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Then they came for Dino…

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Senator Dino Melaye (APC – Kogi West) PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/DINO MELAYE


If the German Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemoller had been in Nigeria last week, he would have done contextual reporting of this Dino Melaye developing story somehow for all actors to learn from. He would have opened the saga thus:

First, the neo-fascists came for the Dasukis, we did not speak out – because we were not from the Caliphate; 
Then they came for the Sarakis, and we did not speak out – because we were not of Fulani-Yoruba stock;
Then they came for the Metuhs and we did not speak out – because we were not Igbo;
Then they came for Ms. Olunloyo and we did not speak out because we were not bloggers of Yoruba extraction;
Then they came for the Misaus and we did not speak out – because we were not retired police officers from Bauchi; 
And then they just came for Dino and we were speaking in tongues too – because we were not Kogi- based Yoruba… 
And so when they will come for us, there will be no one left to speak out too. And democracy would have disappeared! Hello, my silent brothers’!

Martin Niemoller (1892–1984) whose thought inspired this,was a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps. 
Niemöller would be best remembered for the quotation: 
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.The quotation stems from Niemöller’s lectures during the early postwar period. Different versions of the quotation exist. Much controversy surrounds the content of the poem (said to have been spoken offhand) as it has been printed in varying forms, referring to diverse groups such as Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, Trade Unionists, Communists depending upon the version being quoted.

Nonetheless his point was that Germans—in particular, he believed and the leaders of the Protestant churches—had been complicit through their silence in the Nazi imprisonment, persecution, and murder of millions of people.

Only in 1963, in a West German television interview, did Niemöller acknowledge and make a statement of regret about his own anti-Semitism. Nonetheless, Niemöller was one of the earliest Germans to talk publicly about broader complicity in the Holocaust and guilt for what had happened to the Jews.

In his book Über die deutsche Schuld, Not und Hoffnung (published in English as Of Guilt and Hope)—which appeared in January 1946—Niemöller wrote: “Thus, whenever I chance to meet a Jew known to me before, then, as a Christian, I cannot but tell him: ‘Dear Friend, I stand in front of you, but we cannot get together, for there is a guilt between us. I have sinned and my people have sinned against your people and against yourself”. 

The German cleric, soldier, former politician and repentant supporter of Adolf Hitler also revealed the cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazis’ rise to power and subsequent purging of their chosen targets, group after group.All told, Niemoller’s message has been useful when persecution, guilt and responsibility come into focus anywhere. The classic has also become a useful verse to answer a question:”should I be my brother’s keeper?”

Iconic Martin Niemöller was a German Lutheran pastor and theologian born in Lippstadt Germany, in 1892. He was an anti-Communist and supported Adolf Hitler’s rise to power at first. But when Hitler insisted on the supremacy of the state over religion, Niemöller became disillusioned. He became the leader of a group of German clergymen opposed to Hitler. In 1937, he was arrested and eventually confined in Sachsenhausenand Dachau. He was released in 1945 by the Allies. He continued his career in Germany as a clergyman and as a leading voice of penance and reconciliation for the German people after the World War II.

Niemoller’s statement in focus today has also become a popular model for describing the dangers of political apathy even in so many settings including the Unites States where it is engraved. At the United States Holocaust Memorial Museumin Washington, D.C., the quotation is on display in a variation that substitutes “Socialists” for “Communists”. The Holocaust Museum website has a discussion of the history of the quotation.

Also, a version of the poem is on display at the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. The memorable verse is also presented at the Virginia Holocaust Museum in Richmond, Virginia, the New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston, Massachusetts and in The Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.

In the main, this discussion point is not about Senator Dino Melaye. Nor is struggle for democracy about President Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Senate, Dr. Bulola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. YakubuDogara alone. It is about safety of democracy in the most populous black nation on earth, Nigeria. There is no doubt that Senator Melaye has not been a good poster boy for democracy and decency. He has become a maverick of some sort. There will be little doubt about Dino’s character flaws even as one of the arrowheads of activism and legislative rascality and other eccentricities that can be associated with the Red Chamber. Besides, not many citizens have so far been satisfied with the National Assembly where he serves.

