by Shaka Momodu
I cannot claim to know Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, the man who was the House minority leader of the 7th House of Representatives. He contested for the speakership of the 8th House of Representatives and failed in a transparent contest. He finally emerged as the House majority leader, after a gang of party members, doing the bidding of some powerful forces, held the nation to ransom for seven weeks. But I have heard a couple of good things about him from political discourse with friends and colleagues. He is said to be a fierce believer in the principles of party discipline and party supremacy. This is a good quality, no doubt. He is also said to be loyal to a fault to his godfather, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Well, time will tell whether this is a vice or a virtue.
I have also heard about Gbajabiamila’s not-so-sterling past in the United States of America. His alleged debarment by the Georgia Supreme Court, after allegedly pleading guilty to charges of professional misconduct, was said to have earned him a 36-month practice suspension. Whether these are true or false, I hold not his US exploits against him. However, I dislike the hypocrisy about him, and I hold in contempt everything about him and people like him who see things from the perspective of one nation, two moralities. I am amused whenever I read in the media statements that sound like exhortation to the conscience of the nation attributed to him. That some people even take him seriously is baffling to me. But then again, that is the nature of our country.
He appears a nice guy on the surface, and can easily pass for a hero of democracy tomorrow, given how easily we make heroes out of ordinary mortals and hypocrites in this clime. I was raised to believe that a man must have the conviction and character to either stand for something or stand for nothing, and that you are nothing when you cannot be identified or associated with a set of values or a principle.
According to reports in the media, which have not been denied by Gbajabiamila or his aides, he was the one who took the former Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, to his godfather, Tinubu, who quickly mobilised his then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) members in the House of Representatives to align with some renegade Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members to sabotage the PDP preferred candidate, Mulikat Akande-Adeola, for the speakership of the 7th House. Tambuwal eventually emerged as the speaker by a very wide margin, thanks to the role said to have been played by Gbajabiamila.
But he suddenly started championing party supremacy when the odds turned against him in the struggle for positions in the House of Representatives. A man, who actively helped and aided Tambuwal to undermine party supremacy, became the champion and advocate of party discipline and party supremacy? Gosh! And strangely, we had some naive people – who helped him to advance his cause and win sympathy for his selfish argument. Now that his personal ambition has been achieved, alas, the business of the people can begin. I am always filled with a sense of bewilderment when I hear people talk or when I read articles advocating “strict adherence” to this so-called party discipline. I am resentful of how valueless and unaccountable our politics is; I am depressed by the fact that our people are so easy to manipulate. What is even more confounding is the willingness of the public to acquiesce in the new narrative that is quickly gaining ground – “party supremacy”.
If Gbajabiamila actually believes so much in party supremacy, then it is important to ask him why he did everything in his power to undermine the same principle in the PDP. Why did he actively work against Akande-Adeola – the preferred candidate of the PDP in 2011? Or is he telling us that party supremacy applies only to the All Progressives Congress (APC), and when his personal interest aligns with his party’s position? What happens when his personal ambition conflicts with the party’s position? Will he still be pushing the button of party supremacy? He worked assiduously to undermine the very principle he anchored his argument on, and wanted Nigerians to take him seriously? Something must be wrong here. His gang had to hold the nation hostage to satisfy his greed for power. Needless to state that the “sickness of greed and lust for power” is strong, but holding on adamantly to his position that nothing must move forward until he got what he wanted was greed taken too far. Was he born a member of the House of Representatives? Must he actualise his unbridled personal interest on the pretext of party supremacy? Now that he has been appointed the House majority leader, can he join hands with others to move the nation forward? So his ambitions for position superseded the national interest? What better demonstrates this than what he and his gang just did? Is this the change that they talked about?
The man Tambuwal, who he was alleged to have taken to Tinubu for his backing eventually did emerge as the speaker, and did exactly what he was meant to do: destabilise the PDP. What did Tinubu and co. do for him as a sign of appreciation? He was rewarded with the governorship ticket, and eventually the seat itself, of his native Sokoto State – as the man went on to win the election. Today, he sits atop as the symbol of authority and the moral compass of the people of Sokoto State. Tell me, how this cunning, immoral and treacherous behaviour qualifies him to sit in the Government House? What values can such a man teach our children? And they claim to be agents of change? In the land of my fathers, we were taught to shun such values because they won’t ennoble us on this journey of life. But these are the values that are now being rewarded before our very eyes. Our faith in what we were taught by our parents to be the lightening rod of any serious society has been seriously shaken by the entrenched reward system – causing some of us to doubt whether they were right after all. The party that promised change is proving to be as guilty as the party it defeated. The very people who told Nigerians that they were bringing change for the better.
My problem with these people is that they equate their strange values and standards to love of country, and anyone who disagrees with them is unpatriotic. I will continue to hold their feet to fire, and expose the hypocrisy of these politicians, lest we are all turned into a nation of zombies.
