Tokunbo Melaye's family have responded to the statement Dino Melaye released a few days ago on his divorce, and explained why this case is important for gender rights in Nigeria.
On the 18th of December, Mr. Gbenga (Dino) Melaye released a statement through a certain Toyin Akande (Esq), addressing the divorce proceedings filed by Tokunbo Melaye (nee Fabiyi). Mr. Akande is purportedly a lawyer and a family friend. Tokunbo, who was Mr. Melaye’s wife for over a decade is not aware of any family friend or lawyer who bears this name.
The statement that was released on Mr. Melaye’s behalf was filled with malicious falsehoods aimed at deflecting attention from the very serious allegations of physical assault, psychological abuse and emotional trauma that Dino Melaye has inflicted on Tokunbo over the last decade.
Our preference as a family has always been for this issue to have been maintained as a private matter because of the three wonderful children that Tokunbo and Dino had together. Since Mr. Melaye has chosen to publicly malign Tokunbo’s image, and to impugn her character, we are constrained to respond to his recent statement, so that our silence is not construed to be consent.
We are aware that Mr. Melaye is a master of manipulation, and is extremely adept at using the press to his own advantage. For far too long, his deceptions have been allowed to go unchallenged by the Nigerian press. For over a decade, Mr. Melaye has muzzled Tokunbo’s voice. But truth is a persistent flame that cannot be forever extinguished. Tokunbo is not one of the numerous women of easy virtue that are Mr. Melaye’s stock in trade. Neither is she one of the government officials that Mr. Melaye regularly harangues for his own gain. Tokunbo is a loving mother of three lovely children, and she was until September 25th, 2013 a dutiful wife to Mr. Melaye.
Mr. Melaye’s statement had four broad themes which we will address in turn:
1. Mr. Melaye denied ever being violent to Tokunbo, and dared Tokunbo to show proof of any assault during their decade long marriage.
2. Mr. Melaye denied owning any “ammunition” and conceded that a police search of his office and premises took place in Tokunbo’s presence on Nov 4th.
3. Mr. Melaye insinuated that the three lovely and innocent children of their union, whom he (Dino) had prevented Tokunbo from seeing since September 25th, 2013, were with their mother, and that he only had “supervised access to them.”
4. Mr. Melaye claimed that Tokunbo was being used by his “political enemies”, and that she had “stolen” a car and other sundries from him and given it to her “lovers”
Proof of Mr. Melaye’s History of Assault
1. The Nigerian public is aware that Mr. Melaye has the unique distinction of being the first Legislator in our political history to turn the National Assembly into a boxing ring. It should not be too difficult to imagine what the private conduct will be, of a man who saw no issues with turning a hallowed legislative chamber into an arena of violence in full view of 160 million Nigerians. If the public Mr. Melaye is garrulous and prone to violence, the private Mr. Melaye, free from the prying eyes of outsiders, is an unfettered beast.
2. Abusers do not believe that their victims are bold enough to document their abuse. What they forget however is that others who love and care for those victims can detail the abuse on their behalf. A number of the assaults inflicted on Tokunbo over the years have required hospitalization, and in one case, reconstructive surgery to Tokunbo’s nose after Dino battered her. Every hospital dutifully places a record of each visit in a patient’s medical files. We have obtained certified copies of the records in Tokunbo’s medical files from two attacks – in 2005 and 2010 and these have been attached to this letter.
3. We are also glad to oblige Mr. Melaye’s challenge for proof with the attached pictorial evidence of his extensive history of abuse towards Tokunbo, from a vicious attack on her on Oct 1st, 2010. While Nigeria was celebrating its 50th independence anniversary, a man who is supposedly a conscience of the nation, was busy attacking his own wife with a wood plank.
4. The only reason why there are pictures from the 2010 assault was because Tokunbo’s brothers were in Abuja on the day in question and had rushed down to meet her at the Wuse Zone 3 Police Station which is close to their home, where she had fled to escape Mr. Melaye’s assault. Tokunbo’s brothers were present when the police took her statement, and were present when Tokunbo was accompanied by a police constable to Wuse Hospital for the treatment of wounds to her arms, sustained as she attempted to protect her head from being hit by a wood plank Mr. Melaye was assaulting her with.
