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“If you live in a glass house don’t throw stones; and if you can’t take blows throw no blows. Harm no man; let no man harm you. Do unto others as they would do to you” – Peter Tosh, Jamaican reggae musician.
The face-off between senators Oluremi Tinubu and Dino Melaye on the floor of the Senate has attracted widespread attention and rave reviews. The venue of the dog-fight apart, the social status and political stature of the combatants as well as the contending political tendencies they represent in the Senate contributed in no small measure to the interest the unfortunate incident has generated. While Tinubu belongs to the Unity Forum senators opposed to the emergence of Dr. Bukola Saraki as Senate President, Dino is a staunch member of the Like Mind senators rooting for Saraki. Commentators have taken sides, some on gender basis and others on partisan political considerations, thereby obfuscating the real issues. There are conflicting reports concerning who started the war of words: While some said it was Tinubu; others said it was Dino. Both combatants have also pointed accusing fingers at each other in this regard. If Tinubu was the first to insult Dino, calling him “childish”, “dog”, and “thug”; this, certainly, is un-Parliamentary language. In the event that Dino first made the threatening statements that provoked Mrs. Tinubu; that, also, is un-Parliamentary. Anyone who has followed Dino’s political trajectory (from the House of Representatives presided over by Mrs. Patricia Olubunmi Etteh, going forward to his “promotion” to the Senate) will not find it hard to believe he is capable of what Tinubu accused him of. As for Tinubu, prior to the issue of Saraki’s controversial emergence as Senate President, she had been well-behaved. This is her second term; therefore, she is a ranking senator while Dino, a first-timer, is a rookie. But since the leadership crisis in the Senate began, Mrs. Tinubu had been caught off-guard at least twice by me, in which she made snide remarks at the Senate President and or her colleagues. So, my hunch is that both senators have allowed the rift in the Senate get the better part of them.
Whoever cast the first stone needs be told in plain language that he/her overshot the run-way. That is the import of the quotation above by a Rastafarian. And whoever it was who retaliated against the offence of the other is a worse offender. Senate rules allow neither threatening words nor the use of un-Parliamentary language by members; it is safe to also believe that it leaves no room for retaliation or self-help. That being so, the excuse of both combatants that; “he/she assaulted me first”, holds no water. In soccer, the rules frown at retaliation; thus, a player who retaliates against a foul committed on him bags a sterner punishment than the original offender. If footballers understand this, we expect no less from the highest-paid legislators in the world! Neither should have engaged in self-help but should have left that task for the presiding officer in the same way an aggrieved footballer is expected to leave the job of punishing infractions for the referee. To avoid anarchy and honour constituted authority – that is the path of rectitude. By crossing swords, the combatants demonstrated their lack of confidence in, and respect for, constituted authority. And, gosh! Dino over-reacted if, truly, he said all the unprintable things credited to him. His response was not measured at all. He has, however, recanted.
This unsavoury event rubbishes the Senate and lowers it in the estimation of right-thinking Nigerians. Did the incident not happen in an Executive Session, which is supposed to be out-of-bounds, out-of-view, and out-of-hearing of non-members? How come it became common knowledge? I have yet to hear of appropriate steps taken by the Senate leadership to call its errant members to order. Instead, senators who should be sorry are falling over one another taking sides and desperately outdoing one another in their choice of derogatory words. This is quite unfortunate. Sharply divergent positions are hardening rather than thawing in the Senate. The die, as they say, is cast! The Tinubu/Dino war is, no doubt, also the battle of proxies. The fire-work has, understandably, gutted the National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, husband to Oluremi and himself an erstwhile Senator. Which of two hats will the Asiwaju put on in this matter: that of a husband protecting his wife or that of a party leader dispassionately adjudicating in a quarrel between two party leaders? Dino is a staunch supporter of Saraki who is estranged from party leaders. Saraki has severally fingered Asiwaju Tinubu as the brain behind his ongoing travails – an allegation Tinubu has denied.
I know Dino. When he failed to get a second term ticket in the House of Representatives on PDP’s platform, he dumped the party, joined the opposition ACN and became, characteristically, a fire-eating and unsparing critic of Jonathan. He also became an anti-corruption and Bring-Back-Our-Girls crusader. Pronto, he was rewarded with a big post and became a regular in the company of party leaders. Contesting for the Senate under APC was also one of the rewards for a job well done that Dino got from party leaders. Everyone who gets close to Dino should know him. He does not hide; probably, naturally, he cannot hide. There is nothing that he is today that he has not been since I knew him in 2006. Therefore, there is nothing people are noticing in Dino today that they should not have noticed a long time ago. And I can swear that they did! But because they were the ones holding the leash of the “attack dog” as they unleashed him on others, it was sport; but now that the “attack dog” has turned on them is when they see the need to appropriately tag him to hang him! Give me a break, please!