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George Santayana, a 20th-century Spanish-American philosopher, essayist, poet and novelist, in one of his famous quotes wrote: “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
Santayana was right. Maybe he saw the future. He may have foreseen Nigerian politicians when he penned the famous quote. Let me not bore you with any academic quotes and drag this piece. My lead character this week is Senator Dino Melaye, a man who forgets history and like Santayana wrote, he is doomed to repeat his mistake of 2010. The ongoing show of shame between Melaye and the governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, will soon claim its casualty.
I do not need a soothsayer to tell me that Melaye will bite the dust soon and will be left alone in the cold. This is not an express postulation that the exercise will succeed. But it will definitely open old wounds.
Melaye, like in 2010 when he was suspended by the leadership of the House of Representatives, will have his fingers burnt soon. The recall jamboree spearheaded by Governor Bello, will not succeed. At least, not now for as long as the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, has the final say.
As Melaye’s political ally, Saraki will likely save him. But Melaye should bid his second term dream of returning to the Senate a sad goodbye. In Nigeria, with the exception of the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, no federal lawmaker, at least to my knowledge, has waged a battle with his/her state governor and returned to the National Assembly.
Since Melaye lacks any sense of good history, he did not know when not to start a war with Bello, who on his own, has rubbished the insignificant reputation left of him as a governor.
Let me take you back. In 2010, Melaye was suspended by the House of Representatives, when Dimeji Bankole held sway as Speaker. He was among 11 members of the Progressive Group, who had called for the removal of Bankole. He was suspended till the end of the legislative session.
The 11 members had demanded for an investigation into allegations of corruption against its leadership. They did not collect salaries and allowances throughout the period of the suspension. The suspension on the floor of the House was preceded by rowdiness after the insistence from the Progressive Group members. In the melee that ensued, members of the Progessive Group that included Melaye, Austin Nwachukwu, Bitrus Kaze, Solomon Awhinawhi, and Doris Uboh were bundled out of the chamber by the Speaker’s loyalists, who also tore their clothes. In the end, Melaye was rubbished and could not secure a second term to return to the House of Representatives. As an idle politician between 2011 and 2015, he found solace in insulting the former President Goodluck Jonathan.
He eventually rode on that popularity and found his way to the Senate, where he currently enjoys the patronage of Saraki. He is a force in the Senate and heads a juicy committee where he issues orders to the FCT Minister, Muhammad Bello.
Melaye has a good reputation for courting controversies. He has criticised Edo state Governor Adams Oshiomhole for “importing his wife” rather than marrying a Nigerian woman.
Melaye had threatened to beat up Senator Oluremi Tinubu and ‘impregnate’ her on the floor of the Senate. He was instrumental to the suspension of the immediate-past Senate Leader, Ali Ndume. Melaye was involved in certificate scandals, over his claim to have obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Geography from Ahmadu Bello University and a degree from Boston-based Harvard University in the United States of America. He was vindicated in the end.
Fast forward to 2017. Melaye is fighting the biggest political battle of his life. According to the key actors who are bent on recalling him, the lawmaker has been accused of breaching multiple codes of conduct. For instance, it is alleged that he does not have a constituency office and has engaged in electoral offences.
Sections 69 and 110 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, spell out the manner in which a recall may be carried out in both federal and state parliaments. The constitution provides that a member of the Senate or the House of Representatives may be recalled if a petition in that behalf, signed by more than one-half of the persons registered to vote in that member’s constituency alleging their loss of confidence in that member is presented to the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and whose signatures are duly verified by the INEC; and secondly, the petition is thereafter approved by a simple majority of the votes of the persons registered to vote that in member’s constituency in a referendum conducted by INEC within 90 days of the date of receipt of the petition.
The petition would have been duly signed and arranged according to polling units, wards, local government areas and constituency. The chairman of INEC is expected to send a certificate of recall to the President of Senate to effect the recall when the process is eventually completed. A jittery Melaye has rushed to the court to save his seat and his beaten face. He is asking Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, to stop his ongoing recall process by his constituents. In an Originating Summons he filed through his lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome, the embattled lawmaker prayed the court to declare that the petition presented to INEC for his recall was illegal, unlawful, wrongful, unconstitutional, invalid, null and void and of no effect in law.
