365 Days: Gbajabiamila’s legacy of no legacies, By Justus Nwakanma

Posted by News Express | 13 June 2020 | 1,814 times

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•Justus Nwakanma

June 11, 2020 marked exactly one year Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila took over the leadership of the House of Representatives as the 9th Speaker.

While the states have equal representation in the Senate, the House of Representatives, with more representations, embodies the integral, intrinsic links of our national, democratic heritage. The notion of responsible government is epitomised more in the structure and functions of the House as compared to the Senate.

It is this realization, among other factors, that engenders public excitement and focus on the affairs of the House, and even more, each time the Speaker of the House is to be elected. Even after the election, his office is always under constant scrutiny.

Gbajabiamila’s election last year did not generate less interest. The House under his predecessors, Alhaji Aminu Waziri Tambuwal and Alhaji Yakubu Dogara, was a theater of robust legislations, pragmatic in character; courageous in conduct and transparent in oversight responsibilities. It was therefore imperative, that any speaker that would come after them was expected to maintain and improve on these ennobling virtues.

With his 16 years of legislative experience, Gbajabiamila was qualified for the Speakership position. He was elected into the House in 2003 and has been in the House since then, serving as minority leader (leader of the opposition) and majority leader.

However, his aspiration for the Speakership came with baggage of integrity problems. While practising as a lawyer in the United States, he was found guilty by the United States (US) Supreme Court of Georgia in February 2007 of stealing $25,000 from his client; accepting payment for the amount as a personal-injury claims and deposited those funds in his attorney trust account.

Subsequently, he was suspended from law practice for 36 months.

Before and during his election, he was alleged to have induced members with vouchers and credit cards in dollar values to vote massively for him. 

The issue is still in the courts.

Concerns were also raised that under him the House will not be independent, but genuflect to the whims and caprices of his godfathers.

Looking back today after one year, it is safe to say Gbajabiamila’s office is ridden with a burden of moral kyphosis, perforated by envenom of integrity and sores of trust and rectitude. He is leaving behind, a legacy of no legacies.

Though often he pretends to be intrepid, affable and courageous, he is more indurate in sophistry and more inspissate in responsibilities.

His legendary flip-backs in rationalising unethical behavior gives him away as a man addicted to obnoxious and annoying pranks. This is not the trait of a leader with a strong moral principle.

For instance, when the House stepped down a request by President Muhammadu Buhari to borrow $22.7 billion for project and infrastructure across the states and geopolitical zones because the south east was the only zone not accommodated, he received a pat on the back for his seeming sense of proportion, tolerance and patriotism.

But many of us who had followed his antecedents with a quiver and a pinch of salt, knew that the withholding approval would not last long. Given his antecedents, it was only momentary before the south east would lose out completely. He did not disappoint.

A man who has his knees down deep on your neck would momentarily axphysiate you or totally annihilate you. That was exactly what Gbajabiamila and his House of commotion did to Ndigbo. While removing the stumbling block on the loan, the Speaker arm-twisted his colleagues to approve it rationalising the House was hamstrung as the details of the loan had already been concluded before it was forwarded to the House.

But this was a lie dressed in borrowed plummes. If the loan had been concluded, the subsequent changes that were made and returned to the House for approval would not have been made.

We are talking of over N9 trillion shared to all the zones without the south east getting nothing? What injustice to a people already traumatised could be more than this? Under Tambuwal or Dogara, this infraction would not have seen the light of the day. But under Gbajabiamila, anything goes, as long as the interest of his godfathers are protected.

Gbajabiamilia played an ignoble role in sponsoring the bill, ‘Control of Infectious Disease, 2020’, which sought to repeal the Quarantine Act of 1926, and  which sought for compulsory vaccination for certain Nigerian. He gave out himself as hypocritical, deceitful, and outright insensitive to the collective sensibilities, personal liberty, right to private and family life of Nigerians.

The bill came at a time the country was stymied in the COVID-19 pandemic with the lockdown and the attendant economic hardships. It was not only secretive but had a hidden agenda. How could a bill pass second reading when members of the House were yet to lay hands on the copy of the bill?

As noted by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), and other non-profit organisations, the bill "violated key principles of simple, clear, and unambiguous legislative drafting, leaving significant amount of discretion on the implementing authorities and limiting the rights of citizens and relevant institutions.”

But the bill was not only laughable and a sore testament of our national pride and dignity. How disgraceful that the Nigeria’s number four citizen plagiarised the Singapore Infectious Disease Act 1977.

Nigerian public leaders are always in the habit of plagiarism, but Gbajabiamila’s own was the height of ridicule, with the international media feasting on this malfeasance. But

Instead of apologising, his Special Assistant, Research and Public Policy, Dubem Okadigbo Moghalu, said plagiarism is not known in legislative drafting. This is not true. Plagiarism in whatever form or disguise is universally acknowledged as a theft.

Of grave concern is also his lack of emotional intelligence and poor sense of history and vision. In May 2018, there was a public outcry when he gave his wife a N75 million Mercedes Benz SUV gift during her birthday. Nothing is wrong with anyone celebrating his wife. But Gbajabiamila is not an ordinary citizen. He is a public officer.

Israelmore Ayivor says that visionlessness is poverty in disguise. So could it be poverty of the mind or of the intellect that led the Speaker not to gauge public mood? Did he not know that his action was capable of ingraining prejudice and corruption in public conduct? Did he realise that. It will take a level 10 officer in his office over 150 years to save N75 million?

If his action was a righteous blunder, then the celebrating of the 90th birthday anniversary of his mother, Alhaja Lateefat Olufunke Gbajabiamila, in Dubai recently was shameful and insensitive.

The lavish party in which over N100 million was said to have been spent, was obscene, ludicrous and unbecoming of a public officer. How many speakers of foreign countries would come to Nigeria and spend their mother’s birthday?

But he doesn’t give a hoot. It didn’t matter to him that Nigerians are passing through dire economic consequences. He doesn’t want to know. Then again, it is his money. Not your own, not mine own.

Today, a year after he took office and with the controversies dotting his footprints, the House of Representatives under Gbajabiamila is contaminated, brooding in contumacious self-glorification; breeding the diseases that will eventually kill it from within.

But he still has time to change. The House of Representatives is the people’s House. Gbajabiamila should redirect his efforts in the unification and consolidation of our collective interests. He should drop his supercilious, impervious-to criticism and arm-twisting tactics and embrace openness, transparency, accountability, trust and self-esteem in the management of the affairs of the House.

If Gbajabiamila retraces his steps and engages in the common good for the commonest people, he would eat of the good fruits of posterity. But if he refuses and remains obstinate, the scourge of history would pierce his skin with a million bayonets.

  • Nwakamma, a journalist, lives in Lagos.

Source: News Express

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