MELAYE: Triumphal But Not Yet Uhuru By Carl Umegboro
EMBATTLED senator representing Kogi West senatorial district in the upper legislative chamber, Dino Melaye elected on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is indeed between a rock and a hard place. Despite the initial criminal allegations leveled against him by the Nigerian Police Force, the controversial lawmaker recklessly complicated his predicaments that the end may never come soon. Prior to the criminal allegations against the lawmaker, Melaye was facing a recall action from his constituencies since last year but by legal actions, delayed the recall action especially the judges’ annual vacation which worked to his advantage.
Finally, the people have spoken by not endorsing the recall. It is indeed a victory for democracy. The electoral umpire, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is commended for ensuring that it carried its statutory duties accordingly without intimidations, fear or favour to the parties. The judiciary too is extolled for enabling the umpire proceed with its duties as assigned without hitches. Election and recall are emphatically exclusive rights of the people. It is immaterial if recall is orchestrated by propaganda, vendetta or political motives as Melaye contended before the court. What is paramount is that the people must evidently always give the final shot and not injunctions. As they have spoken by distancing themselves from the action, that’s final. Thus, kudos to the court, electoral umpire and the people.
Incidentally, whilst the recall attempt was in murky waters due to rigorous processes, the embattled lawmaker yet again was implicated in some unhallowed and criminal acts with inmates; alleged to be his gang with guns and funded with huge sums of money for yet to be disclosed assignments for the senator. The Police accordingly, severally invited Melaye for interrogations alongside his arraignment in Kogi State to no avail until his recent arrest. But abysmally, on the way, his cronies ambushed the Police leading to his attempted escape by jumping away from a moving vehicle. In the process, Melaye sustained injuries and undergoing treatment presently at the National Hospital after evacuation from a private clinic by the police.
By and large, apart from the recall action which finally hit the brick wall, Melaye is simultaneously battling with two more serious issues; criminal charges of unlawful possession of arms alongside two others and escape from lawful custody of the Police. The recall action which will at most sack him from the Senate failed as the electoral umpire failed to meet the prerequisite in the verification exercise which implied that the people didn’t endorse the action or probably changed their mind. Whatever be the case, the people decided. Had all the recall processes succeeded against him, Melaye would still walk home a free man except to lose all entitlements and benefits as a serving senator, thereby only deprive him of the jumbo allowances including the outrageous running costs prevalent in the legislative arm. Unfortunately, the other two are crimes punishable with terms of imprisonment under the Criminal Code (Laws of the Federation) which would automatically remove any public officeholder from office including a senator if convicted. If found guilty, he will literally be reduced to a convict even if he pays fines, and consequently ruin his political career for a period of ten years. This is on account that fine on conviction and jail terms are equivalent in law.
Statutorily, a convict is ineligible for election to the Senate pursuant to Section 66(1)(c) and (d) of the 1999 Constitution, Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended. In other words, if convicted and sentenced, the Attorney General of the Federation will expressly approach the court ex parte to delist his name as a senator of the 8th Senate. By implications, the senator is in a pinch; still standing between the devil and the deep blue sea, as the catastrophes distinctly, ultimately may lead to losing the seat in the Senate. Obviously, Melaye was ill-advised to undertake the disgraceful misadventure which worsened his crisis, and bolstered the Police to handcuff a serving senator even on the sick bed as a common criminal which he overtly acted out by the attempted escape from lawful custody. The reasons is that as a serving senator, encircled by well-to-do political associates and friends, Melaye, irrefutably could without any stress prearrange all the likely bail conditions and confidently submit himself for arraignment in the court and secure his bail immediately since the charges are all bailable offences.
To conclude, Melaye’s dramatic jumping from a moving vehicle to escape from lawful custody irrespective of the motives is grotesque and ignominious, and leaves much to be desired of a “distinguished senator”. Above all, if the grievous allegations of involvement, funding and supply of guns to criminals are substantiated, it boils down that politicians are truly responsible for the gruesome and endless killings that have sent countless innocent lives to early graves merely for selfish reasons. Thus, whether allegiance in APC or oppositions, criminalities shouldn’t be trivialized; let the law take its course. Nevertheless, congratulations to Melaye for emerging triumphant in the first hurdle.
Umegboro, public affairs analyst writes from Abuja via email@example.com (07057101974 SMS-only)