He also prayed the court for a declaration that the petition purportedly forwarded to the INEC was invalid and of no effect, the same being signed by fictitious, dead and non-existing persons in his senatorial district, as well as for an order of injunction restraining INEC from commencing or further continuing or completing the process of his recall. Besides, Melaye wants the court to make an order stopping INEC from acting on the petition submitted to it. In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/567/2017, which he filed pursuant to sections 36,68 and 69 of the 1999 Constitution and Order 3, Rule 6 of the FHC Civil Procedure Rules 2009, Melaye, urged the high court to stop the electoral body from conducting any referendum predicated on the fictitious petition allegedly submitted to it by his purported constituents on the basis of the fundamentally and legally flawed petition.
He specifically urged the court to determine whether by provisions of Sections 68 and 69 of the Constitution, he is entitled to a fair hearing before the process of his recall as envisaged by the provisions of Section 69 of the Constitution can be triggered.
To determine whether the petition presented to the defendant is in compliance with the requirements of the constitution, same being heavily tainted with political malice, bad motive, personal vendetta and bad faith, which were initiated by top politicians in Kogi State, who wield enormous power over his senatorial constituency.
Melaye is like an octopus in the Senate, and imagines himself to be a god. I am sure some of his colleagues are secretly wishing that his recall exercise scales through. Melaye brought this wahala upon himself. He is a victim of his own wrong political calculations. Sometimes, he ascribes to himself a status he obviously does not deserve. This recall jamboree, though a futile effort, will humble Melaye.
He may have the physical qualities of an adult. But Melaye is trapped in a little child’s brain and must be reminded that the Red Chamber is for mature adults. Since he is a stubborn fly and will not heed to the advice of anyone, may this recall exercise teach him a bitter lesson. Before I conclude, I must sound this alarm bell. We must be careful not to create monsters and demigods. Like State House of Assembly members who have been conquered by state governors, federal lawmakers maybe the next victims.
In the coming years, governors will sponsor the similar recall jamborees against federal lawmakers who are not on the same page with them. When and if this happens, we will bid our democracy a sad goodbye. I rest my pen.
One more thing…
Last Sunday, Senator Clifford Ordia who represents Edo Central in the Red Chamber, revealed that some unnamed powerful Nigerians were working hard to frustrate the efforts and activities of the Senate.
Senator who spoke in Irrua, Edo State, where he reeled out his two-year scorecard, said the powerful Nigerians have been working assiduously to subject the Senate to public ridicule.
He said though he was elected to make laws, he has however attracted major developmental projects to the Edo Central Senatorial District electorate, in line with his campaign promises. Speaking specifically on how senators damned the interference of powerful Nigerians to elect its own leaders, Ordia said: “Everything was done to ensure that the Senate did not function. We elected a Senate leadership which we thought will work for Nigeria. We had to throw aside party differences to ensure that Nigeria is rescued. “Despite these challenges, we have been able to make some achievements. It is on record that the Senate has passed 96 bills in the last two years. These bills that we have passed will create jobs for Nigerians and boost the economy.
“Conspiracy of powerful Nigerians led to the defeat of the PDP in 2015. Under the PDP administration, the exchange rate of the naira to a dollar was N165. Our economy under PDP was growing. As soon as APC came in, it sucked our economy.” Ordia listed water, road and healthcare projects as parts of the things he has attracted to his senatorial district. He also listed scholarship, job creation and youth empowerment as part of other sectors where he has made critical interventions. Ordia’s predecessor, Odion Ugbesia, who spoke at the event, reminded the people that senators are primarily elected to make laws, adding that those who embark on projects do that through extra efforts “We are witnesses to the dividends of democracy. We will not take the shine off him. I want to commend him for the quality representation. I want to plead that you be patient with him. Senators do not have power to award contracts. He is a lawmaker. What you are seeing here today is a result of his extra efforts,” Ugbesia said.