By Bola Bolawole
Politician Dino Melaye needs no introduction to Nigerians; neither is he new to controversies. His theatrics, however, set him apart from other controversial politicians of his ilk. He has traversed the country’s entire political gamut since the return to civil rule in 1999, moving from PDP to AC/ACN and taking shelter in Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Bourdillon home when the then President Olusegun Obasanjo turned the heat on him before he joined the New-PDP to pull the rug from under the feet of President Goodluck Jonathan. Therefore, the coming to power of Muhammadu Buhari was not without the support of Dino Melaye. On the plain of ideology and principles, it is difficult to plot the graph of what propels Dino to give or withdraw support. Remember, he was the gum-chewing Hon. Member of the House of Representatives jumping from table to table, turning the entire House on its head in support of the then Speaker, Ms. Olubunmi Eteh, trying in vain to prevent her eventual ouster as Speaker! Gaining “promotion” into the Senate, Dino was also the unofficial Man Friday of the then Senate President, Bukola Saraki. Remember, the duo’s running battle with Buhari during his first term in office as president and how Dino reportedly jumped down from a moving vehicle to escape DSS arrest! He said he slept on a tree for how many days thereafter! I think Dino remains the only law maker that efforts were made to recall from the Senate but who escaped, firmly ensconced in his senatorial seat after the exercise. He, however, lost the seat in the next election to Smart Adeyemi.
Dino will be remembered as one person who best approximates the saying, whatever thy hand finds to do, do it well. In his collection of cars; in his wardrobe of shoes which put the Philippines First Lady, Imelda Marcos, to shame. His collection of wrist watches and everything collectable will make the Guinness Book of Records. Dino’s theatrics are also second to none. At one time, he reportedly toyed with the idea of joining Nollywood full time – and fittingly so. Dino breathes and lives controversies. He deliberately goes out of his way to court it; in it, he flourishes. In it he has his being and makes a living. In fact, in it, he makes a kill now and again. Dino without controversy will be like a fish out of water. Without controversies, life and living, for Dino Melaye, will be meaningless. If that is the way of life he has chosen, not only does he have a right to it, he has not disappointed. He has entertained us; he has made salient points at the same time and he has made a living of it – and a good one at that. Many of his jokes against Buhari and, lately, against Tinubu may be grotesque, outlandish and obscene; he may regularly overreach himself and overshoot the tarmac; they make some salient points all the same. Not long ago he made a video of himself begging God to help him maintain his life of ostentation and profligacy, God answered his prayers, as someone said, by nudging Atiku Abubakar to contest the just-concluded presidential election!
Dino was one of the closest aides to Atiku during the last election. Had Atiku won, it stands to reason that Dino would have been one of those to land one of the juiciest offices on offer. So with Atiku’s loss, Dino must have been one of those seriously wounded – and understandably so. No one must grudge Atiku, Dino and the others for licking their wounds and screaming from the torment their pains unleash. The new video released by Dino disclosing that they spent a whopping N400 billion on their botched effort at cornering the presidency must have sent shock waves through the spine of many. Such a humongous amount spent on an election must certainly raise eyebrows and elicit questions, some of which I intend to ask here today. How was this sum of money raised? Who raised it, individuals and or corporate organizations? Was it raised here locally or brought in from abroad or both? Was it in Naira denomination or in foreign currencies? At a time of crippling Naira scarcity, how were they able to pull this humongous amount together? What role did the Central Bank of Nigeria and the commercial banks play? Who took delivery of this money or monies and how accountable were they?
Again, we must ask questions about how this money was deployed: To do what; to procure what; to buy who and what; to prevent or disrupt what? One of the reasons touted for the Naira scarcity was to discourage the monetization of our elections; now, if a political party spent N400 billion on just one election, has that purpose not been defeated already? Who and who benefitted from this largesse – was it to compromise voters; if so, how much was budgeted for this? As we heard in a video in which three principal officers of a political party discussed how to compromise the election, how much of this N400b went into compromising the electoral umpires? How much was voted to compromise security agents? How much was voted for INEC ad-hoc staff; party agents, party leaders, etc? How much was voted for hackers? We understand that hackers brought down the INEC server 162 times in one day! Is this the reason why some of those who lost the election kept insisting that INEC upload results electronically, because they knew of the traps they had set to compromise the election?
How much of the N400 billion actually got to the voters? How much did each voter get per vote? If so much money was poured into the system, why is the system not reacting positively to it? The cry everywhere is that of “no money, no money!” So, where did N400 billion enter; into some private pockets or what? We must investigate this! For me, the problems are two-fold: That such a humongous amount was reportedly spent and that we did not have the evidence that it was so spent; yet, it is being hung on our neck that it was so spent! We need to get to the roots of the matter because we could have been short-changed – everyone down the line. Is there no law on the limit of spending that can be done on an election; if so, is this N400 billion within it or did it break the ceiling? We need to know and we must take action. Illegality reigns and impunity takes roots when laws are broken with impunity and penalties are not enforced.
Now, when N400 billion is spent on an election, is it a grant or a seed/investment by those spending the money? How much of this money came from the purse of state governments? Infrastructure is decrepit all over the place; hospitals are ghosts of their original selves, pensioners are dying in frustration; schools have fallen apart; workers’ pay cannot take them home; yet, politicians are spending N400 billion on just one election! This is more than the federal allocations of many states put together in four years! Now, when such an amount of money is thrown into an election, is it a grant or an investment? What percentage of return on investment should we expect that the “investor(s)” will want to reap? Could this be the reason why they are bent on selling off our common patrimony once they get into office?
These same people are now busy marching up and down the whole place like school children crying that elections were rigged. They are instigating insurrection all over the place. The truth is, they are merely trying to force a soft landing for themselves! Diverting attention from their own sordid acts and criminality is what their sudden activism is all about. They want to avoid being called to account – but they surely must be called to account! The other political parties must also be called to account for their spending in the presidential election. We must thank Dino Melaye for opening this can of worms. It was like when Gov. Nyesom Wike disclosed the Paris Club refund windfall his state received from the Federal Government but which the other state governors had kept sealed lips about. Once Wike let the cat out of the bag, his colleagues no longer had a hiding place. Now that Dino has let the cat out of the bag on this matter, the DSS and EFCC should swing into action. How much did the APC/Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu spend on this presidential election? How were the figures raised and the spending done? Who got what? Peter Obi and his Labour Party, Rabiu Kwankwaso and his New Nigeria People’s Party must likewise render an account.
Until the finances of our elections are cleansed, credible elections will remain a mirage. In the First Republic, the people largely owned the political parties and had a say in its decision-making process because crowd financing was the vogue. These days, however, moneybags own the parties and the entire political process. They determine who gets what, when (and) how, to quote Harold Lasswell. It has become what an ex-governor says it is, to wit: “Owo ose’lu l’a fi n s’oselu” You employ public funds to run for public office! Another name for it is corruption! And that is what has brought upon us the unmitigated disaster that we are in today!
- Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, BOLAWOLE was also the Managing Director/ Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspaper on Wednesdays. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.
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