There are perhaps little known facts about the pivotal roles played by Femi Gbajabiamila, the then minority leader in the House of Representatives towards the successful merger that gave birth to APC in 2014. Despite stiff opposition from members of both the red and green chambers, he stood his ground, openly resilient with full passion anf determination to actualise his salvage mission in strengthening the Nation’s democracy. This politicking
had not distracted him and doesn’t stop there it was under his leadership of the APC caucus in the House, the party increased its numbers, earning them the majority. Even thought those that had not wanted the birth of APC are those that benefits most from the APC government at the centre.
He is always protecting the party’s common interests, he played a pivotal role in protecting the interest of the APC, positioning it as a strong force, especially in the 8th assemblies where the party suffered internal crisis that led to gales of defection. While 37 members of the caucus dumped the party during plenary on July 2018, Gbajabiamila led the remaining members to reject the defection, while he hinted at taking “necessary steps” over the move which he described as illegal.
He, therefore, asked the APC to challenge the move in court in order to enforce democracy. said, “On the legality of the crossover, I think section 68 has addressed this issue. Members on the floor on both sides of the aisle tried to interpret the section the way it suits them but, unfortunately, that section has already been interpreted by the Supreme Court of Nigeria in the case of PDP versus Abegunde who was a member of the House of Representatives.
To support his arguments in the floor of green chamber the majority leader added, “Therefore, we will be encouraging the party to take the necessary steps, not because we are against our members but so that we can continue to entrench democracy.
“When people elect you on a particular platform to represent them, that seat does not belong to you, that seat belongs to your constituency, so it is important that this position is stated clearly and that we put it to rest”.
Femi is a stabilizer and a mobilizer and a very humble and true democrat who tackles issues dispassionately. Not only did he conceived the Speakership project, he nurtured it and worked tirelessly and assiduously towards its reality. His current roles transcended his role as the then leader of the ACN Caucus in the House because he so much believed in it that he gave everything, time, money and commitment to its actualisation’’. Tambuwal has said.
Many political watcher observed: ‘almost all his arguments and debates have a two prong approach; the moral and non-legal issues before methodically and painstakingly attacking the legal ones using extant law, rule books, common law, judicial pronouncements and the constitution’.
Although a Minority Leader, Gbajabiamila has the uncanny ability to reach across to members of the ruling party during debates on matters of national importance. He has the reputation for sometimes collecting over 100 signatures across party, ethnic and religious lines when moving a Motion or a Bill for adoption. Although it is generally agreed that a politician in opposition is free to play around with plans and proposals beyond the reach of those in government, Gbajabiamila is known to be considerate despite the often strident tone of his arguments.
During impending leadership vacuum created by the absence of President Umaru Yar’Adua who travelled to Saudi Arabia for medical help under doubtful circumstances. Consequently, Gbajabiamila was the first and only legislator to move a motion on the floor of the House for invocation of doctrine of necessity that eventually led to elevation of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan from Vice President to Acting President of Federal Republic of Nigeria. Gbajabiamila exceptional record saw him overwhelmingly re-elected in 2007 and elected as AC leader and Minority Whip of the House. In 2011,
Gbajabiamila was re-elected ACN leader and leader of the opposition by his colleagues in the House. While on this position, he revived the role of opposition in the House and maintained tough stances against the ruling party, PDP. He was the face of opposition not just in the House but the whole national assembly including the Senate.
On many occasions, he put his life at risk in his many attempts to hold the government of the day accountable. In this capacity he has also instituted lawsuits against the Federal Government most recently on appropriation without due approval from the National Assembly and the deployment of the Nigerian military during elections.
Even before he became the Minority Leader in the 8th assembly he was a member of the House and a very active lawmaker. His well thought-out and well delivered speeches could sometimes become highly emotional. Of course, he mastered materials quickly. The few times he had walked into a matter or debate on the floor of the House, his intellect and deep reservoir of knowledge had always come to play. His presentations during sittings are as finely constructed and powerfully argued as his set-piece speeches. So awe-inspiring and eloquent were his submissions that his colleagues including those on the other side of the political divides, rarely had cause to grudge expenditure of time on them
Why Gbajabiamila should be next Speaker is mostly because is a highly respected legislator and leader in the House. He has earned his stripes by being able to adeptly craft a beautiful mélange of passion, compassion and courage of conviction in the way he brilliantly puts forward arguments and ultimately discharges his duties.
As the famous British MP Ronald Cartland once observed; ‘No government can change men’s souls. It is the souls of men that change governments.
For him, the overriding interests of the masses should not be sacrificed either on the altar of political expediency or in pursuit of a narrow selfish agenda of those who operate the levers of power. Accordingly, his politics, character and vision has been informed and guided by this philosophy.
Dukawa can be reached at:firstname.lastname@example.org