As the struggle for who leads the 8th National Assembly intensifies, one of the leading contenders for the office of the speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila is being ‘de-marketed’ by tagging him as Tinubu’s candidate. EMMA ALOZIE looks at how the name of Tinubu, Gbajabiamila’s political godfather has suddenly become a stumbling block to the former’s ambition.
Loath him or love him, Bola Ahmed Tinubu is a political asset anytime, any day. Time and over, he has shown his political dexterity and has used his innate political skills to win many political battles. In fact, he has rarely lost a political battle in which he is determined to win. This explains why he is held in great awe by both his admirers and adversaries alike.
At a point during his budding political career, he became a one man squad; that was after hurricane Obasanjo swept across the South Western political landscape in 2003 leaving the then Alliance for Democracy in ruins, and leaving Tinubu as a political orphan. But he was determined to carry on the flag of AD and remain in opposition, notwithstanding the unsavoury political odds. Soon after, he spearheaded the metamorphosis of AD into the Action Congress and from there to the Action Congress of Nigeria.
By the time he was leaving office in 2007, he had consolidated his stranglehold on Lagos, installed his puppet as his successor and by the time 2011 elections came, Tinubu had captured the entire South West both through the courts and the ballot. At the end of 2011 elections, he had consolidated as the political leader of the South West with five governors out of the six paying unquestioned allegiance to him.
However, unsatisfied, he had his eyes focused at the centre. He spearheaded the merger of hitherto splinter regional parties to a mega opposition with the sole aim of demystifying the 16 years of PDP’s reign. Arising from the coming together of these parties, the All Progressives Congress, APC came into being with a promise of change.
In the battle for the soul of the then new opposition party, Tinubu won all. He installed the national chairman and when it was time to nominate the running mate to President Muhammadu Buhari, he arm twisted all other contenders and installed his loyalist. Today, his former attorney general and commissioner for justice when he was governor of Lagos state, Professor Yemi Osinbajo is the vice president of the most important country in Africa. Even the most rabid of his opponents acknowledge this as a no mean feat.
No sooner had the dust for the 2015 general elections settled and Tinubu’s APC forming majority in the 8th National Assembly than the struggle for the leadership ensued. The apparent disagreement within the party hierarchy forced the party to jettison the idea of zoning the two most important positions; the senate president and the speaker of the House of Representatives. This has equally led to discordant tunes emerging from everywhere with different zones laying claims to the available slots and giving different reasons.
However, though the party has consistently denied zoning both the senate presidency and the speaker of the House, the body language of many of the party’s leaders betrays where the party stands. All permutations point to the fact that the party favours the senate president to come from the North East, in order to accommodate the ambition of Tinubu’s boy and House of Reps minority leader, Femi Gbajabiamila from the South West as the speaker.
Hon Gbajabiamila’s ambition to succeed Aminu Tambuwal as the speaker of the House cannot be described as misplaced. A third ‘timer’ in the House, he has led the opposition in the House in the last eight years with ferocity required of any opposition leader worth his onion. He has been in the vanguard of the fight to separate the legislature from the apron strings of the executive and this has earned him some plaudits from his colleagues and some bashings from the members of the executive.
But in the race to the speaker of the 8th House, he has one visible albatross; his closeness to Tinubu. Curiously, instead of this being a huge advantage to his ambition, it has become a huge baggage, which Gbajabiamila must learn to carry with equanimity and with all sense of foreboding. To put it succinctly, his closeness to Tinubu and the general perception that he is Tinubu’s candidate may cause him the job of the speaker; a job even his opponents agree he would do to the best of his abundant abilities. Gbajabiamila’s spirited denials that he is Tinubu’s candidate have not in any way doused the perception that he is.
In a recent interview, he put it this way, “I have led the opposition for the past eight years with the best of my ability. I have faced a lot of threats and intimidation to life right from the time of (Olusegun) Obasanjo up to about two weeks ago. The way I stick my neck for the opposition, I seek to do same for Nigeria as speaker. I want this campaign to be about issues and hoped it would be that way, but I heard a lot of many negative stories. I tried to maintain dignified silence, but I want to set the record straight now.
“I intend to be speaker not for anybody. Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu has not hand in it. Lamido Sanusi left his palace in Kano and pleaded with him to support me. He didn’t get a clear answer. Shortly after that, Senator Lawan Shuaibu went to Tinubu on the same issue. He still did not respond until when few weeks ago, Nasiru El-Rufai went to meet him, then he said maybe this man has some appeal. In 2011, some members from the North went to him to suggest that I should be Tambuwal’s deputy, but he said no to that.”
Tinubu’s growing opponents have rationalised it that with the vice president already his, if he is allowed to produce the speaker, it would amount to concentrating too much power in the hands of one man and thus have vowed to put an end to what they describe as crass greed of the former Lagos governor. Perhaps, giving the finesse with which Gbajabiamila has carried out his responsibilities in the House, the job of the speaker would have been his even with less promptings, but with his political apron strings tied to a man viewed by his opponents as too overbearing, Gbajabiamila would have to find a way around this debilitating perception if he must actualise a long held dream of being Nigeria’s number four citizen in this dispensation.
It is simply an irony of life.
Then the battle for the leadership of the 8th National Assembly
Am not tinubu”s candidate