In the same national universe where senators stood down the Residential Electoral Commissioners’ confirmation hearing; where the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has added the ongoing alleged diversion of the Paris Club refund to his repertoire of scandals; where people in rural Benue have been imperilled by the same throttle-bottom Presidency that plagues the entire nation, it is almost a meaningless effort engaging Dino Melaye’s certificate issues.
Since the senator representing Kogi West has been accused of lying about his education history, he has resorted to entertaining the public with plunging levels of oddities. He is so desperate to shake off the shame of his scandals that he went as far as dancing naked in the market square. His bastardisation of a ceremonial gown Tuesday past spots him at his functionally illiterate and innumerate best. In his crass grandstanding of a perfidy, he wore a gown meant for doctoral candidates at graduation and further cemented his reputation as someone whom no symbol is too sacred to be profaned.
If thuggery were an academic discipline that one can obtain at a university that graduates one before one’s finals, he would have snagged a First Class within three academic sessions!
When he bragged about the number of certificates he had acquired, I was genuinely shocked that Melaye had any education — formal or informal. The narcissist parades multiple certificates the same way he parades cars; he must be fighting against an inner emptiness.
From his “honourable” days of fighting against the former Speaker, Patricia Etteh, to allegations of domestic violence and baby-daddy responsibility dodging, to his current inglorious career as Saraki’s backscratcher, he has barely evolved. How does one discuss a man like that at a time when the nation has other priorities?
Here and there, one runs into a conspiracy theorist who believes the hoopla about Melaye is merely another smokescreen being used to distract the nation from the “real issues.” Indeed, talking about him amidst other challenges Nigeria currently faces seems like an indulgence.
Yet, the truth of his case matters because the way the entire Senate, the people of Kogi West that he represents, and Nigerians in general, treat this case will be a measuring device that gauges whether we are a nation of people capable of governing ourselves or not.
Every cultural system throws up an aberration whose emergence threatens the wholesome functioning of the system that produces it. The system that survives the onslaught against itself is the one with an inbuilt auto-correction.
So, are our cultural and legal systems capable of apprehending a ghost in its own machine or they are shorn of any efficacy whatsoever?
It is tempting to dismiss this case as another of the many Nigerian dramas that debut week after week, work up our national blood pressure, but quietly peter out when we stumble on another distraction to sink our collective teeth into.
But no, this is more than Melaye, this is about the sombre way those that lead us react to their own issues of ethical and moral concerns. The questions are simple: Is Melaye lying or not? Is his school covering up for him or not?
For starters, the Senate is responsible for making laws for the rest of us. They are the ones who interrogate people that are assigned to certain positions of trust. They scrutinise the national budget and year after year, play a major role in determining the course of our national lives.
They are supposed to take themselves seriously enough to ask germane questions on every issue that impacts our national lives. With that level of responsibility, they owe it to the rest of us to not come across as a flippant or an unserious bunch of people who cannot put in the necessary scrupulousness and energy to pursue a case that concerns the integrity of one of their members.
The onus is currently on the Senate to thoroughly invest in the Melaye case with far more meticulousness than what they displayed on Monday.
What they termed an inquiry has been disappointing for its lack of rigour and one-sidedness. Yet, the instigator of the absurd show, Senator Ali Ndume of Borno State, has already backslapped his colleagues that they had done a good job!
No, that is not what a good job looks like. First, there was no need for the Vice Chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria to have been present at the inquiry. One of the many tragedies of Nigeria is that many Ogas-at-the-top construe the office they occupy as an extension of themselves and they do not have the good sense to delegate duties.
Both London School of Economics and Harvard that Melaye claimed he attended had university presidents but they did not take it upon themselves to respond to inquiries from the media.
They designated the responsibility to an official at the records office. It is not the business of the VC to be cross-checking the records to determine who is a graduate of the university or not; there is a reason the office of the registrar exists.
The only persons that needed to have been present were the officers at the university registry who should have appeared with the necessary documents to make their case.
Those officials should have presented his WASC and UTME results to compare with the university admission brochure and show that he had the requisite grades that qualified him for admission.
If possible, they should have come along with his examination papers and tests while in school. If they do not have those, they should have produced detailed documents that prove that he was in the university, registered every single semester he claimed to have as a student.
The Senate should also have questioned how a man who had a third class degree managed to obtain a Master’s degree from the university.
The Ahmadu Bello University delegation should have come with the university graduation brochure that showed that not only did he graduate in 2000 as he claimed and that he did so with the degree he brandishes.
The Senate should have cross-checked his NYSC certificate with records at the NYSC properly before exonerating him of any wrongdoing. That would have been a “good job” not the shoddy work they did.
None of the report I read about the Vice Chancellor, Ibrahim Garba’s testimony reported him presenting any meaningful document before the lawmakers. They said he alluded to records but there was no mention of him tendering any before the committee.
What “records” was he referring to and why was he — and not the registry officials — presenting the testimony? The documents that were presented to the Senate committee, according to reports, came from Melaye himself. The senators should have sought for more information to determine whether Melaye lied on oath or not. As for Ahmadu Bello University, Melaye is a litmus test of the integrity of certificates they issue.
There is a lot about Melaye’s case that already indicts the university; I hope they do the right thing from now on.
This is one important fact that should not be missed: The Senate never had a business investigating this case. While they can set up an enquiry on murky issues, they are not a court of law where certificate issues are meant to be sorted out.
What they owed the public was to have prevailed on Melaye to recuse himself from the Senate pending the time he would sort himself out in a court of law. He has already threatened a multi-billion naira lawsuit against his accusers and his fellow lawmakers and they could have waited for an outcome of the case.