By Dr Ugoji Egbujo
The police have been at Senator Dino Melaye’s gate. They have been there for days. The weight of that absurdity has fallen not on Dino Melaye who has been literally clowning; not on his friends and family who haven’t been consumed by shame; not on the police who seem lost; not on the Atiku campaign who thinks its not a moral burden; not on the society who seem apathetic.
The Police have an ugly reputation of immersing themselves in funny politics and acting arbitrarily. But a police invitation, even if borne out of bad faith, cannot be treated with contempt by a sane lawmaker.
Dino Melaye spurned police invitation. That’s what big men do. They have a romantic relationship with the police. The police understands them. Every romance has sour moments.
Imagine a roadside ‘vulcanizer,’ who fixes flat tyres, wanted by the police. And imagine a team of policemen gather at his door one morning in his face-me-I-face you shackle in an Ajegunle neighbourhood. That visit by the police will hurt his reputation. If he tries to evade the police by hiding under his bed or jumping the fence then many of his neighbors will instantly deem him a criminal. They will say that the just doesn’t run away from the police in that manner. They will say that ‘there can be no smoke without fire.’
But look at Dino Melaye. A big man. A senior lawmaker. A man who claims eight university degrees. He has access to dozens of Senior Advocates. He attracts television cameras. He is a spokesman for the leading opposition presidential candidate. Yet he evades policemen and their arrest warrant, in broad daylight. But that isn’t the real tragedy. The tragedy is that he is not visited by the social sanction, the opprobrium, the poor ‘vulcanizer’ in Ajegunle would have attracted by such lawlessness from ordinary folks.
Dino Melaye has told the police to go home and wait for him. The police say they have had enough of Dino Melaye’s truancy. So they have deployed men and scarce national resources to teach him one or two lessons . But unlike the neighbours of the poor man in Ajegunle, Melaye’s highbrow neighbors haven’t deemed Melaye’s actions repugnant.
Saraki, Senate President, actually thinks Melaye is a victim of a wayward police Inspector General. The poor men in Ajegunle would condemn the jobless man who evades a warrant of arrest. They will fix that slur on his social curriculum vitae. And would remind him of it whenever he got himself involved in a heated altercation in the neighborhood.
But Dino Melaye is a big man. His fellow big men would deem his actions as uncommon bravery. Someone would one day refer to him as the defender of democracy and the rule of law. They would say he tamed the police, put them in their place with his fearlessness. They won’t call it shameful rascality.
It is instructive that police have not lost their temper. Had they gone to arrest a ‘vulcanizer’ in Mafoluku they would have had no patience. They would have broken into his house and searched it and dragged him out. But the policemen in front of Melaye’s house are sitting like nurses.
When they finally get Melaye, they will observe all the rules in the book. In Ajegunle, they would make the ‘vulcanizer’ pay with tears for making them look like idle men. They would make sure his neighbours learn from his mistake.
Sometime last year the police enacted another drama with Melaye.
They invited him. He spurned the invitation . They let him roam. Sometimes, they roamed with him. Then suddenly, they declared Dino Melaye, a man within their reach, wanted. They actually wanted the Interpol to help them arrest a man in Abuja. The senator attended senate sittings fairly regularly. But the police chose not to see him or remember they wanted him.
Flamboyant Melaye decided to go to Morocco just before he was due to be in court. Then the police remembered him. Perhaps, someone reminded them of him. The immigration Service stopped him at the airport. The police at the airport refused to take him in. Perhaps there were no television cameras around. Melaye called on the United Nations and talked about crimes against humanity and then headed home. Once he was home the police came for him in great numbers. He refused to yield. No one knew then that the drama was just beginning.
Poor people living in IDP camps were brought in by big men. They stormed Melaye’s big man street in Free-Melaye vests. They came to tell the police to leave Dino Melaye alone. They were ready to cause some confusion if necessary. That’s the job of the poor, to exonerate the big man and fight for him. The police refused to yield. Melaye surrendered a few days later.
Distinguished Senator Melaye jumped out of a moving vehicle while being escorted by armed policemen of the dreaded Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS). That effrontery alone showed that some of the policemen were actually the senator’s friends. The vulcanizer who lives in Ajegunle or Nyanya cannot jump out of a moving police vehicle while being escorted by SARS men. Because he knows there are less painful ways of committing suicide.
When the big man is pushed by the police he feigns a medical emergency. Dino Melaye came by a broken neck and a collar when he jumped out of police custody. He can choose that route again . When the police find him, he can easily find his way to the national hospital. And stay there till everything cools down. The poor man knows his health cannot generate any concern. The Vulcaniser in Ajegunle who evades arrest will sleep in a dim, bedbug infested police cell, even he feigns a cardiac arrest. If he is charged he would be remanded in prison custody. He will servilely worship the police. He knows his prospect of bail would be more bleak if he chose the Dino Melaye route. Because an ordinary man who has strenuously evaded arrest will be deemed unlikely to present himself for trial by any good judge.
But the big man’s fate is different. The big man breaking the law and defying the police wantonly will tell the world that he is a freedom fighter. Many poor people will queue behind him and deify rather than condemn him. His friends will intimidate the police into cowardice. He will remember the names of a few illnesses and their symptoms and grease his way into being admitted into a big hospital. Then condolence visits from the high and mighty will ensue.
They are not often charged. When they are as unlucky as Dino Melaye and are charged they will secure bail quickly. It won’t matter that they had expressly undermined their eligibility for bail. They will boldly ask the judge to allow them travel abroad for medical treatment.
Dino Melaye can treat the police with contempt. He is a very big man. Saraki will make sufficient excuses for him. They are big men. They will get over it. But the taxi driver in Ihiala and the bus conductor in Mushin must not try the Dino Melaye stunt at home.