By Ayobami Oyalowo
The activist is not the man who says the river is dirty. The activist is the man who cleans up the river.~ Ross Perot
On several occasions, I have listened to young men/ women banter, argue, agree or disagree on who Dino Melaye really is. Many have slagged him, insulted him or plainly hated on him, but curiously, nobody has yet to produce any proof or evidence as to any act of corruption against him, neither has he been indicted nor charged to court or smeared in any act bordering on corruption or stealing. This piece is not written to paint Dino as a saint or a sinner. It is simply my humble attempt to educate a few people about the Otunba Dino Melaye that I know. A man who divides opinion. He is not one to be ignored. You simply love him or loathe him. There is never a middle ground with him. With Dino, what you see is what you get.
Dino was born about four decades ago in Kano to a middle class family. His father worked with a decent private company and was able to cater for his children until an unfortunate incident occurred. He lost his job, therefore he couldn’t meet up with most financial obligations associated with taking care of six children. He had to withdraw his kids from a private school to a public school. Things got more difficult and the young Dino had to sell ‘kunu zaki’, a local beverage and cold water in the evening in between classes, in order to help to augment the family income
He struggled until he got admitted into Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria and the activist in Dino came to the fore. Throughout his stay as a student of ABU, he was a thorn in the flesh of the authorities. Matters came to a head when he sued the school authority. He was also arrested by the Abacha government and was locked up in Yola Prison for 11 months without any formal charges. He was in cell 4 where he was a next door neighbour to the former president Olusegun Obasanjo who was in cell 5. He was mercilessly tortured by the infamous Sergeant Rogers and hung to dry.
His problems with the Abacha goons began when he rejected an offer to serve as the arrow head of the ’2million youths’, an infamous body which Daniel Kanu later headed. His crime was that instead of accepting the government’s offer, he leaked the plot to the late Pa Abraham Adesanya and that angered the ruling military junta. It took a lot for him to graduate from the University after his eventual release, without any formal charges.
He later went into private business and due to acquaintances he had forged in the past, he was able to cash in on available opportunities and made some good money. Many people assume he became rich by working for Government. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I would have gone into a few details of his business dealings but we are keeping all that for his memoirs later in life.
He got elected into the Federal House of Representatives in 2007 on the platform of the PDP and represented the Kabba/Ijumu constituency of Kogi state. But it must be stated that he was constantly at loggerheads with the party’s rank and file. Several times he refused to back down on national issues and tow the “party line” preferring to do what he believed was the right thing. Little wonder he was refused a second term on his Party’s platform.
While in the House of Representatives, he was the Chairman, house committee on information and national orientation, a social crusader, human rights activist, public analyst and a politician. He moved a lot of motions. 36 of those motions hinged on anti-corruption. It is on record that Dino moved the highest number of motions in the history of the National Assembly. Famous among them was his motion that led to the revocation of the sale of Ajaokuta steel and Delta Steel Aladja. He also moved a motion against President Umaru Yar’adua when the latter borrowed 300 billion from the World Bank. The money was later returned due to Dino’s motion and subsequent pressure by other Honorable members of the federal house of reps.
He also moved a motion on the state of education in Nigeria where he argued that all the children of political office holders should attend public schools. He conducted a research and found out that over N400billion was spent for medical trips abroad for political office holders. He advocated that there should be a stop to sponsoring political officers on medical trips abroad and the money should rather be used for developing our hospitals.
Dino also sponsored a bill for the establishment of the national cardio thoracic centers in the six geological zones of Nigeria as there is currently none in Nigeria.He was motivated to sponsor the bill when he visited Ghana, and found out that Ghana with a population of 18million people was building their 2nd national cadio thorasic center and he also discovered that 34 Nigerian cardiologists were at the time working in the cardio thoracic center in Ghana. In the history of the National Assembly, he was the 1st to resign his chairmanship of a house committee because he couldn’t work with a leadership he deemed was corrupt. As committee chairman, he also recovered billions from failed contractors to the government’s account.
Who can forget Dino’s motion on the 2nd runway of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International airport Abuja, which was awarded to Julius Berger at a cost of 64 billion Naira after due process and approval of the Federal Executive Council? As a result of his motion, the President set up a committee to reduce the contract to 49 billion Naira. The indefatigable Melaye took the matter back to the floor and comparatively argued that the contract on a 25% profit margin will not cost more than 8 billion Naira. He was able to convince his colleagues in the house and the President eventually cancelled the contract.
Melaye again moved a motion on the floor of the house on the airport-Kubwa expressway contract awarded to Julius Berger(JB) at the cost of N257 billion. His motion caused the MD of JB to argue that some billions of Naira found on the contract document was as a result of the printer’s devil. Melaye yet again saved Nigeria 100 billion from that contract.
Those who thought Melaye just began activism, should cast their minds back to the appearance of Melaye alongside Pat Utomi with Frank Olise on Tuesday live, an NTA programme in 2001. His role in the the cancellation of the 5000 note, remains indelible. Melaye, despite pressure from the NEC of the PDP to drop charges against Dimeji Bankole, refused to do so until justice was done. That eventually cost him his position and the right to contest under the platform of the PDP. He was the only NASS member who returned excess money paid to him and the receipt is available for posterity.
If Dino had compromised his position with the PDP heirachy, the Bankole case wouldn’t have become public fodder and he would still remain in the House of Reps, defrauding the State.
In January, he started the protest that eventually enveloped the entire country. He got arrested and was detained alongside Boko Haram suspects. Otunba Dino Melaye’s Foundation known as ‘Imole de foundation’ for widows and orphans, has been running for more than 10years now, and he is set to commission his new orphanage in 2013.
In January 2012, after the occupy Nigeria protests, Dino Melaye rejected an offer of cash from the federal government, running into about N800 million. There are three other men alive who accompanied him to the hotel where the offer was made. He has also been offered various cabinet and parastatal headship. He has also been offered more cash by the Jonathan led government. All of this were ostensibly done to keep him quiet, but he has steadfastly rejected juicy offers. In fact, I was privy to some phone conversations and physical meetings. I will challenge the government to deny this.
This is by no means intended to present Dino as a saint. No, not at all. But who amongst us can cast the first stone? Dino and my humble self-grew up together struggling as boys way back in Kano. I am astonished that so many on twitter insult, denigrate or question his pedigree. I wrote this piece not to exonerate or beatify Dino. This has been written to educate many who wrongly assume he became an “activist” because he was no longer allowed to return to the House of Reps.
Dino is just an ordinary Nigerian who has shown his preponderance for good governance and social justice. And like Ross Perot, quoted above, an activist is not the man who says, but he who does. He has, unlike most “twitter tigers” put his money where his mouth is. While they merely rave and rant, Dino goes the extra mile to not only expose corruption but to also actively lead demonstrations against unpopular government policies.
This is by no means exhaustive, but it sums up the Otunba Dino Melaye that I know. You should meet him too.
@Ayourb is on Twitter.