The Chairman, Senate Committee on the Federal Capital Territory, Senator Dino Melaye, speaks with FRIDAY OLOKOR on Senate President Bukola Saraki, the anti-corruption crusade of President Muhammadu Buhari and other national issues
What motivated you to go into politics?
My drive in politics is to make life more bearable for Nigerians. My interest in politics is for developmental reasons. I am in politics to right the wrongs of the society. I am in politics to offer palliatives to Nigerians. I am in politics to make sure that the youths of this country get their fair share in power sharing and resources of this country. My drive has always been revolutionary books which affected my life. Early in life I read books on Mahatma Gandhi, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. and that has helped in revolutionising my life and resulted in a positive effect on me politically. So my driving force is my orientation, my indoctrination from most autobiographies that I have read and more important God.
Most Nigerians, especially your peers, have expressed reservations about your sudden rise politically. How did you do it?
I give all honour, glory and adoration to the Almighty God who has supreme control over the universe. I want to believe that God is the ultimate reason for where I am today. I have tremendous belief in myself and I believe that every man must dream a dream; every man must have in mind the picture of what he intends to be; and I want to believe that with resilience, commitment, perseverance and prayers, one will always attain his goal in life. It is not all about me; it is about God. Failure to plan is planning to fail. For me, the battle to attain my goal is a battle of no retreat, no surrender and I will continue to pursue it. I also want to announce that I am still climbing the ladder. I still have some steps up to climb.
What is the future of youths in attaining the political leadership of this country?
Power is never served as a buffet. To attain power, you must struggle for it. The youths of this country will not get power on a platter of gold. So they must come out of their cocoons and begin to make sacrifices in search for power. The youths of this country must be resolute. They should be interested in how they are being governed and they must be interested in policy formulation and implementation. They must be interested in their political and economic environment. That is the only way they can capture power because power is not given; power is taken. The youths of this country must show capacity and interest in every facet of our national life and they must also make sure that they react to the environment. Power ultimately belongs to God. But when man wants it, man must labour for it because he that refuses to labour should not eat. The youths of this country are about 65 per cent of our population and have about 70 per cent of the voting rights in this country. The youths have the strength, the energy, the dynamism, the intellectual prowess and more important the population to capture power.
Several allegations have been made that you are close to the Senate President, against the interest of your political party, because he ‘settled’ you. What is your reaction to this?
Bukola Saraki is my friend. He is my brother and I value friendship. My definition of friendship is he or she who walks in while others are walking out. I am not a monetised character. I don’t commercialise my conscience. I do what is only right in man’s sight and in the sight of Almighty God. No one has the money to buy me. My relationship with Bukola Saraki is true friendship and I will stand by him come rain or shine. I will always be by his side as a friend and I will always advise him rightly. I did not pitch any tent against my party because as a senator, I swore an oath before God and before man using the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and also using the Holy Book. I swore to uphold the constitution and there is no All Progressives Congress senator, there is no Peoples Democratic Party senator. All we have is senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. So, the party to me is just a vehicle for winning elections because no political party in this country is ideologically based; no political party in this country has a manifesto that is being implemented. The governor of Kaduna State is from the APC; the governor of Kano State is from the APC, but the programmes of the Kaduna State governor is apparently at variance with that of his Kano State counterpart. So people should not use the instrumentality of political parties to determine loyalty to the nation. My loyalty is first to Nigeria before my political party and the independence of the Senate is important to me. I believe that the internal issues of the Senate should be handled internally and I give my support to Bukola Saraki. I have no regrets about it.
So was your loyalty why Saraki compensated you with the position of chairman, senate committee on the Federal Capital Territory?
In every facet of life, people work for loyalty and today as a Muslim or as a Christian, we all strive to make heaven because there is a hope and a promise of eternity. So if a man gets rewarded for diligence and loyalty, it is not a crime. And if I got rewarded with the position of chairman, senate committee on FCT because I was loyal to Bukola Saraki, then the losers should lick their wounds.
Many believe that you are young and therefore they query the source of your stupendous wealth. How did you get your money?