Ironically, the same people who are now criticising the Senate President Bukola Saraki and the House Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, were the very same people who were hailing Tambuwal for doing everything he did to embarrass and damage his former party. Recall that at the height of the mass defections from the PDP to the APC in 2014, Gbajabiamila obviously excited by the mad rush of the PDP renegades to join the APC, couldn’t wait anymore for elections to test his party’s strength. He hurriedly announced that the APC had emerged the majority party since many PDP members in the House had defected to the APC – that his status as the minority leader then had changed, and that he should be recognised as the majority leader.
Before some people begin to think I am a fan of Saraki, one of the people who brought down his former party – the PDP, let me state here without equivocation, I am not. If I have my way, I will personally hold him to account for the crimes he was alleged to have committed and make sure he pays a big price to society if found guilty. But a chill runs down my spine, if because he has also now defied his new party, and beat its preferred candidate, his case file is suddenly dug up for retribution. Some have argued that there is no relationship between the developments, and that it was a coincidence. But how many coincidences do we have to get before they stop being coincidences? And that is what rankles me. It even rankles me the more knowing how this same APC fought tooth and nail to have Saraki and his co-travellers’ defection letter read on the floor of the Senate. And they took the former Senate President David Mark to the cleaners for refusing to read the letter. Of course that did not stop Saraki from fraternising with APC, and ultimately, he defected to the party – which was just too happy to swell its numbers and expand its spread. Then, the party cardinals didn’t remember that Saraki had pending corruption cases that should have disqualified him from the Senate. And apparently recognising his clout, the party cardinals bypassed Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, and Mohammed Belgore – who was the original arrowhead of the party in the state, and made Saraki the party leader in Kwara State. Now, we are being daily reminded that the man has pending corruption cases. The questions everybody should ask the APC are: when did it realise that Saraki has pending corruption cases? Was it after his defection? If yes, why was he allowed to realise his senatorial quest on its platform? Did they plan to use him to achieve success and then, dump him? Needless to remind Nigerians, this same Saraki, now branded as a “betrayer”, “corrupt” and disloyal pro-PDP member by the APC cardinals and their media goons was not long ago celebrated as a progressive who was committed to “change” when he defected from the PDP to the APC with his Kwara horde. That was what we were sold before the elections. For the life of me, how can Saraki truly be a progressive? It appears when it suited them, he was a hero; when it does not, he is a villain.
I have always cautioned Nigerians at the risk of shouting myself hoarse, that these people are opportunistic politicians, and are not the messiahs they portray themselves to be. So far, every action of these “agents of change” has proved me correct. The so-called party supremacy is nothing but the supremacy of the whims and caprices of one man, period!
Gbajabiamila ceased to hold the moral high ground and the entire claim to genuine party supremacy – the moment he aided Tambuwal to undermine party supremacy in the PDP. He cannot be pointing an accusing finger at others, when he and his party are beneficiaries of the very act they now condemn.
In a rather strange irony, the same Tambuwal whom the APC apparatchiks used to fulfill their agenda was reported to be one of the arrowheads of the group that supported Dogara against Gbajabiamila. It was an interesting revelation which even Gbajabiamila will find difficult to believe and live with for a long time to come. But it provides useful lessons for politicians whose desperate quest for power blinds them to danger, when entering strange alliances that are principally driven by inordinate ambitions rather than enduring values. More often than not, they are left holding the short end of the stick – which is what has happened in this case. Now, the cookies are crumbling – emergency friends are becoming frenemies and unholy alliances forged in the coven like “witches” are unravelling at dizzying speeds in full public glare. But who are the losers in all of these? Of course, the Nigerian people who had been held to ransom, because the inflated egos of some party cardinals in conclave were badly bruised by the spectacular result of the quest for control of the National Assembly on June 9.
Not surprisingly, these APC cardinals don’t take defeat lightly. It must be their way, or the roof of the National Assembly will be brought down on everyone. It is this same lack of sportsmanship in them that has defined all their participation in elections – such that they have come to equate our national aspiration for fairness and equity to their rabid partisan inclination for power. They even have the audacity to reduce the definition of free and fair elections to their narrow-minded and selfish view – such that it is only when they win that elections are free and fair. And with a clever mix of “true lies”, half-truths, propaganda and a conniving media, they have successfully sold apples as oranges, and mangoes as pears to a very gullible section of the public.
As the war within the ruling party rages, the prospect of “change” is flickering. The party now reminds many Nigerians of the Biblical Tower of Babel whose promoters can no longer speak with one voice. The APC story today was so succinctly captured in that story so long ago – the similarity is compelling: “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” As they built their tower, the Lord said: “Come, let us go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech and so the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth.” Oh yes! The party made a name for itself by defeating the PDP in the election alright. But managing success, and laying the first building block of national rebirth which it promised, has proved a herculean task as the scramble for positions for personal benefits and influence reaches a crescendo.
Shaka Momodu is a columnist with Thisday Newspaper, where this article was first published.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.