When Thugs Make Laws, By Dele Agekameh

Mr. Melaye’s instincts are not those of a dignified representative of the people, but those of a self-centred desperado, like most of the other elected “representatives of the people” in the National Assembly.

Birds of a feather, they say, flock together. Conventional wisdom also supports the notion that like minds are more likely to associate with each other, especially in a setting where enclaves and alliances are routinely created. Thus, in the high stakes world of politics, where alliances and loyalties are often formed and tested, outcomes are always demonstrative of the collective mind and will of the players.

In the National Assembly in Nigeria, there should be little confusion about the character of the lawmakers. The laws they make, when they get down to it, are self-serving edicts that enslave the Nigerian people to a bleak and uncertain future. The fact that we have inefficient laws, and that the most useful legislations remain trapped in the legislature for years until they eventually emerge as skeletons of the original bills is no coincidence. Our lawmakers are an irresponsible lot with little fervour for their primary duty of making relevant and useful laws.

Perhaps, the most visible and prominent mascot of this monumental irresponsibility presently in the National Assembly is Senator Dino Melaye of Kogi West Senatorial District. Mr. Melaye had his first outing in the legislature when he was elected into the House of Representatives in 2007. Within months, he showed his true colours when he was at the centre of a shameful fight that broke out over allegations of embezzlement against Patricia Etteh, then speaker of the House. He continued to build his notoriety in the House afterwards, with unguarded utterances that stirred trouble at the lower house and beyond. In June 2010, he was beaten up and almost stripped by other equally irresponsible lawmakers in the wake of his very public and vulgar opposition of Dimeji Bankole, the speaker of the House at that time.

It is unsurprising that the deplorable acts and utterances that always found him deep in the middle of chair throwing and fisticuffs at the National Assembly were being keenly observed by future ‘godfathers’ that may now be benefitting from his propensity for ridiculous and mindless acts that smear the image of the Nigerian legislature. After a four-year stint away from the National Assembly, Mr. Melaye was again elected by the good people of Kogi West to represent them at the Senate in the Eighth Assembly.

Since his return, the upper legislative house has not lacked in unnecessary drama and mind boggling decision making. His notoriety has especially been advanced by his status as the attack dog of Bukola Saraki, the Senate president that ascended onto that position in as controversial a manner, as can only be befitting of the group of selfish and irresponsible politicians that have been assembled by careless and uninformed electorates in their respective constituencies.

The sad part for Nigerians is that, like many other lawmakers and public officials, his indiscipline and lack of morals have gained him enemies within and outside government, whose possible plots against his interests interfere with his primary role of fighting for his constituents and helping to make good laws to govern the land.

Interestingly, while continually justifying the ascribed metaphor of an attack dog in the Senate, he was infuriated about two years ago when he claimed that Oluremi Tinubu, wife of Bola Tinubu, Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), referred to him as a dog, prompting his threats to beat her up and impregnate her as alleged by some reports. He later denied threatening to impregnate the senator from Lagos Central, but stood by his other threats, in a characteristic display of lack of grace or any moral decency.

Mr. Melaye’s history of troublemaking has led to many allegations against him, including that of falsified educational records that he seems to have defeated, notwithstanding the fact that the prestigious Harvard University in the United States and London School of Economics refuted some of his lofty claims of having obtained degrees from those institutions. Mr Melaye has also alleged that some persons have repeatedly made attempts on his life, going as far as pointing accusing fingers at Yahaya Bello, governor of his native Kogi State and one time ally with whom he now seems to be embroiled in political tussle.

The sad part for Nigerians is that, like many other lawmakers and public officials, his indiscipline and lack of morals have gained him enemies within and outside government, whose possible plots against his interests interfere with his primary role of fighting for his constituents and helping to make good laws to govern the land. Just last week, the papers were awash with news of his latest antics after he jumped out of a police van, while being transported to Kogi State to answer charges filed against him. He had been declared wanted by the police for many weeks over those charges. Mr. Melaye was so consumed with the reported political fight with his state governor that he forgot the rule of law and openly disregarded lawful court summons over the charges. He chose instead to act as a criminal, culminating in his treatment like a criminal by the most unruly unit of the Nigeria Police Force – the Special Anti-Robbery Squad.

While orchestrating the suspension of senators expressing personal opinions and raising reasonable issues in the upper chamber, Mr. Melaye and his backers themselves continue to drag the image of the Senate in the mud with their actions, in a free society. Despite the possible high handedness of the police or any actual plot against Mr. Melaye, the tomfoolery displayed by the senator in all his time in the public eye is unbecoming of an elected government official and is more worthy of suspension or more appropriate action by the Senate and the people of Kogi State.

It is not enough to call Mr. Melaye a thug. The senate leadership that suspended their work last week and instead attempted a visit to his bedside, where he is supposedly nursing injuries sustained after jumping out of a police van, can also be called thugs by association.

Again, a deeper problem was unearthed in the conceited efforts to recall the errant senator. By all indications, the process itself was instigated by people who are cut from the same cloth as Senator Melaye, and left in the hands of a largely uninformed and ignorant electorate. A recall process, which is overly complicated in the law books, was put in motion for Nigerians in Kogi State who may not have even understood the process, as it has never been triggered in the history of the country. That the process failed is not surprising, especially for those with enough legal knowledge. The downside is that it gives the uncultured senator a greater sense of legitimacy.

It is not enough to call Mr. Melaye a thug. The senate leadership that suspended their work last week and instead attempted a visit to his bedside, where he is supposedly nursing injuries sustained after jumping out of a police van, can also be called thugs by association. His many unruly displays and disdainful motions in the house are part of an organised movement backed by others. Their encouragement of his thuggish character and refusal to condemn his undignified behaviour places them in the same ungracious net with Mr. Melaye. He is the manifestation of the wishes of many of the lawmakers who may be more self-conscious than he is.

There is little difference between the senator that records childish videos taunting his political rivals and circulating them on social media and the rest of the senators that accept him as the head of any committee in the Senate. His self-serving thought process was also on display when he threatened to take his own life just to rope his captors into a scandal, rather than for some important ideal that makes meaning to his constituents. Mr. Melaye’s instincts are not those of a dignified representative of the people, but those of a self-centred desperado, like most of the other elected “representatives of the people” in the National Assembly.

These supposed role models of younger generations are laying the foundation of rot that may become the signature of this country if we let them have their way. Perhaps the mental balance and social grace of intending candidates for political office need to be tested in future in order to prevent characters like that of Mr. Melaye from representing the interests of right thinking Nigerians. A country whose lawmakers cannot restrain from exchanging blows before visiting school children cannot plot a good future. We must do better in our selections and political participation before it is too late.

News Reporter

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