And so there is a sense in which the senator now in the eye of the storm can be described as a tragic hero. Yes, as noted earlier, there have been flaws in his character. Whatever he has been manifesting, however, he represents a district in Nigeria’s 109 senatorial districts. In the same vein, he is a citizen of Nigeria. He is also a member of the ruling APC. It is on record that Senator Dino was a good friend of candidate Yahaya Bello who is now the governor of (their) Kogi State.

What is more, there is no record that Senator Melaye was opposed to the strange politics and jurisprudential absurdities that brought Governor Bello to power.
So, when they came for Hon .Faleke James Abiodun who was to be the governor, Dino was one of the strong ones who kept quiet despite his affinity with Faleke. So, Dino cannot be regarded as an innocent bystander in the political shenanigan that has made his Kogi state toxic.

But despite all the eccentricities, for democracy to be safe, the law must be allowed to rule, not man, not the police…Yes, the rule of law is the firewall of the majesty of democracy.That law should also rule citizen Melaye and the police force operations.

The rule of law is absolute predominance or supremacy of ordinary law of the land over all citizens, no matter how powerful. For the impressionable minds who do not know the essence of the rule of law in governance of a nation, the concept was first expounded by the UK law Professor A. V. Dicey in his 1885 book ‘Introduction To The Study Of Law Of The Constitution,’ it is based on three principles that (1) legal duties, and liability to punishment, of all citizens, is determined by the ordinary (regular) law and not by any arbitrary official fiat, government decree, or wide discretionary-powers, (2) disputes between citizens and government officials are to be determined by the ordinary courts applying ordinary law, and the (3) fundamental rights of the citizens (freedom of the person, freedom of association, freedom of speech) are rooted in the natural law, and are not dependent on any abstract constitutional concept, declaration, or guaranty. The deliverable here is that where the law does not rule, man does and there will be tyranny and authoritarianism.

In the same vein, we cannot discount the correlation between the rule of law and what objectivism exponent, Ayn Rand’s once observed that, “the smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities”.No doubt, the police have been curiously diligent in the prosecution of Senator Melaye in recent weeks. The police had explained that they wrote to the Senate President, Dr. Saraki and the Clerk of the National Assembly for permission to interrogate Mr. Melaye after some arrested criminal suspects named the senator their financier and armed supplier.The police had also accused Senator Melaye of frustrating all attempts to get him in for interrogation, although the senator denied this and all other criminal allegations against him.

After some of the suspects and witnesses reportedly escaped from police custody, the police launched a nationwide manhunt and added Melaye amongst the suspects who were at large. The police also said Mr. Melaye and other suspects had been placed on the Interpol red alert, but Interpol had denied that saying Melaye would not be placed on its watch list because of the political undertone of his case.

In any case, the garrulous legislator has since been in hospital even as the police said they have re-arrested and planned to take him to Lokoja to stand trial. But his recall verification took place at the weekend while the senator was in custody. Another curiosity!

In any case, the account of what happened last week is not as significant as the context of the curious diligence of the police in handling the senator’s prosecution barely a week after the same police could not protect the symbol of authority of the Senate, the mace, stolen in the Red Chamber. The same police said the suspended senator who was seen entering the chamber with the strange fellows who allegedly snatched the mace was not arrested but was protected from hoodlums. These are strange events in a week suspected hoodlums killed two Catholic priests and scores of citizens in the same Benue State that has been under siege since last year. And the police offered no clues yet!

There is no doubt therefore that democracy has become unsafe in the country. And sadly the law is no longer in charge. Only strong men are. The Abuja strongmen are reading Lord Alfred Thompson Denning upside down: The iconic jurist said, ‘be ye ever so high, the law is above you’.

Sadly, our political leaders who do not demonstrate in Abuja that they have a political party as a legal platform to respect, seem to be telling the police too that they should be ever so high, they are above the law. Our big men in Abuja including the law officers no longer respect the fact that the smallest minority on earth is the individual whose right must be protected even as a lawful captive.

Therefore, we the people need to be afraid of the consequences of impunity nurtured by complicity. And so the message of iconic Niemoller should not be lost: that they came for Dino in April and we should be socially intelligent to speak out, lest they will come for us in May and then we won’t find the Dinos to speak out.


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