On this latest Dino Melaye versus SaharaReporters affair, apart from engaging in a little jokey exchange with some friends over the matter just a while ago, I have kept my mouth firmly shut. This is because since Mr Melaye and his Senate friends in the form of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah tried late last year to introduce a harebrained law to shut down free speech on social media, I’ve always considered him a sandwich short of a picnic. In other words, ignoring him seemed the most sensible way to deal with his menace.
Of course, I’ve observed his capacity for grand public idiocy and senseless self-publicity since his days in the House of Representatives, but considering he’s offered nothing of value by way of public policy, my policy of ignoring him seemed even more sensible. So, when this latest episode started, I had naturally applied my default position. But, at this point, silence is no longer an option. Mr Melaye is taking the biscuit and he’s turned the institutions of the Nigerian Senate and the great Ahmadu Bello University into his dip to enjoy his illicit confectionery.
I think the real lesson we have learnt from this whole affair is that our Senators and Vice Chancellors have too much time on their hands. In other words, we are not getting value for money in both cases. I mean, how do you explain a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria having the time, in a recession, to be running around proclaiming he has multiple degrees (when he obviously does not know the difference between degrees, diplomas and certificates), singing silly songs, dancing silly dances and wearing funny academic gowns to the plenary session of the Senate while marching from Abuja to New York threatening to sue SaharaReporters for daring to say he did not graduate from the Ahmadu Bello University?
The Senate actually found the time to sit to look at this allegation and invite the Vice Chancellor of a top national university who drove for over three hours to come see them for about twenty minutes only to say a former student who is now a Senator actually graduated from the school with a Third Class degree. I mean, do they need the Vice Chancellor, Professor Ibrahim Garba to confirm what should be on record, a record that the subject of the investigation should have, a record the Senate could have simply called for? Why does Dino Melaye not have a hard copy of the degree supposedly issued to him by the university indicating he made a Third Class in Geography in 2000? And if the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions was keen on doing a fair and thorough job, why did they not invite Omoyele Sowore and SaharaReporters? They used the excuse of Senator Ali Ndume as the accuser and he was duly there to play the Pantomime Villain finally converted by Dino Melaye’s barrage of certificates, even though the only certificate actually needed was not presented. More crucially, his so-called petition was not even in writing as required!
The more depressing aspect of the whole thing is to listen to people who should know better taking sides and debating agitatedly about who is right or who is wrong. Honestly, this is all embarrassing. Dino Melaye’s elaborate drama is uncalled for. It diminishes the upper house of our national legislature and the way the Senators have handled it raises questions about the calibre of persons we have there. At the very least, it calls to question the quality of people in leadership there.
The matter was not a Senate matter at any level. If Dino Melaye felt libelled by the claim, the only forum open to him is the court of law. Going to the Senate to be justified by his friends is an abuse of parliamentary privilege. The same for the appearance of the Vice Chancellor. When all is said and done, there still is no evidence that Dino Melaye has a degree indicating that he graduated from Ahmadu Bello University. The mere words of the present Vice Chancellor sixteen years after he supposedly did this degree do not constitute proof. The only proof is a certified original copy of a degree issued to him at the time he was supposed to have graduated. We have seen all sorts of documentation in public space, but we are yet to see that. If Dino Melaye is thinking of going to court, he is better advised to be armed with a true, certified copy of the degree certificate issued on the date of graduation by the university and signed by the Vice Chancellor at the time, otherwise he will be on a hiding to nothing.
I’m aware that there are people who would jump in here and accuse me of supporting Omoyele Sowore and SaharaReporters because of my relationship with the man and the outfit, but that would be far from the truth. There is nothing in what I’ve said here that supports Sowore and SaharaReporters because they are not on trial. In matters of libel, Sowore and SaharaReporters can only be challenged in a proper court of law, whether in Nigeria or in the United States. So, what is the issue? Sowore and SaharaReporters made a claim that Dino Melaye finds libellous. He should simply proceed to court and let Sowore come to prove his claim. I will not criticise Sowore and SaharaReporters until the courts find against them. However, I can comment on Dino Melaye, the Vice Chancellor and the Senate’s conduct because they are public persons and institutions. My criticism of them here is not based on whether their claims are true or not, my criticism is about the way and manner they are handling the whole affair.
Therefore, anyone who wants to criticise my position should please understand my point first before criticising me, because I will not be joining anyone in a discussion about the rights and wrongs of Sowore or SaharaReporters’ conduct, except a proper court of law finds against them. So, whoever wants to take me up on that should first encourage Dino Melaye to go to court, start the proceedings and serve Omoyele Sowore and SaharaReporters. And while he’s doing that, he and his colleagues in the Senate should knuckle down to real work in the Senate. They are not part of the Awada Kerikeri circus. They are Honourable Senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.