I don’t know about stupendous wealth. I don’t know about being wealthy, but I will say I am a comfortable Nigerian and I have never got any contract from the government contract in my life. I have also never taken any political appointment in my life or a position where I have control over government funds. I have never had government imprest and I challenge anyone who has any criminal allegation against me to actually come out and present it. With the vigour with which I fought the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, if I had any skeleton in my cupboard, by now it would have been exposed. For a man who buys very expensive cars with his name labelled on the number plate, it is enough to tell you that he is clean. I am a very transparent Nigerian, a very open and honest Nigerian. I have never stolen from government and I can say it without fear. I challenge anyone to prove me otherwise. But at the same time, God is the ultimate giver of legitimate wealth and anyone who really wants to tap into the anointing of getting resources from God should please consult me.
Before you became a senator, were you already a millionaire?
I have not acquired anything dramatically new since I became a senator. The houses I have in this city (Abuja), I acquired before being sworn in as a senator. Hard work pays and the Holy Book says God shall supply my needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To me, that is very fundamental. My source of wealth is heavenly, my purse is divine and it won’t dry up.
You were the brains behind the ‘Like-Mind’ senators; a platform through which Saraki became the Senate Presidnt. Now, he is facing the Code of Conduct Tribunal over discrepancies in the declaration of his assets. Why didn’t you advise him to resign honourably?
I am not Bukola Saraki. I don’t speak for Bukola Saraki. And I cannot speak for Bukola Saraki. But all I want to say is that if Bukola Saraki thinks he is guilty, he should resign. But if he thinks he is not guilty, there is no reason he should resign. I say it without fear or favour that what Bukola Saraki is passing through is not prosecution. It is persecution. You don’t punish a man for being ambitious. The reason Saraki was before the Code of Conduct (Tribunal) in the first instance was because he was being ambitious. President Muhammadu Buhari is also an ambitious character; having contested (the presidential) election three times and he got it (won the poll) the fourth time. That shows how ambitious he is and then getting to the Presidency now, he should not be queried for being ambitious. I am also ambitious; I want to be the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is God that gives power to whosoever he wishes. So for me, the CCT trial is a kangaroo one and at the end of the day, nothing will come out of it. Just as the case of forgery was withdrawn, this in due course won’t see the light of the day.
You founded the Anti-Corruption Network. How will you assess Buhari’s administration in his fight against graft?
The President is sincere about his corruption war. But is the approach right? He cannot say so. I want to say the approach of Mr. President in fighting corruption will yield no dividends because in the ongoing trials, no single Nigerian has been successfuly prosecuted and jailed. Because of the magnitude of resources available to the looters of our national treasury, they will have a way of manipulating Nigerian courts. Most of the cases are still at the court of first instance and one year after, witnesses have not been examined and cross-examined in the courts. Then you will use two years in the court of instance, you will use another two years in the Court of Appeal and you have the Supreme Court. By that time, the President might have been out of power, money not retrieved from the looters, time and resources wasted because the Federal Government is also engaging lawyers and congesting the courts. I believe in transparency, accountability and respect for the rule of law. But in this particular incident, I am advocating for an economic amnesty in the sense that government will invite all looters and ask them to return the loot within a stipulated period of time, for example six months. If in six months the loot is not returned, then we should have a court that will expeditiously sentence them within the shortest time possible. By so doing, it will be a win-win situation for all because ultimately, at the end of the day, we want these monies to be recovered so that they can be used for the development of this country. We must look at the procurement process in the country that gave birth to the weak structures that exposes Nigerians to corruption and stealing. We must look at the procurement laws and the loopholes that create room for stealing and wastage — that must be looked at critically. Secondly, we must block wastage; without doing all these, the same corruption structure remains and it will still be exploited.
The Presidency is said to have been hijacked by a cabal. Do you believe this, going by the allegation recently made by the First Lady, Aisha Buhari?
I am not an occupant of Aso Rock, so I don’t really know if it has been hijacked or not. And, I don’t know if it has been invaded or not, because I don’t have access to Aso Rock.
The recent amendment to the Code of Conduct Bureau and CCT Acts were believed to have been due to the ongoing trial of Saraki. Is that correct?
For everything in this world, there is a reason; situations give birth to circumstances. We amended the Act of the Independent National Electoral Commission because Prince Abubakar Audu died and we discovered that there was no provision in our laws for somebody who eventually won an election and died before swearing-in. So, the lacuna in our law necessitated the amendment of the law. For every amendment, there is a reason for it. I want to say that the reason for all the amendments in the CCB and CCT Acts are also as a result of necessity. I want you to disassociate the person and personality of Saraki from any amendment because Bukola Saraki is occupying an office that is time-bound. These laws will live beyond him. They are lifetime established laws for generations yet unborn. It will outlive all of us and people should not tie a particular law to a particular individual. Laws are made for man and not man for laws.
