Senator Dino Melaye’s political career has not been short of drama. Like every other mortal, he has had ups and downs. But whenever his detractors think he is down and out, their premature celebration is met with the news of his comeback. And he does it with a bang. He comes back bigger by delving into uncharted waters in regards to his career.
The former Kogi West Senator is the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate for the election coming up in November. He secured 313 votes to defeat his closest challenger, Idoko Ilonah, who got 124 votes.
In 2019, the same Melaye lost the PDP governorship ticket to Engr. Musa Wada. Dino came fourth in that primaries.
It was believed at the time that despite his popularity in Nigeria, he would not get the ticket of a major political party to run for governor in his home state. In fact, some observers saw his aspiration as trial and error.
Adding further doubts in their minds about him winning an elective position again, was when he lost the Kogi West Senatorial PDP ticket in May 2022, to Tajudeen Yusuf who is representing Kabba-Bunu/Ijumu Federal Constituency. The question on the lips of many Nigerians then was: ‘’who is Tajudeen Yusuf?’’ Unlike the irrepressible Dino, they never heard him speak on the floor of the legislative chamber.
It seemed as though his political fortune was waning until Nigerians found him at the forefront of Atiku Abubakar’s presidential campaign. A few months later, he emerged as the governorship candidate of the main opposition party in his state: a feat many didn’t see coming. He’s back in the political limelight where he belongs.
In 2019, has was re-elected by his constituents for a second term. Those who were not familiar with Kogi West were wondering how Mr. Melaye who had been through a cocktail of problems defeated the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Senator Smart Adeyemi, who faced no problems in the build up to the election.
It should be noted that Melaye defeated Mr. Adeyemi twice. In 2015, Melaye was a member of the APC while Adeyemi an incumbent senator was a member of the PDP. Melaye polled 41,120 votes, while his closest opponent, Sen. Adeyemi, polled 38,148 votes. In 2019, the embattled senator this time as a member of the PDP polled a total of 85,395 votes to defeat his main challenger, Adeyemi of the APC who scored 66,902 votes.
Against the odds he triumphed again. Those who are familiar with his activities at home were not in any way surprised that despite the forces against him, he was able to succeed. The 49-year-old senator known for his dogged ways was a member of the Federal House of Representatives from 2007 to 2011 on the platform of the PDP.
The highlight of his career in the green chamber was when he literally fought his fellow members when they had disagreements over burning national issues. The most memorable one was in 2010 when Hon. Melaye tried snatching a paper Hon. Chile Ogbuagu was reading. It led to a fistcuff which took the intervention of the security agents to restore calm.
His action made the then Speaker of House of Reps, Dimeji Bankole to suspend him for one year. Melaye was forcefully bundled out of the chamber when he tried to resist the decision to suspend them.
He has always described himself as an activist. Right from his Ahmadu Bello University days in the 90s, he has been an activist. He led the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and later became the Secretary General of African Youth Council and then that of the Commonwealth Youth Council. He was appointed by Olusegun Obasanjo to chair the Presidential Advisory Council of Youths.
Dino Melaye dumped the PDP when he failed to make it back to the house for a second term. He played a pivotal role in the nationwide fuel subsidy protest of January 2012. While Pastor Tunde Bakare led the Lagos protest, Melaye was at the fore front of the Abuja protest.
Many saw Melaye’s involvement as a way of getting back at the ruling party (PDP) for not giving him a return ticket back to the House of Reps. Melaye in the course of the protest called the president so many names which led to his arrest by police. He was however released on bail few hours later.
Melaye was also involved in the “Bring Back Our Girls” protest which many viewed as anti-government for it to wake up to its responsibility. However, people began to see it as a political movement to discredit the government of President Jonathan when Dino Melaye got involved.
Bolaji Akinyemi from Melaye’s constituency is of the view that he will continue to fight for the masses. He said, “His antecedents and his current statements show that he is a man that is committed to salvaging this nation. Melaye, is not there for his selfish interest but for the interest of the ordinary Nigerian.
“He is a grassroots politician that was why he was able to defeat Senator Smart Adeyemi. His people back home knew that he would represent the better then Smart Adeyemi that was why they voted him. If his political clout was once in doubt by some people, that doubt has been cleared with his performance in the February 23 Senatorial polls.
