Thursday, May 3, 2018 12:51 pm
By Richard Elesho/ Lokoja
Dino Melaye, Senator representing Kogi West in the upper legislative house of the National Assembly is an award winning lawmaker. However, in a video and still images that went viral early this week, Melaye did not wear the aspect of a distinguished senator. Instead, in the video, he invoked images of a victim of a mob action in a market place or a Nollywood scene. Dressed in a black overall and red pair of stokings, he sat on the bare floor of the highway, surrounded by a coterie of policemen and rowdy spectators. In the still images, the Senator laid helpless on a sickbed in a private hospital in Abuja. In both, he was an under-dog.
There are different accounts of how the Senator landed in the hospital. In one, the Nigeria Police Force, NPF presented Dino as a fugitive from justice. Force spokesperson, ACP Moshood Jimoh in a statement claimed the Senator jumped from a moving police bus on Tuesday, April 24th and sustained injuries, in an attempt to evade justice. He claimed that thugs loyal to the Senator overwhelmed the police, rescued the senator and ferried him to Zankli hospital, Mabushi. The police, led by its FCT commissioner Sadiq Bello reinforced, traced him to the hospital and effected his rearrest.
An eye witness however gave a different account. The anonymous eyewitness claimed that the Senator attracted attention to the police vehicle by his loud shout and call for help. An attempt by the police to clear a heavy traffic hold up in Area 1 bridge Abuja, eventually earned Dino his escape. “As they opened the door for officers to alight from the bus to clear the traffic, the Senator also came down, sat on the road and insisted on not going to Lokoja.” The witness said and added a puzzle. “How big is the window of the bus that a man of Dino’s size and supposedly sandwiched by officers, will be able to jump from a moving vehicle?”
Whatever the blend of the escape story, the Senator was rearrested in the private hospital, handcuffed and transferred to the Trauma Center of the National Hospital, where he has been recuperating. Also arrested were two younger brothers of the lawmaker and two of his lawyers. The four were charged and detained in Kuje prison where they were granted bail Monday 30th April. As for Dino, he was still detained on the sickbed, passive and largely held incommunicado when he survived a stage-managed recall attempt supposedly by his constituents. On Wednesday, 2 May, the Police took Dino Melaye in a stretcher to an Abuja High court where he was arraigned for allegedly breaking the windscreen of police vehicle conveying him to Lokoja and “threatening to kill himself.” For the Senator, disaster had poured in torrents.
Dino has a reputation for bearing his mind at all times and for speaking it loud, not minding whose ox is gored. His loquaciousness is thought by many to be the harbinger of his woes. The Senator has been in a running battle with Alhaji Yahaya Bello, Governor of Kogi State. The two men are members of the same party and former friends. In fact, Dino is believed to have aided the Governor’s ascension to power, after the untimely demise of Prince Abubakar Audu.
Their relationship soured when Dino continuously criticized the governor over unpaid salaries. He also accused the governor of corruption, ineptitude and nepotism. To cushion the effects of the maladministration, Dino called attention of his colleagues in the National Assembly to the non payment of salaries and mobilized them to donate bags of rice for hungry civil servants and their dependents in Kogi. In a related development, Melaye has not spared the presidency and the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC from criticisms.
The Governor became increasingly intolerable of the Senator’s lashing tongue and in no time, moves to recall him crystalized. Sometime last year, Edward Onoja, Chief of Staff to the Governor boasted at a public function in Olamaboro Local Government that Dino would not last beyond June. “If by the end of June, Dino is still standing, it means there is no God… and we all know there is God.”
Their relationship took a dramatic turn for the worse last year April. The Senator had visited Aiyetoro-Gbede, his country home in Ijumu Local Government, for the Easter festival when he raised alarm over an attempt on his life. He claimed that on 15th April, the attackers invaded his house, shot sporadically at anything in sight, thereby destroying two of his vehicles. He was lucky not to be home. He accused the governor and Onoja of being the mastermind of the attack.