Since the death of the former Minister of State for Labour, James Ocholi (SAN), Kogi State has not been represented in the federal cabinet. Are you satisfied?
I moved a motion today (Wednesday) on the floor of the Senate quoting the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Section 14, saying the people of Kogi State have been automatically robbed socially, economically and politically because for eight months now we don’t have a minister. Our mileage has been completely shortened and the provision of the constitution made it explicitly clear that there shall be, meaning that at all times there must be one minister from each state of the federation. So for me, it is a constitutional breach that for eight months, we are not represented in the federal cabinet. That has been taken care of and we got the resolution of the House, mandating Mr. President to immediately recommend to the Senate for screening a minister representing Kogi state.
Recently, you had an altercation with a fellow senator, Oluremi Tinubu, what is the update?
For me, old things have passed away and behold they have become new. I leave the dead to sleep.
It was alleged that she was not the one you were targeting but her husband because of the role he played in an attempt to stop Saraki from becoming Senate President.
I am trying to emphasise again that I don’t cry over spilt milk. The things of history are left in the realm of history. I have moved on.
Why is it difficult for Saraki to publish details of the National Assembly’s budget, despite his promise to do so? Is he or the Senate up to something else?
The truth of the matter is that the Freedom of Information Bill has been passed; Nigerians should take the opportunity of the FoI Bill to ask any Nigerian anywhere, not only the National Assembly, including the President, any question they want. You have the right to write Saraki and ask him any question about the finances of the National Assembly and he is obliged by law within seven days to respond. There is no secret about that.
You are from the Okun Yoruba-speaking part of Kogi State and your people have been crying of marginalisation by the Igala ethnic nationality that has been controlling the political machinery of the state. What are the chances of the Okun people producing the next governor?
Power is not given; power is taken and when it is time for us to get it, we will take it.
What is your relationship with your governor, Yahaya Bello? It is believed that you are having some altercations over the sharing of political offices in Kogi State?
The relationship between me and the governor is the relationship between a citizen and his governor. He is my governor and I am a citizen of the state.
Where is Mrs. Melaye and what can you say specifically about your marital life?
I am single. I have three children. But I am not married. I won’t remain single forever. Very soon I will invite you (to my wedding) and I assure you (that the person I will marry) will be a Made-in-Nigeria woman.
Why do you find it difficult to settle down with one woman?
I have always been married to one woman and all my children are from one woman. I have only been married once. Whatever marriage I am going into now will be my second marriage. If you are anxious to know, I will invite you.
Are you ruling out the possibility of reconciling with your wife?
I don’t have a wife.
Some Nigerians have a negative perception about you. Are you not disturbed by that?
There is no negative perception about me on social media. I appreciate those who appreciate me and I get a lot of support from there. I get a lot of encouragement. Nigerians have demonstrated love for me. I don’t think there is any politician that has the kind of followers I have on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and I get a lot of love and appreciation from Nigerians. But you cannot rule out those who will antagonise you. It’s normal and it happened to Jesus Christ and Prophet Muhammad. It is the same with everybody. You can’t be loved by all but I want to say that all those who dislike me, who blackmail me, and lie against me, are giving vitamins to my soul and it makes me fresh.
Why do you love cars?
I love automobiles and everybody can be passionate about a particular thing. Some can be passionate about homosexuality. They can spend any amount of money to sleep with a man. Some are passionate about occultism. They can buy blood at any amount of money. Some are passionate about diamonds; you can ask Diezani (Alison-Madueke). My passion is automobiles and there is no crime in that and I am very proud of it. Once the automobiles are not products of crime and they are not got from any ill-gotten wealth, then a man should be proud about what he is passionate about. I love automobiles and I am waiting for the next collection.
You have ordered for more cars at this period of economic recession, when many Nigerians, even those from your constituency and senatorial district cannot feed and there is poverty everywhere?
Yes, my cars cannot underwrite the recession problems of this country. Even if you sell my cars now, it will not make Nigeria to come out of recession.