, had lost his seat.
Now his Man Friday is about falling too. Dino will be out, soon. He is the last of the rebels. His state governor, Yahaya Bello, a loyalist of Buhari’s, had undertaken to yank him off the senate. There was an attempt to recall Dino. But worse than that attempt to abruptly cut short his legislative sojourn was his brief incapacitation caused by police harassment. He was bedridden, under heavy police presence. He was facing a run-in with them for an alleged homicide. They had laid siege on his house in Maitama, and demanded he must come to their office to answer for his supposed crimes, an accusation he described as trumped up. He went, and right before the cops, conked out. Dino had slumped.
So he couldn’t mobilize support against the rampaging Yahaya army. He was far away from base. Following the laid down procedure for a recall, 189,870 voters from Dino’s Kogi West Senatorial District purportedly signed to have him recalled. But on the day they were to verify the signatures, only 18,742 made themselves available. That was just a paltry 5.34% of registered voters in the constituency, out of the required 51%. It was victory for Dino. The aje ku crooner, he sang even more, declaring victory to God and the people of Kogi West. He prophesied that the cup of affliction he was enduring in the hands of his detractors, chief of which was Yahya Bello, would soon pass over him.
There was some relief as he survived the general election, defeating his main opponent, Smart Adeyemi. But that victory was short-lived; the cup of affliction returned and remained. Adeyemi filed a complaint at the legislative elections petitions tribunal. That action culminated in the ultimate nullification of Mr Melaye’s election. The Appeal Court called for a fresh election. Dino was back at the polls.
Dino, like many other Nigerian politicians, waxed spiritual, beckoning on God. He said the Appeal Court judgment was that of man. God’s judgment, he intoned, would be different; it would return victory to him. He urged his many supporters to remain calm and await God’s victory. That victory was to come on Saturday, November 16. But Saturday is gone and the victory didn’t come. It is also unlikely to ever come. As things currently stand, Smart Adeyemi is leading Dino Melaye with 20,570 votes.
But there are 43,127 voters in some 53 polling units who couldn’t exercise their franchise due to cancellation. The INEC returning officer in the election was therefore constrained to declare the election inconclusive. There will be a new date for another election, a supplementary one. But you can be sure that Dino will not garner enough votes to upturn Adeyemi’s lead. Given APC’s history in prosecuting supplementary elections, like we saw in Osun, we might be seeing some awkward vote counts, like Adeyemi scoring 428 – 0 in some polling units. That’s how APC rolls.
The APC ruthless elections machinery has crushed Dino and buried him in the same grave as Saraki. These two men may never resurrect again if APC remains the government in Aso Villa. Even if they return to the party, it is unlikely that they will be trusted.
The unfairness of the game the APC played in Kogi has not yet been established by this writer, but the stench from the Kogi election can be smelt miles away. The shootings and maiming that went on, right under the watch of Nigerian security agents, reminds one of the odious days of electoral self-help under one-time INEC chairman Maurice Iwu.
How did Melaye and Saraki not imagine that their former friends in the APC would come for them? Was it naivety, or arrogance, or both that prevented Saraki and Dino from quickly rallying their colleagues in the Senate to amend the Electoral Act within the first year of the Buhari administration, when he was still riding on massive goodwill, when he would happily sign the new law without fearing it would cost him his second term desire? How did they not see that APC’s motivation wasn’t to play fair, but to avenge the ills of PDP?
The moral of the fate of both Melaye and Saraki is the Igbo adage that enjoins the man who is able to climb an iroko tree not to hesitate in plucking firewood while still up there, because humans hardly ever get the chance to climb the iroko tree more than once in a lifetime.
Chinedu Ekeke is a political activist, blogger, and political consultant. He can be reached on Twitter @Nedunaija.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.