5. Mr. Melaye’s shameful cowardice is also on record. After Tokunbo’s wounds were treated on Oct 1st, we (her brothers) went to Mr. Melaye’s residence to find out why he had assaulted our sister. On seeing us, the man who was a wood plank wielding warrior to a defenseless woman, took to his heels, asked his guards to lock his gates from the inside, and was reduced to peeping through a curtain. Mr. Melaye then placed a call to the police to report that “armed robbers” were at his home. The police response team that came was comprised of some of the officers from Wuse Zone 3 police post that we had met when Tokunbo had gone to make her statement. They immediately recognized us when they arrived, and left in disgust and disbelief that the distress call came from Mr. Melaye. The police can verify all these facts from their records.
Possession of a Gun vs. Possession of Ammunition & Claims of Arrest for Anti-Corruption Activities on Nov 4th
1. Why did Tokunbo stay with Dino Melaye for over a decade? We are a Christian family. As people of faith, we believe in God’s ability to change men and circumstances. That is how we were brought up. We were also taught that you should fight for the ones you love.
2. Tokunbo stayed and endured all that Dino did to her, because of her faith in God’s ability to change him and her belief that marriage is an institution that is sacrosanct. Above all, she stayed because of her children – all of whom she loves greatly. Mr. Melaye had made it clear to her over the years that if she ever left him, he would ensure that she never saw her children again.
3. Tokunbo only filed for divorce when the assaults from Dino escalated to the level of having a gun pulled on her. A man who had broken a laptop on her head, attacked her with a wooden plank, broken her nose to the extent that it required surgery, beaten her to the point of miscarriage of one pregnancy, assaulted her to the point where her last child was almost born preterm and she required Cervical Cerclage (suturing of the cervix) to prevent the loss of that pregnancy, would certainly have no problems with something as simple as pulling a trigger. When Mr. Melaye threatened to kill her and declared that “You will die and nothing will come of it. I am untouchable,” Tokunbo knew that she would be killed if she returned to Mr. Melaye’s home.
4. We obviously do not expect that Mr. Melaye will admit to owning a gun. Interestingly his public statement did not deny that he owned a gun, but rather that he did not have “any ammunition” and that “no gun was found” when the police searched his home and offices on Nov 4th. The distinction between Mr. Melaye’s complete denial of owning ammunition (i.e., bullets) and his statement that “no gun was found” is important. Certainly, Mr. Melaye knows the difference between the words “Gun” and “ammunition”
5. Mr. Melaye admitted that there was a search of his residence and office on Nov 4th 2013 in Tokunbo’s presence. Yet, he lied to the press and Nigerians, when he claimed that the police search on that date was in relation to his “anti-corruption activities”. We call on the press to stop allowing themselves to be unwittingly used as tools by people like Mr. Melaye who can, and will do anything to remain in the public eye.
Whereabouts of the Children
1. Mr. Melaye insinuated in his statement that the three children of their union are with Tokunbo, and that he has only supervised access to them. According to him: “He (Dino Melaye) is content though PAINED to see his kids only at visits fully controlled by her (Tokunbo Fabiyi).” This statement has been interpreted by some as an indication that the children are in Tokunbo’s care and custody. We wish to categorically state that this is a patent falsehood.
2. Mr. Melaye has prevented Tokunbo from seeing her children since September 25th, 2013. From September 25th to November 12th, Tokunbo’s only means of contacting the children was to go to their school – Tender Years Preparatory School - and spend a few precious moments with them after their classes. When Mr. Melaye found out Tokunbo was seeing her children in school, he requested that the school should prevent Tokunbo from seeing them. The School Principal worked out what she thought was a reasonable arrangement that allowed Tokunbo to see her children about three times a week for 10 minutes each (see attached letter).
