By Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi
Dear Senator Dino Melaye,
I hope all is well with you. I trust you had a safe trip back to Abuja after your ‘Show of Strength’ walk on Bourdillon Road, Ikoyi, Lagos. It seems your walk was not properly advertised in advance, otherwise you would have been very warmly received by Lagos boys. I am sure no harm would have come to you, it is only your pockets that would have suffered.
I am writing in connection with the very exciting week you have had, specifically on the floor of the Senate where you got into a serious altercation with a female colleague of yours, Senator Remi Tinubu. In light of this development, I would like to offer you some unsolicited advice, which I hope you will accept in good faith. I would like to suggest the following:
- You have to apologise to all Nigerian women
According to media reports, the exchange between you and Senator Tinubu was a very heated one. It is claimed that you threatened to beat her, ‘f………K’ her up and ‘impregnate’ her. Oh dear! Considering the fact that it is not possible to impregnate a woman without intercourse (unless it is IVF, but we know you were not thinking of that method) it means that you were actually threatening Senator Remi Tinubu with rape on the floor of the Senate. This is not only totally unacceptable, it is criminal. Two days later, you emerged with your own side of the story. You claimed she called you a ‘Dog’. I know Senator Remi Tinubu is no slouch when it comes to verbal warfare, but she did not threaten you with castration. You could have called her names in response, and you would have been even. You did call her ‘Bonga Fish’ but apparently that was not enough, you had to go further, to show her that you are ‘the man’. Let us set aside ‘she said’, ‘he said’ for a moment. Let us look at what you said. According to you, even if you were so inclined, you could not impregnate Senator Tinubu because she has reached menopause! So now, menopause is a crime? an affliction? How is the gynecological status of your colleague any of your business?
There have been calls for you to apologise to Senator Remi Tinubu. I believe you need to do that. However, she is not the only person you need to apologise to. You have to apologise to all Nigerian women for such a vicious and obscene attack on a female colleague. By bringing threats of sexual assault and mockery of her menopausal status into play, you have offended millions of wives, mothers and daughters. The husbands, fathers and sons who are reticent about the women in their lives playing a role in politics will find themselves vindicated through these actions of yours. What transpired on the floor of the Senate last week was not just a bad day at the office for the elected Senators, it was a terrible thing for Nigerians, especially women. Senator Dino, we will be expecting that unreserved apology.
- You need to rebrand yourself.
Every political space should be broad enough to accommodate the brazen, the eccentric and the colourful. Politicians with your skills set who can do and say things others cannot, are necessary when unconventional strategies are required. I am not saying you are crying more than the bereaved, but if you take a look at your political leader, Dr Bukola Saraki, the Senate President, not even his many political foes would describe him as a thug or brute. It is therefore understandable that you feel the need to play the foil to your polished boss.
When people think of the name Dino Melaye in Nigerian politics today, the name is synonymous with negative controversy, brawling, sex scandals, reckless statements, allegations of domestic violence, distasteful flamboyance – an all-round bad boy image. You have all kinds of nicknames, ranging from ‘Shakiti Bobo, to Rofo Rofo Senator to Dino the Dinosaur. Senator Dino, are you sure you want these characterisations of you to become set in stone? Is this the brand you are comfortable with? We have many branding experts in Nigeria. I strongly suggest that you invest in them, perhaps they can help project you as an articulate, charismatic leader and social justice advocate who speaks truth to power but is mindful of his age, status, words and audience. That is the brand that will take you to the next level. The brand you are stuck with now is one that brings diminishing returns.
- You should re-position yourself as a positive male role model
Senator Dino, I am sure you will agree with me that our youth in Nigeria need positive role models. It is important for young people to be able to look up to both men and women for guidance, but it is even more powerful when young people can see themselves in role models of the same gender. We need our young men to have manners, and be polite, responsible citizens. We do not want to see our sons fighting over paternity scandals with their Baby Mamas, accused of beating their wives, or threatening their colleagues with sexual violence. The next time you feel like whacking one of your colleagues, please remember that young people might model themselves after you.
- Show us your own ‘local product’.
Remember when you took Governor Adams Oshiomole of Edo State to task for using scarce foreign exchange to marry and import a ‘foreign product’? We know you have had a couple of misadventures when it comes to matters of the heart. I wish you better luck in that department. You are entitled to privacy, however, you take an unseemly interest in the spouses of others. If they are not ‘foreign’, they are too ‘Bonga Fish’ for your liking or horror of horrors – menopausal! Senator, please show us your own local, curvy, far from menopausal product. And be sure to let us know when she hits menopause so that we can all help you inform her that she is no longer useful. At least we know that Governor Oshiomole did not waste his dollars on his own ‘import’!
- You might not need the blessings of your elders, but you should avoid their curses
Regardless of where we stand on the ideological spectrum or the company we keep politically, our starting point is our humanity, and the imperatives that it comes with. We might not always see eye to eye with our elders. It is alright to disagree on matters of principle or strategy. It is not alright to dehumanize each other. Even if you cannot find it within yourself to respect Senator Remi Tinubu as a colleague, you can at least think about the fact that her husband Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is an elder statesman, a formidable leader well respected within and beyond the country. We are brought up to respect our elders, and even when they upset us, we learn to reign in our tongues and tempers. We were also taught that one of the most coveted things in life is the blessing and prayers of elders. This means one of the worst things is the curses of an elder. The most garrulous soldier is not the bravest man in the garrison. A word is enough for the wise.
So my dear brother Senator Dino, I hope you will do what is necessary and focus on your primary task of being a lawmaker in the Senate. Battles are commonplace in the political arena, and all kinds of weapons are deployed. The dignity of women should not be one of such weapons. I wish you all the best.
PS: Senator, we Nigerian women will forgive everything if you can deploy your unique skills in our defence when the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill is re-presented at the Senate. We need to see you in action – anyone who opposes the Bill should incur your wrath. Spare no one! If you can do that, we will wipe the slate clean and your rebranding would be well on the way.
Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She can be reached at BAF@abovewhispers.com
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