- Tinubu, Fashola demand amendment of Electoral Act
- Tambuwal only good thing in PDP –el-Rufai
- I did not give money to be elected Speaker -Tambuwal
By Anote Ajeluorou and Gbenga Salau
Last week, friends and political associates gathered to launch the book, Fearless: The Emergence of a Virile and Formidable Opposition Leader – The Political Memoirs of Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, written by former legislator, Dr. Wale Okediran. They all gathered to honour a sterling legislator, who also turned 50. The occasion enabled those who had gathered to voice their views on their expectations of what a virile legislature should be in strengthening democracy, especially when it comes from the camp of the opposition.
From the various views by the political heavy-weights in attendance on Gbajabiamila’s legislative output so far, there appears to be hope for Nigeria’s democracy. Gbajabiamila’s performance, even from those on a different political divide in the Federal House of Representatives, sees a beacon of hope in the man in spite of seeming sordid stories of corruption from the same house.
The banquet hall of City Hall, Lagos Island, Lagos, where the book launch took place, was filled to capacity with political bigwigs who had come to identify with the man, whose motion to summon President Goodluck Jonathan to the floor of the House to explain efforts being made to curtail the Boko Haram menace, has elicited widespread controversy. Chairman of the event and former Federal Commissioner of Works, Alhaji Femi Ukunu, traced Femi’s courage to his grandfather, whom he said was a missionary and co-founder of the Ansar Udeen Islamic Society of Nigeria.
He stated, “I see Femi as a beacon, as a ray of light. Femi rejected the national honour offered to him because he said he was still serving, especially as a Minority Leader in the House”. “We need young men and women like him as visionary leaders, who are desirous of seeing what they can give to this country and not what they can get.”
National leader of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and Gbajabiamila’s political godfather, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, also praised both the House of Representatives and Gbajabiamila. He asked the House to remain focused on its oversight functions of sanitising Nigeria. On Gbajabiamila, he said, “It wasn’t easy to find a brilliant and articulate mind that would represent the party well but we eventually found that in Femi. We found qualities of leadership in him. In him we found our tomorrow today.
“When we were trying to help his political aspiration, it was a bit difficult because there were many young, qualified people but he has not let anyone down. This is what we owe the nation; to develop consistent, loyal, dedicated and committed minds serving Nigeria. Democracy is about making strategic alliances. Femi is a shining example of what the young should emulate and if you are committed and dedicated, this is what you will reap. This is the third running of Femi in the House and some people question that. But what is the reward of commitment? We need sharp minds like Femi’s to change Nigeria”.
Tinubu said Gbajabiamila rejected the national honour offered him so as not to be compromised in serving the nation.
Ogun State Governor, Sen. Ibikunle Amosun also commended Gbajabiamila’s legislative hard work saying he epitomised all that was good in the National Assembly. He asked him to keep up the good work and recommit himself to his work of making a better Nigeria.
Former NDDC chairman, Timi Alaibe also joined in celebrating Gbajabiamila as a successful legislator, whose bipartisan approach to politicking has drawn widespread commendation. He tasked other political leaders across Nigeria to also see it as their duty to go beyond partisan politics as a matter of deliberate policy so as to foster the unity of Nigeria.
Former FCT Minister, Malam el-Rufai brought messages from Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) leader, Gen. Mahammadu Buhari and the party in congratulating Gbajabiamila for his work as a legislator of uncommon genius. Although el-Rufai said he and Gbajabiamila didn’t get on well at first since Gbajabiamila perceived him as Olusegun Obasanjo’s boy, but said when they got to know themselves ona close range, they soon became friends. He assured, “Femi cares about Nigeria; he cares a lot about doing the right thing. He is courageous to the point of being reckless”. He however took a swipe at the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) saying that there is very little good left in the PDP.
The CPC stalwart said the only good thing left in the ruling PDP was the Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, who was also present at the launching. This drew wide applause from the distinguished audience. “As our country faces its most difficult social and political challenges, all eyes are on the Speaker and Femi,” he intoned. “You have a duty to save this country from the crisis it is in.”