3. Even this arrangement, lopsided as it was against the mother of the children, was not satisfactory to Mr. Melaye. He stopped the children from going to school from Wednesday November 13th to Tuesday November 19th. It took Tokunbo’s entreaties to some family friends to get Mr. Melaye to allow the children back to school. The kids started going to school again on Wednesday November 20th. Mr. Melaye went to the school with a group of thugs and threatened the Principal that he would “scatter” the school if Tokunbo was allowed to see the children again. Since that date, the school has prevented Tokunbo from coming on the school premises. Tokunbo has therefore not seen her children since November 12th.
4. As late as Dec 13th 2013, Dino Melaye’s lawyer was in a mediatory session organized by FIDA (Federacion Internacional De Abogados, or the International Federation of Women Lawyers) at their Abuja office. One of the major topics of discussion at that meeting was the custody of the children. All the participants at that meeting, including Mr. Melaye’s counsel and the FIDA mediation committee will be able to verify that Mr. Melaye has complete and total custody of the children, and has denied Tokunbo access to them since November 12th.
5. We encourage the Press to follow up on these issues if they are truly interested in knowing the truth.
Associating with Dino’s “Political Enemies”, Giving of a car to a “young lover”
1. Tokunbo Melaye (nee Fabiyi) is not a politician, and has no interest in politics. This case is simply about getting justice. It is ironic that a man who purports to be the “voice of the masses” and a defender of the rights of Nigerians denies basic human rights to his own wife. Dino Melaye’s constant physical and psychological battery of Tokunbo, and his use of their innocent children as pawns constitutes serious and egregious human rights abuse.
2. We challenge Mr. Melaye to show evidence of any discussion, meeting, or association between Tokunbo and any of his so-called political enemies. We challenge Mr. Melaye to name names. A man who can openly and maliciously accuse his wife of infidelity should have no qualms naming the so-called enemies that his wife is supposed to have been cavorting with. Since Mr. Melaye claims Tokunbo has collected monies from his enemies, let him tell Nigerians who these political enemies are that Tokunbo has allegedly collected money from. We also give permission to any Bankers who have access to any of Tokunbo’s accounts to let the world know if Tokunbo Melaye (nee Fabiyi) has any Bank account that has any sums of money lodged beyond her salary as a Civil Servant. We assure them that we as a family have waived all rights to privacy that Tokunbo has to her Bank accounts. We wonder if Mr. Melaye would be bold enough to open himself up to the same scrutiny of his finances.
3. Knowing how infidelity by women is frowned upon in our culture, Mr. Melaye in a calculated move to discredit Tokunbo, claimed that she “gave a brand new car” Mr. Melaye gave her to her “young lover.” Let him tell Nigerians the make and model of the car that Tokunbo supposedly gave to a “young lover,” and let him tell us what the identity of this “young lover” is. Since he claims to have seen his possessions on Tokunbo’s “lovers” it must mean he “knows” them. We challenge him to name these so called lovers. We warn Mr. Melaye in advance, that should he attempt to muddle the waters with fictitious names and characters, or paid bearers of false witness, our family will deploy every resource at our disposal towards further exposing every single falsehood perpetrated by Mr. Melaye or his proxies.
4. What does it say of a man’s character if he has no qualms, and no moral dilemma about making up deliberate falsehoods about a woman that he called his wife, and the mother of his children? One day, those children will be old enough to read their father’s calculated and wicked allegations against their mother. God, and they, will judge Mr. Melaye. We are confident that truth, even though crushed to the earth, shall always rise again.
5. Mr. Melaye believes that by smearing Tokunbo with allegations of infidelity he can turn the tide of opinion against her in the court of public opinion – which is the only court that matters to Mr. Melaye. Because he has established a fairly lucrative career as a politician and “activist”, all that counts in his world, is what people think of him. For Tokunbo, however, all that matters is the truth. Does Mr. Melaye really expect Nigerians to believe that his wife did all these things that he alleges in his letter, and still remained in his house for over ten years? He must really take Nigerians for fools. It is not our family’s style to trade petty allegations and frivolities with people like Mr. Melaye. We will therefore not even bother to go into the litany of cases of Mr. Melaye’s infidelity. The odious public records of his serial indiscretions are there for all to see.
