On Sunday June 26, 2022, a book on the political journey of Nigeria’s Speaker House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, was presented in Abuja, just a day after marking his 60th birthday. JOSHUA EGBODO reviews the issues from the event .
Still in the mood of his 60th birthday commemoration, a book written by the duo of Dr. Charles Omole and Musa Abdullahi Krishi entitled; “MR SPEAKER: The Legislative Life, Service and Resilience of Femi Gbajabiamila”, was publicly presented in the nation’s capital of Abuja.
One of the authors, Krishi who doubles as Chief Press Secretary to the Speaker simply described the book as a piece which “chronicles the political journey of the Speaker of the House of Representatives Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila”.
President Buhari’s thoughts
At the event, President Muhammadu Buhari described Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila as a true patriot, a team player and a skillful parliamentarian.
Buhari, who was represented by his Chief of Staff, Ibrahim Gambari, said the Gbajabiamila remained one who looks beyond differences for the benefit of all.
“For him what matters is not so much the party differences but what unites Nigerians and that is why he is a passionate advocate for a peaceful democracy and unity of Nigeria. And no amount of parliamentary maneuvres or differences between parties would deviate him from this. He introduced the term legislative diplomacy. When there were issues between Nigerian and Ghanaian traders, he went to Accra and met with his colleagues and tried to resolve the issue.
“It is also a fact that under the Speaker and leadership of the senate, there is no automaticity of opposition and antagonism to the executive. The role of legislature is not to be antagonistic as a matter of routine, but to be partners for good governance for the people of Nigeria. They are working together to make Nigeria better,” he said.
Gbajabiamila on youth mentorship
At the event which was part of the doubles as a platform to unveil his Legislative Mentoring Initiatives (LMI), he said: “My life is a testament to the transformative effect of the right kind of mentorship. I have benefitted from the wisdom and guidance of mentors who took an interest in me, supported my aspirations and provided me with the resources to thrive as a lawyer in the private sector and in public service. I intend, through the Legislative Mentoring Initiative (LMI), to try to do the same for others”.
Gbajabiamila disclosed that the programme was broadly aimed at two age groups; the associates (16-20) and the Fellows (ages 21-35). “However, at this initial stage, the Legislative Mentoring Initiative (LMI) will begin with the Fellowship programme for persons between the ages of 21 to 35). There will be a total of seventy two (72) fellows, one male and one female, selected from the thirty-six (36) states in Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). We will make a specific effort to ensure that persons with disabilities are included in this cohort and every subsequent programme”, he stated.
According to him, the LMI is a youth leadership development programme to identify, equip and empower a new generation of young people to lead in government and public service, particularly in the legislature.
“The Initiative will focus on training young people for the legislature because I believe that the legislature is the soul of the nation. Through law making and appropriations, the legislature defines the present and shapes the future of a nation.
“Legislative priorities speak to the character of a country and reflect the values and culture of the society.
Therefore, developing a deep bench of young people from across the country who understand the legislative function and can perform optimally in different capacities within the federal and state legislatures is imperative”, he stated, adding that the Initiative will provide young people with practical tools to awaken their desire to serve the nation and strengthen their capacity to do so effectively.
“I encourage all young people between the ages of 21 to 35 who wish to serve in the public sector, especially the legislature, to apply for this Initiative. I am determined to ensure that the Legislative Mentoring Initiative (LMI) births a new crop of leaders to take our country forward.
Tomorrow is not the future, the future is now, and our young people are that future. I ask you all to join me in this Initiative to develop a new generation of public sector leaders who possess the character and demonstrate the capacity for excellence in public service”, he said as he announced its immediate commencement.
On the book
Gbajabiamila said the book was not just about himself, but also a tribute to everyone who has helped him get to where he is today particularly, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
The politics angle
Prior to the Speaker’s remarks on the evening, a twist in tune with the current politicking in the country was added, when presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) for the 2023 election, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu stepped out to speak.
The former Governor of Lagos State confirmed the opinion of many pundits to the effect that selecting a running mate for himself was yet an unresolved issue, even as he presented a figure now referred to as “place holder” to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), when he disclosed that he was still searching for a running mate. While lauding the good working relationship between the Gbajabiamila and his deputy, Idris Wase, Tinubu said he needed to learn from the duo about the way they have been working together seamlessly, as he continues his search for a running mate.
“I could see his deputy (Wase) sitting down there too, you are a very good symbols of unity, dependability, and honesty, thank you. Thank you for both of you. You’ve not rocked the boat. I will need to learn from both of you, how you made the pair work because I’m still searching for my running mate”, he stated.
On Gbajabiamila’s political journey, Tinubu said: “As a Minority Leader, he consults wide and he’s always there to see the thinking of opposition that we must bring a revolution to the House to be able to beat the PDP. And then, he will brainstorm for any length of time about political strategy. When he was challenged for the position of the speaker, I think after our merger he worked me tirelessly, Femi is a workaholic. The problem of failure stared him at the face. He lost the election to become the Speaker.
“I was close to tears. Stamping my foot to the ground, I said we will win again. Femi keep up. Pick yourself up. I am very proud of you that you did, you didn’t give up. You did the opposition and the support job. You demonstrated what we learnt from textbooks and other authors, that life is not about education of one section of the society. Remember what we discussed about paying the WAEC fee of omo iya oniboli (the Son of the Woman who roasts plantain), and my Mum was alive then, asking me to see to it each time I gave her money, it doesn’t last.
“Femi with your determination, grit, you are a contributor to our democratic growth, thank you. You have character. You are a great mentor and you are doing a good job charting a path to success. You’ve done a good job and I say thank you, thank you”.
Gbajabiamila’s offer to assist.
Responding specifically to Tinibu’s perceived challenge of picking up the right running mate, Gbajabiamila urged the APC presidential candidate to consult him. “You (Tinubu) said in your address that many years ago you consulted with younger brother on the issue of WAEC and that consultation bore fruits. I give you my own parting shot. It is that time again to consult with your younger brother. I will give you a running mate that you will enjoy working with. But this time the consultation I promises you will not be for free,” he said.
Standing as Chief Presenter of the book, founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, Mr Tony Elumelu, described Gbajabiamila as a man who’s “extremely outstanding and humble”, adding that “we must all begin to show interest in how we are governed and how laws are made”, while Chairman of the occasion and former Governor of Ogun State, Segun Osoba said “Gbajabiamila is going to clock 100 years. I thank him for his service to this country. I pray you will become the Nancy Pelosi of Nigeria. Gbajabiamila deserves to be given that type of support to be a Pelosi of Nigeria”.