Banking guru and politician, Mr. Fola Adeola, State of Osun Deputy Governor, Chief (Mrs.) Grace Titi Alaoye-Tomori also celebrated Gbajabiamila with warm words.
Lagos State governor, Babatunde Fashola called Gbajabiamila a worthy representative his own constituency. He represents Surulere Federal II Constituency from where Fashola comes from. He described the book, Fearless: The Emergence of a Virile and Formidable Opposition Leader – The Political Memoirs of Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila as a worthy literary piece that would “fill a huge vacuum in our political history. Femi has some of the qualities inherent in great leaders; he is filled with intellect, research and integrity. His peerage honour has been great, signifying that he is a great man. Femi has followed the great tradition of intellect and superiority of ideas that Obafemi Awolowo cultivated and demonstrated in is lifetime”.
On his part, Speaker Tambuwal said, “Gbajabiamila was a committed and tenacious legislator; he holds his ground on the strength of his convictions. He has deep passion for Nigeria. He has no sentiments about political party or origin”.
Tambuwal used the occasion to clear the air on the issue of offering money to Gbajabiamila to facilitate his election as Speaker. He said such claim as contained in the book was false.
Angela Aneke represented the chief launcher and banking guru, Mr. Tony Elumelu. She also extolled the virtues of Gbajabiamila and asked him never to give up on his lofty political ideals.
The author, Okediran, said it was tasking writing the book, as the subject was sometimes difficult to track down. But he praised his subject’s mother and women’s political leader, Alhaja Latifa Gbajabiamila, for breathing life into the entire book through her vibrant interviews. Okediran, who was former president, Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), used the opportunity to task Nigerian political leaders to write their own stories, saying, “Nigerian political leaders owe Nigerians a debt of writing down something for future generations.
“This work should serve as a challenge to other leaders to leave behind them a legacy for coming generations”.
On his part, Gbajabiamila said it felt good to be 50, saying there was a lot more to be done in repositioning the country. He said, “I’ve learnt so much in politics – about loyalty, treachery”. He maintained that opposition in a democratic setting like Nigeria would be better served if all opposition parties teamed up to give the ruling party a run for its money, as had been the case since his emergence as Minority Leader of the House, when he brought everybody under one umbrella.
“It’s only when the other parties come together as a single opposition that we can succeed like the election of Tambuwal as Speaker,” he said. He stated that the book was undiluted and uncensored as every original material in it had remained intact, including what some had referred to as unpleasant.
HOWEVER, the 180 days for the hearing of an election petition and 60 days for its appeal contained in the Electoral Act drew criticisms from Tinubu, Fashola and Gbajabiamila, as they condemned it as unconstitutional. Gbajabiamila described it as being similar to the legal terms, Ouster Clause, that should have no place in a democratic set up. Fashola and Tinubu task Gbajabiamila and his colleagues in the House to amend it forthwith.
Chairman, Human Rights Commssion, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, reviewed the book, with the title, ‘Beyond POlitcs: Civic Memory in Times of Trouble’. He stated, “There are some things in every country that should be beyond partisan politics. One is the health of its institutions in general, including especially its police, judiciary, public service and Parliament. Another is the existence and sustenance of an opposition to channel and provide democratic alternatives. The third is a civic memory to inform the choices that citizens must make in determining who earns their trust and mandate to govern. The fourth is a supply line for the renewal of its leadership across generations and over time. The fifth, relevant here only by induction and a consequence of the existence of the other four, is national productivity and the health of the private sector.
“Fearless… is a remarkable story that melds all these into a strong narrative told at a time when the country needs to hear it. In so doing, it holds out a tantalizingly hopeful promise that a government of the people, for the people and by the people may yet have a future in Nigeria. It must be clarified early on that “Virile”… is an allusion to the effect of his work and ideas”.
Other dignitaries present at the book launch included ACN chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, Ekiti State governor, Kayode Fayemi, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Justice Mustapha Akanbi, Chief Segun Awolowo, Dr. Adeleye Ipaye, who represented State of Osun governor, Rauf Aregbesola, Oba M.O. Hamzat, Hon. Leo Ogo, Sen. Ganiyu Solomon and a host of others.