6. If there is anyone using this sad case for political gain, it is Mr. Melaye. He went out publicly on Nov 4th to claim that he had been arrested by the police because of the Stella Oduah case, while in fact, the police had gone to his office and residence in response to Tokunbo’s report to the police of his threat to her life. Mr. Melaye publicly declared in all the newspaper and blog reports about the police visit of Nov 4th that “the two police officers just told me that they have a warrant of arrest on me with a charge of criminal intimidation and threat to life but they did not tell me who I intimidated and threatened.” The truth was that Tokunbo was right there with the police officers, and he admitted that she was present during the search of his premises in his own public statement. Yet Mr. Melaye was bold enough to come before Nigerians to tell them that he had no idea why the police had been in his office and at his home on Nov 4th. Most Nigerians put the news of that arrest down to Mr. Melaye’s “fight” with Stella Oduah, which was exactly what Mr. Melaye hoped would happen.
7. Mr. Melaye’s puerile and childish attempt to try to defuse his well known cases of infidelity and indecency by besmirching Tokunbo’s reputation, has failed woefully. Tokunbo Melaye (nee Fabiyi) is a well brought up, Christian woman. She has borne this cross with dignity, she has been long suffering, and she has persevered. We are proud of her – for being a survivor. Tokunbo has displayed a strength and resilience that we did not know she had. Her body might have been bruised and battered by Mr. Melaye, but her spirit is strong and unbroken. She is a better person for all that she has endured. Although we could not understand it at first, we now see why she could not bear to leave her children in Mr. Melaye’s hands, and as a consequence chose to remain in an abusive relationship. No child should be left in the hands of a man with no character, no moral compass, no awareness of historical consequences, and no sense of common decency.
Why this case is important to Gender Rights in Nigeria
1. Nigeria remains a patriarchal society with laws and cultural leanings that continue to be lopsided against females. A mother’s maternal instinct makes her likely to place the welfare and wellbeing of her children above her own. That wonderful instinct is also a woman’s greatest vulnerability. It also leaves her open to abuse in the hands of men willing to exploit a mother’s maternal instinct.
2. There are certain pertinent questions that we must ask ourselves as a nation: Why can a man ask the proprietress of a school to prevent his wife from seeing her children, without a court order to that effect? Why should a man have more parental rights than a woman? Why should the burden of proof always be on the woman? Why are we quick to blame women for abuse – believing that they must have done something to deserve it? Why are we quick to judge them if they stay in abusive relationships, and why are we also ready to condemn them if they leave for not being patient? Why do we ignore the reality that spousal abuse is a real issue in this country? How many women like Tokunbo are out there, silently, quietly, bearing the burden of abuse alone? Fearful that they will lose their children if they speak out. Fearful that they will be judged for the failure of their marriages. Fearful that they will not find justice in our laws or in our courts.
3. Tokunbo has been able to stand for herself now, only because of her faith and the support of her family. How many women are out there who do not have the type of family support that Tokunbo has? How many abused women can defend themselves in the press, or hire lawyers to take up their case? Must they continue to fight and to suffer alone? Must they continue to bear this crushing burden all by themselves?
4. When this case began, Dino Melaye declared that Tokunbo would never see her children again, and that any case she thought she had would be destroyed after “he worked his magic on the press.” Certainly, Mr. Melaye who was once Chairman of the House Committee on Media and who had legislative oversight over the Nigerian media has many friends in the press. By failing to scrutinize Mr. Melaye, the Nigerian press has been an unwitting accomplice in perpetuating Mr. Melaye’s abuse and falsehoods. The Nigerian press has always been on the side of the oppressed. In this case, we do not expect any favors – we only ask that the press should dig deeper, follow leads, ask questions, talk to the doctors mentioned in the reports, talk to the police and come to their own conclusions about what is really going on.
5. As this case moves out of the court of public opinion, to the court of law, our family has already started to work on ensuring that all abused women – not just Tokunbo - are given a voice. We want to ensure that their tears will no longer be shed in the dark, alone. Their voices will no longer be muffled. Their pain must become our collective pain. No nation that tolerates the abuse of its mothers and daughters can progress.
Dr Malcolm Fabiyi
For Tokunbo & the Fabiyi family.