Dino Melaye Is Not A Fool

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Azu Ishiekwene

I’m not sure what his daytime job is, but if there was ever a politician permanently parked on social media that politician is Dino Daniel Melaye. 

He was in the Senate and tried to contest as governor of Kogi State. Before that, he was a member of the House of Representatives; before that he was the kingpin of his school’s students’ union; and later, Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Council on Youths, under President Olusegun Obasanjo.

But for some reason, we love to think of and remember him as a clown. Not just any clown, but one with credentials. On one occasion when the police were looking for him and it was feared he had been kidnapped, he later emerged to tell a tale of how he had spent 11 hours on top of a tree.

At another time, he jumped out of a moving police car, almost to his death, and said he took the plunge to save his life because the police officers in the car had diverted away from where they were taking him and were also trying to drug him.

And yet again, during police stake out, which lasted for days, Melaye holed up inside his house and was only sussed out after the weary officers cut off electricity and water supply.

From time to time, he composes and releases music videos comprising improvised songs by the Dino Melaye one-man band, taunting real and imaginary enemies. 

There’s hardly any controversial subject on which he has not produced a music video, often viewed and shared by thousands on social media, although the frequency has reduced since he failed reelection to the Senate and lost his National Assembly address. 

The new Melaye video now trending was not made by him; it was made for him. Within two days of its release on Dele Momodu’s Ovation Instagram TV, the video which is about Melaye’s curated lifestyle of luxury, had clocked 15,000 views and was still climbing.

We have seen Melaye in many poises before. We have seen him preening over his collection of exotic cars and fast bikes; we have seen him showing off his collection of designer shoes. We have seen him striking runway postures in garish attires at the airport lounge in some faraway country.

And we have also seen Melaye in flip flops in his former life, struggling to fit into his undersize trousers while protesting the neglect of the Chibok Girls, the hike in the price of petrol or some perceived injustice at the Eagle Square, Abuja, as organiser, as he then was, of the Anti-corruption Network. 

But nothing we have seen before, not the images of his former life of struggle or even those of his dramatic transition from grass to grace, compares with the luxurious splendour portrayed in the Ovation TV video. It’s luxury uber alles; one that kept Dele Momodu, himself no stranger to luxury tours, wowing like a fire truck throughout this particular tour. 

Some people have been outraged that Ovation TV indulged Melaye by recording and publishing the video. It was the same reaction that greeted the Ovation interview with former Petroleum Minister, Diezani Allison-Madueke, who pleaded ill-health as excuse for evading extradition. When she miraculously recovered, she purchased a Dominican Island diplomatic passport, as permanent cure for both her ailment and her extradition. 

I don’t know why they are outraged. Ovation has never pretended to be anything other than a celebrity playground. And it has done it very well. 

Others have been outraged, as indeed I was at first, for a different reason. Where did Melaye who, other than being a politician, has never had a paid day job all his life get the kind of money for this lifestyle of curated luxury? One Chopard wristwatch alone, depending of the features, costs between $4,000 and $11,000. 

And that’s at the lower end, with the top end, like Chopard 201 Carat costing up to $25million. In the Ovation video, we saw boxes full of different exotic brands from Chopard to Rolex and from Richard Mille to Patek Phillippe neatly tucked away in troves, with designer cuff-links in another box. 

That was not all. There was Hayabusa, a Suzuki toy bike that could buy a street in any middle-brow neighbourhood in Lagos or Abuja; there was Harley Davidson CC 1500; then there were the hat-shaped chandeliers; the bronze-plaited grandfather clock; the bronze bust of Julius Caesar from Athens; the intricate marble carving purportedly from a 97-year-old Chinese woman; the crystal plates laid out on exquisite marble dining table; the Persian carpets; and the box of 18th century hand-crafted Haddad-brand knives from Lebanon. 

And inside the house, somewhere that looked like a converted drive-in garage, sat a Rolls Royce in all its splendour overlooked by a photo gallery of icons from Martin Luther King to Mandela to Mahatma Ghandi, and from Mother Teresa to Bob Marley and Barack Obama, who must all be wondering how on earth their images became fair game in this treasure hunt.

For those who endured the video to the end, Momodu asked Melaye the soft version of the Daily Trust reporter, Eyo Charles’s question to Fani Kayode. He didn’t ask him who “bankrolled” this luxurious lifestyle, of course. Instead, Momodu said there were suggestions from viewers as he was streaming the tour that this must be money was from taxpayers, meaning that Melaye may have stolen the money while in office as senator.

It’s hard to blame anyone who thinks that video was Hushdino 2.0. The grandeur of the opulence, its audacity and sheer grossness in a country where the majority don’t know where the next meal is coming from, not to mention the air of vainglory with which Melaye conducted the tour, can make you mad. And in a time like this?

But something from Adebayo Faleti’s book, Won ro pe were ni (They thought she was mad), gives me a feeling that Melaye is not a fool. He knows what he’s doing and just like many of the stunts he pulled in the past, that luxury tour may just have been another stunt to show the world – that is, those who can still afford luxury items – his showroom. The poor can eat their heart out.

Anyone sharing the video, like I did angrily, may just have been unintended victims of Melaye’s well managed stunt. The guy is in business and social media is his accessory. No one with his mountain of transgressions against this government and his frosty relationship with the security services would keep a bunch of skeletons in his cupboard and still invite the press to stream it live. 

And you only need to think twice to realise that for a politician, it’s improbable to live, work and play – with family, friends and all sorts of company coming and going – in a place like that. Except of course, it’s what I suspect it is: a showroom! Whether the wares are original or what they call s’agbe l’oju yoyo (all that glitters…) in my part of town, is another matter.

How he stocked it? Only he can tell. My best guess is that there are luxury item dealers in Europe, US and Asia happy to flog imitations or defective originals well below cost price. In a COVID-19 year, it’s a tough market. 

There are also curators, who are desperate for partners in parts of the world with a growing population of avaricious elite, and who would be very pleased to work with the Dino Melayes. It’s up to the regulatory authorities, especially the tax office, to plug any gaps and ensure that the treasury is not shortchanged.

After falling out with the ruling party, losing an attempt to be his party’s flag-bearer in the governorship race, and then, losing his seat in the Senate, Melaye may have finally found a daytime job: selling a lifestyle of imaginary or curated luxury.

Ishiekwene is MD/Editor-In-Chief of The Interview

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