AS BIG AS IT GETS
The supreme quality of leadership is unquestionably integrity – Dwight D. Eisenhower
Do you remember when we were young? Our childhood was coloured with the innocuous fragility often associated with younglings. All we cared about were Jackie Chan, WWE, paper-ball and the savoury goodness of ice-cream. We had no care in the world about anything but ourselves and our entertainment. However, despite the bland simplicity of our infantile minds growing up, we were all repeatedly told about the value of honesty and the need to set our sights on achievement in life.
There are two kinds of adults: those who grow to live by the lessons they learned when they were younger and those who grow out of the warnings which were the soundtrack to their early years, becoming wildlings with no reference point for moral behaviour. I stand before you today My Lords as a representative of the first category and duly proclaim the scandal trailing Dino Melaye’s certificate a valid point of controversy.
How do we begin this story? From where do I start my journey to the planet of words which will help express my disgust over the fact that we are even still contesting whether or not this is a big deal?
One, so much is said about the importance of uprightness in leadership. It is the bedrock of any successful and corruption-free headship. Here we have a nationally-infamous controversial figure coming again to the tabloid scene like a political Kim Kardashian to bare his charismatic nakedness to the world, causing another brouhaha. We cannot possibly have a senator being accused of forging university certificates and be comfortable with it. When we have students slaving away in our godforsaken educational systems, struggling to graduate with strong degrees even at the expense of their sanity, it is unacceptable for Senator Melaye’s scandal to fade away into the negative physical space of nothingness. I say nay, My Lords. Justice bleeds even the notion of such ridiculousness. Permit me to call to the witness stand today, Former Leader of the Senate, Muhammed Ndume. Here is his response to the question of whether or not the issue warrants debate: “[Yes]. We should refer this matter to the Committee on Ethics and Privileges.”
Two, Senator Melaye has been amassing a wealth of reputation over the past year as a figure of much contestable stature. He strongly led the opposition against then Economic and Financial Crimes Commission chairmanship candidate, Ibrahim Magu, on the grounds that the Department of State Service had declared him an untrustworthy figure mired in alleged corruption cases. Senator Melaye stood high and mighty and charged against Magu like the saintly crusader he is. Isn’t that just peachy? Now, he is the one whose integrity is at stake and you want us to shrug it off as no big deal? I laugh in the language of confusion.
In addition, his attack on Comptroller-General, Hameed Ali, saying the latter is not fit to lead the Nigerian Customs Service just for appearing in mufti, is even more amusing in retrospect. He cried foul over Colonel Ali’s failure to follow basic due process and here he is, finding himself at the centre of a major storm – allegedly not graduating from the university he claimed to graduate from. When you have spent much time attacking others for perceived actions not in accordance with the law, the world needs time to lambast you over perceived forgery of certificate.
Three, his shady affiliation and allegiance towards the Senate President Bukola Saraki also makes this a amplified case. Seen in some circles as an illegitimate leader, Saraki has also got himself involved in corruption scandals. And at the height of the accusations in 2016 came Senator Melaye like a tone-deaf [or otherwise ulterior-motived] individual, swearing to the heavens that Saraki has his unwavering support, declaring such loyalty that neared deification. Then, for some reason he evaded investigations into their relationship and remained in the clear but eventually, the chicken comes home to roost. The certificate scandal should and needs to be made a really big deal so it can shine light on grey areas.
In the end, we deserve to know which of the involved parties is/are lying – Sahara Reporters, Ahmadu Bello University and Senator Dino Melaye. Who knows? Just maybe the reports are all lies. Whatever is the case, unless we make it a big deal, we will never get to the root of the matter.
No matter the number of zeros there are in a sum, it can never equal .1 ~Me
For close to a week, the eyes of innocent Nigerian netizens have been endlessly poked by nothing save arguments and counterarguments orbiting the certificate of one out of 109 Senators. No matter how many miles I walk through the estate of Facebook, the words Dinosaur, Dino, Dino’t, Certificate etc. keep trailing my gaze. I jump the fence over to the realm of Twitter, but these words still echo like the lyrics of a hit track. Ladies and gentlemen, shall we cut it out already?!
At a time when the nation’s economy is still under intensive care, when the instruments of terrorism are still not sheathed, when our brothers are perpetually harassed and killed by our junior brothers in South Africa, and when jumping inside the lagoon has become the new craze, our attention is forcibly arrested by whether or not one Senator graduated from Ahmadu Bello University. In this dire period, we find ourselves pointlessly occupied with this person’s number of credits in WASC. Some have even driven the debate farther into petty assertions about which school is “naturally ahead” and which is artificially behind. Can’t we see that this whole saga is an unhelpful distraction? Is it not obvious milords that we are making a mountain out of a molehill?
I am not saying, indeed, Mr Melaye graduated from Ahmadu Bello University. That is for the Senate Investigative Panel and the Court to determine. Neither am I saying facts pointing in the other direction should simply be overlooked or treated with flippancy. I am only saying we should take to Confucius’s advice and not use a canon to kill a fly.
One, a university degree has never been a legal prerequisite to a seat in the Senate, or even at the Aso Villa. Section 65(2) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) provides that “a person shall be qualified for election (into the Senate) if: (a) he has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent; and (b) he is a member of a political party and is sponsored by that party.”
And according to the same document, the expression “school certificate or its equivalent” can refer to a Secondary School Certificate or even a Primary Six School Leaving Certificate presented alongside other things. If this is the case, then why are we going to the bother of proving a legal inconsequentiality? Without the controversial certificate, Mr Melaye could well still have become a member of the Red Chamber. And without certificates too, anyone could still become a brilliant leader. If you do not believe, kindly ask the biography of America’s all-time greatest president, Abraham Lincoln.
Let us not forget that the art of academic forgery among political circles is just as common as official ages among dear footballers. We need not fish deeply within the vast ocean of history before we find similar examples in the cases of Salisu Buhari of the 4th Assembly, Bello Masari of the 5th Assembly, Dimeji Bankole of the 6th Assembly among others.
People who say this scandal is a big deal are the same set of people who would somersault in surprise at the sight of the headline, “BREAKING! Dog bites innocent man.” But when they read the reverse – “Man bites innocent dog” – their faces shall remain deadpan. I agree with the Igbo elders who postulated that when one’s goat goes missing, the aroma of a neighbour’s soup becomes suspicious. The goat, in this case, has not gone missing. Thus, what has happened is neither suspicious nor surprising.
Mr Melaye has always been in the news for the wrong things: assassination of witness, assaulting a fellow Senator, criminal intimidation, misrepresentation of facts, embezzlement and stealing his association’s brand new television while in school … and the list goes on.
I shall rest my case upon the spot-on juxtaposition of an expert witness, a political analyst and social commentator, Eseoghene Al-Faruq Ohwojeheri:
“It was a non-issue if the President went to secondary school. But it is an issue if a senator went to university. That the President could not have gotten into the Army without a secondary school certificate was a defence. That the Senator could not have been doing a Masters without a BSc is all of a sudden not a defence… Oh, what a shame! The Senator graduated with third class. Oh, it does not matter that the President had an F in Mathematics.”
The facts have spoken, milords. Let us lend our ears.