Surely, despite his playful ways on social media, it can be agreed that the boisterous senator is a force to be reckoned with as far as Kogi politics is concerned. Politics they say is local and Melaye understands this clearly. Some people are asking: how did he get elected to serve in the upper and low chambers of the National Assembly? I gathered that he was able to connect with the grassroots by going to his hometown regularly.
There is hardly any son of the soil in the western part of the state who has not come across Dino Melaye. He is what people call a ‘homeboy.’ Although he loves the city life as he as shown many times via pictures he posts on social media, he has not forgotten his roots.
While he flaunts his material acquisitions on social media, this reporter learnt that he has empowered thousands of people in his constituency. Small and Medium Enterprises have become the order of the day in Okun land due to Dino. And the people say they are not ready to trade that for anything else.
Melaye was involved in various certificate quagmire in 2017, including the oppositions to his claim to have obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Geography from Ahmadu Bello University and a degree from the Boston-based Ivy League Harvard University in the United States. Mr. Melaye was eventually cleared by the Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, Ibrahim Garba who appeared before the Senate Committee to confirm that the senator graduated from the school, although under a different name.
After that problem, he faced one of his biggest challenges five years ago when there was an attempt to recall him from the senate. It was alleged by Melaye that Governor Yahaya Bello was behind the move. He survived the recall attempt while in incarceration. He was in hospital under the watchful eyes of the Nigerian police while the drama unfolded. The lawmaker was said to have jumped out of a police van conveying him to Lokoja, Kogi State.
The exercise was so poorly conducted that only five per cent of the signatures were actually verified.
His problems started when he fell out with Yahaya Bello. He was a constant thorn in the flesh of the governor. He kept on reminding the governor that he needed to pay workers salary. Kogi State civil servants as at 2018 were being owed for over 12 months. It was so bad that some people lost their lives due to hunger and starvation. There was even a suicide case related to non-payment of salary by the state government.
Dino, an activist turned politician could not help but speak for the people. He became the voice of the oppressed in the state. While others spoke against the ills of the Bello administration in hushed tones, his voice was the loudest.
According to a source, Bello had had enough and decided to engineer the senator’s recall. Soon after there was a petition by some of his constituents in 2017 that he was not representing them well. The senator’s accusers gathered signatures to demand his recall but Melaye counter-accused the state governor, Bello, of being the mastermind of the plot. He subsequently approached the court to stop the process but could not get the relief he sought at the Court of Appeal.
Although Melaye was a member of the APC then, PDP members from Okun land decided to stand with their own. To them, if anyone should be removed, it was Yahaya Bello. As far as they were concerned, it was Bello that owed workers salary and not Melaye.
Former Deputy Governorship candidate of the APC in the 2015 elections, James Abiodun Faleke was quick to link the failure of the exercise with the unpopularity of the governor.
“Until those who worked so hard to win elections for the party in Kogi are given due recognition, Yahaya Bello will continue to struggle politically without results.”
“Even in detention, Melaye defeated him. Clear sign that Yahaya Bello is very unpopular in Kogi State.,” Faleke said.
That was not the end of his travails. On December 28, 2018, three days after Christmas, armed policemen stormed his residence in Abuja vowing not to vacate the premises until the lawmaker surrendered himself.
The police Sergeant who was on a stop-and-search duty said that he must answer to the alleged crime, which might likely keep him out for long if arrested. Melaye’s hide and seek game with the police ended on a dramatic note as he slumped minutes after he gave himself up. He was assisted to the police car by two plain clothed security personnel and driven to the police headquarters. He was said to be asthmatic. He was immediately lifted up to a sitting position while a female assistant brought out an inhaler and gave him a couple of shots in his mouth.
While his main opponent, Sen. Smart Adeyemi was campaigning, Dino was on a hospital bed. To make matters worse, the lawmaker was forcibly removed from the hospital where he was receiving treatment by masked security operatives.
Police spokesman, Jimoh Moshood, later said that Dino was moved to a medical facility of the State Services Service (SSS) in Abuja.
Many people, especially his detractors thought that his travails would make it impossible for him to get re-elected, but he did. They also thought it would be impossible for him to vie again in the future: but fast forward to today, he is the candidate of the PDP for governor in Kogi State. Senator Dino Melaye has proven again that he is like a cat with multiple lives.