The police carried out an investigation into the case and paraded six suspects including Taofeek Isah. administrator of Ijumu Local Government and die hard Bello supporter. Items were recovered from the suspects and they were charged to court.
On 4th September last year, Kogi State Commissioner of Police, Wilson Inalegwu announced that one Lokman, a leading suspect in the case was gunned down by his men. He explained that the men had visited Obehira, Lukman’s village to effect his arrest. The police boss disclosed that the suspect and his gang opened fire on the officers and he was killed in the subsequent gun battle. The administrator and other suspects were charged with attempted murder.
However things began to change when the judge handling the case suddenly died. Justice Aromeh Benson Akogu., then Kabba Resident High Court judge died around 11:40pm during a cross over service in Anyigba, his hometown last year 31st. Dec. News of the judge’s demise broke early January. By February, the case had turned full circle against Melaye. On 14 February, the Senator was arraigned in court for giving false information to the police about the alleged assassination attempt. Citing insecurity, Melaye had since sought and got approval from the Chief Judge of the federation for the case to be transferred to the FCT
The police gave further details on the case. Monday, 19th March, Moshood paraded two suspects, Kabiru Seidu (aka Obama) and Nuhu Salihu (aka Small) in Lokoja. He said the men who were arrested 19th January at Ogojuaje in Dekina for armed robbery and kidnapping also confessed to working as political thugs for Melaye. The Police disclosed that the suspects claimed the Senator gave them an AK47, two riffles and N430,000 in his car on Airport Road, Abuja sometime in December 2017. He said the men were recruited by one Mohammed Audu to work for Melaye in the imminent 2019 elections. The FPRO further disclosed that Melaye was yet to honor police invitation to enable a discreet investigation into the matter.
About 10 days after Moshood’s statement, the case entered a new twist. Wednesday, 28th March, the Kogi State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Ali Janga in whose custody the suspects were kept, announced their escape from detention. He said the suspects along with four others broke jail. Janga said “consequently all the suspects, Sen. Melaye, Mohammed Audu were sent for watch listing and red notice by the INTERPOL for immediate arrest anywhere we see them.” Then, 13 officers on duty at the ‘A’ Division detention center were immediately arrested and lucked up. The Police high command in Abuja also immediately replaced Janga with Esah Sunday Egbu, CP Federal Operations. However after more twists, the suspects were all rearrested.
In the meantime, plots for the recall of the Senator intensified. One Cornelius Olowo had earlier led a rowdy group to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC office in Lokoja. The group carried six Ghana-must-go bags stuffed with a petition and registers containing 188,500 signatures of assumed electorate demanding for Melaye’s recall. Olowo’s role fulfills the ancient maxim that ‘ a man’s enemies are members of his household.’ Only two years before, Dino had single handedly made him APC’s House of Assembly candidate in Ijumu. Anyway, that was then. He has since been appointed an aide to Taofeek.
Dino did not fold his arms or watch arms at akimbo. He embarked on a series of rallies to sensitize the electorate and retain them on his side. Hell was let lose in one of such rallies on June 12 last year at the gate of Kogi State Polytechnic, Lokoja. Thugs allegedly invaded the rally, killed two persons and dispersed those in attendance. Dino again escaped by the whiskers. The embattled lawmaker also approached the judiciary asking it to halt the recall. The matter was still before the Supreme Court, when the verification of signatures held.
Melaye’s experience in public office has been far from smooth. He was first elected into the National Assembly on the platform of People’s Democratic Party, PDP in 2007 to represent Kabba/Bunu/Ijumu Federal Constituency in the lower house. He was suspended from the house and hardly able to complete his tenure. An attempt to seek re-election failed. However, in 2015, he was elected into the Senate and since remained in the eye of the storm. Will he like a cat with nine lives, survive his current travails? Only time will tell.