Melaye vs Tinubu: The bout, the protest, the jest

It began as a rumour, but it later turned into something of a joke. It all happened during a closed-door session of the Nigerian Senate. This means there were no journalists in the chamber, however, it somehow emerged that a male senator had threatened to “beat up” and “impregnate” a female senator, during a heated argument.

“I didn’t know that is what they do during their so-called closed-door sessions,” Joshua Nenger posted on Facebook on Tuesday.

The senators involved were reportedly Dino Melaye who represents Kogi West and Oluremi Tinubu of Lagos Central – both very prominent members of the National Assembly.

Even though most Lagos residents who spoke to Saturday Tribune during the week condemned what they described mostly as “violence against women”, a good number of them reserved a larger part of their ire for the entire membership of the legislative arm of government.

“As if it hadn’t dawned on us, Nigerians, that we are represented by bickering kids who seem more like the vilest of the populace, this current battle has to come to further highlight it,” said Mr Olumide Ayodele, an instructor at ICS Language Consult, Ikeja. “The childish bickering of both parties goes to show how we are being ruled and represented by talkative and childish adults who enjoy the monumental privilege of being called our representatives.”


Say no to violence

On Monday, scores of women thronged the Lagos State House of Assembly at Alausa to condemn Melaye’s alleged verbal assault on “one of their own”.

Led by Mrs Eunice Ogunleye, the protesters, dressed in blue jeans and white T-shirts, danced and chanted, as they marched determinedly along the Secretariat Road until they reached the State House of Assembly Complex.

Their placards were many. Some of them read: “Melaye, Senate is not your father’s house”, “Dino, leave Tinubu alone”, “Say No to Abuse”, “We Say No to Violence Against Women”, “Women Stand up against Dino.” They described Mr Melaye’s action as “unfortunate, condemnable, disgraceful, disgusting, irritating, shameful and most embarrassing to the collective psyche of the entire nation.” They specifically urged members of Melaye’s constituency to initiate a process that would lead to his recall.

The Deputy Majority Leader of the House, Honourable Wasiu Eshilokun would later note during Monday’s plenary that the senator’s action was capable of ridiculing the very essence of the legislature at all levels. Other lawmakers present at the occasion were Gbolahan Yishawu, Segun Olulade, Abiodun Tobun, and some principal officers, including the Majority Leader, Honourable Sanai Agunbiade and Deputy Chief Whip, Honourable Omotayo Oduntan, among others.

Some of those who criticised the women’s protest on Monday had faulted the choice of Lagos, since Melaye’s constituency is in Kogi State. But for these women, their visit to the Lagos House was only a part of a larger scheme. For example, they had, in their possession, petitions addressed to the governor of Lagos State, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, and President Muhammadu Buhari.

dino-burdilonWhile submitting a letter to the lawmakers, another leader of the group, Anike Adekanye, said the Kogi senator “had shown that he lacked the poise, panache, fitness and minimum character to occupy a seat among sane, revered and distinguished men and women in the hallowed chamber of the sacrosanct Nigeria Senate.”


Of dogs and thugs

Of course, Melaye has since maintained that a large part of the allegations was false. While addressing journalists in Abuja on Tuesday, he said it was Tinubu who initiated the war of words.

“Biologically, it is even impossible to impregnate Mrs Tinubu because she has arrived menopause. If you also look at the statement for those of you who are intellectually mobile, how can you say you want to beat somebody and at the same time you want to impregnate the person? If you juxtapose the two, is there any correlation? Does it make any logical sense? So when they planted this falsehood, they did not think deeply. I want to say that I will continue to uphold the culture, the tradition, the values of the Kogi West senatorial district, and I will not abuse it. But isn’t it absurd for a woman to look for her colleague and call him a thug and a dog when he has not personally addressed you. Unfortunately, I did not have the anointing to be quiet… I replied accordingly.  I repeat, there is no reaction without an action. If she did not call me a dog or a thug, there is no way I would have responded. I responded. I have no regrets for responding and defending my person…”


Comic relief

For the social media, however, all of this is a huge joke, intended only to serve as a kind of comic relief in the unfolding dark drama that is Nigeria.

It would seem, however, that it was the senator himself who opened the comedy. After it was reported that people loyal to the Tinubu family had threatened to beat him up should he ever visit Lagos, a picture of the lawmaker along the Lagos street where the Tinubu home is located surfaced online, suggesting that he had flown to Lagos just to dare his challengers.

To illustrate this scenario, a Facebook user, Egbuonu Charles Noble, on Wednesday posted a picture of a male fowl standing in front of a restaurant. The message beneath this picture reads: “Where are the people that dared me to stand in front of KFC?”

Another Facebook user, Ademola Okeniyi Timothy, on Tuesday, said the protest by women in Lagos reminded him of Alexander Pope’s “Rape of the Lock”, a satiric poem which compares the cutting of a lady’s lock of hair to the abduction of Helen of Troy.

Gbadura Oluwasola said on Tuesday: “When a woman who went to preach the gospel of God was murdered in Kubwa, Abuja… when a lady was killed by her husband at Egbeda, Lagos State… what did these protesting jokers do? Absolutely nothing.”

It is not certain when this drama will end, and whether any moral lessons will be learnt. A Facebook user and media practitioner, Abiodun Akanmu, thinks it has certainly gone on for too long:

“I’m tired of reading people’s comments about the name calling saga between two adults at the National Assembly,” he said. “For how long will these two continue to disturb public peace with their childish attitudes? There are more pressing national issues that should engage our attention…”