By Manny Ita
It is a popular cliché in Nigeria that politics is a dirty game and perhaps the reason is not far-fetched. However, the great achievements of progressive nations of the world today were recorded with politics very much in pole position.
Some introspective breeze blew to mind George Orwell’s Animal Farm satire, which dutifully showed how quickly the collective resolve to fight for the common good can upon assumption of power by proponents of such struggle, diminish into the fight for self, and I couldn’t help but grimace as my stomach churned at the fact that a man many Nigerians just as I hold or held (not so sure again) in very high esteem, who stands as the ultimate voice for the Nigerian people, and supposedly a beacon of democratic norms, should come out in full public glare to negate the very principles that earned him his enviable seat, with undemocratic pronouncement in an autocratic manner, asking duly qualified chairmanship aspirants of Surulere Local Government Area to step down for his choice candidate, worsening it by saying it was all an order from the chairman of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed.
I speak of no other than Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila, who reportedly pressured aspirants vying for chairmanship and councillorship positions in Surulere Local Government Area of Lagos to step down for his protégés, indirectly saying NO to fairness, inclusiveness of youths in governance, equal opportunity et al, considering the fact that his choice candidate for Chairmanship of the historical but decaying Local Government, incumbent Vice Chairman Sulaiman Bamidele Yussuf, who has at different times within the past 18 years been counselor and supervisor under various administrations in Surulere Local Government Area, has very little to show for all his years of service.
Gbajabiamila, according to an audio recording of his meeting with chairmanship aspirants of Surulere Local Government clearly instructed the aspirants to step down for his choice candidate, saying it was an “order from above”.
Specifically, the Nigerian fourth citizen said, “Leaders at the topmost echelon of the party, when the list (of aspirants) emerged, beckoned on me. They said, ‘Mr. Speaker nine aspirants are vying for chairmanship position in your constituency, which is untoward”, adding that, “We cannot be from the same family and not able to talk to ourselves. Stones are not used in purchasing party nomination forms; I do not know the aspirants have such money as to be able to purchase nomination forms in their numbers and they would be saying there is no money.”
“Though we know we are practicing democracy, but, on the other hand, it is a shameful thing to have aspirants in such numbers. It will turn friends into foes.
“It does not augur well to see nine chairmanship aspirants file out for the primaries because such development portends unforeseen consequences. We must find how to streamline the number of aspirants.
“This is an order, and you all know where such order is coming from. You all know that I have just one leader (Asiwaju Bola Tinubu); I don’t have two. And, this is the way to go”.
The Speaker should have tried to align his utterances to the paramountcy deserving of his exalted office.
As far as public opinion goes, these utterances paint the Asiwaju in very bad colours because the All Progressives Party stands for positive change, but perhaps even more so, because a wide section of Nigerians believe the Asiwaju is loaded enough to navigate Nigeria out of the woods, with 2023 in view towards which cause progressive minds and youths form a potent force to be reckoned with.
It will be recalled that the very politically savvy Bolaji Ahmed Tinibu has unapologetically remained a stalwart of sensible democracy in the country. He fiercely stood at the forefront of the fight to terminate military rule and enthrone democracy in our country; a cause that resulted in his going on exile, but from where he continued coordinating efforts under various platforms towards returning Nigeria to democracy; efforts that ultimately paid off to the benefit of all.
The more I kept thinking about it, the more I tried not to become despondent about the sincerity of certain sensitive ranks amongst our leaders to effect ground sweeping changes, although bitterly ashamed that someone widely considered a liberating light should so unabashedly display symptoms the very skeletons we’re desperately trying to expunge from the national cupboards. Is all the talk about change then simply poppycock or a dud cheque unlikely to ever be cashed?
To further throw light on the embarrassing scenario, supporters of Yussuf under the auspices of “Awalokan” (meaning “It’s Our Turn”) according to report said they were confident Yussuf would freely dole out public funds and other patronages when enthroned as chairman, while the Speaker himself allegedly promised juicy appointments and contracts when he assumes office as governor of Lagos State in 2023.
Triggered by the Speaker’s words, as I contemplated the entire scenario, with particular emphasis on the socioeconomic prospects that Surulere holds, my mind wandered to what the name Gbajabiamila could possibly mean, intuitively sensing there just had to be something dodgy about that name. Curiosity got the better of me and I decided to do some digging, and BOOM! My hunch was darn right. Names sure have meanings. According to my finding, in Yoruba language, the name Gbajabiamila means one who, while fighting, pretends to be separating a fight.
It just fit in perfectly. I could belabor the fact proving the deduction of that name by analyzing further with respect to the subject matter, but I bet you’d rather there’s no need.
By trying to circumvent due process in the build-up to Suru-Lere Local Government election for personal gain, with carrots in hand, Gbajabiamila who has been representing Surulere Local Government Area in the House of Representatives in the last 18 years, cast aspersion on the CHANGE mantra of the APC and indeed his suitability as chief voice of the Nigerian people, under a regime with an avowed mandate to stamp out corruption. Attributing the directive to the Chairman of the party should hold a gravity that himself as a trained man in law should understand perhaps better. Championing sweeping changes and reforms, at least within the sphere of his influence would have cut the Speaker a much more appropriate and appealing picture, more so given that the clarion song for change propelled majority of Nigerians to sympathize and come out massively to vote for the very party that the Speaker represents.
Alas it probably gives one a sneak peek of his swan song when his tenure draws to a close.
I would not say the virtues of dear Gbaja have been vitiated by the privileges of his exalted office, but to try to influence due process of an election from the vantage point of his high office and then attribute his action to an order from a rare democratic titan fighting to ensure Nigeria becomes the pride of all, is to say the least uncharitable and petty.
In a bold reaction to the Speaker’s action, Idris Aregbe who is the Lagos State APC Youth Organizing Secretary and whose popularity among youths, women and children counts in no small measure to his favour, affirmed he would rather take his chance at selflessly serving the people than succumb to the juicy carrot of contracts and patronages being dangled.
Another aspirant, Bamidele Hussein, former Executive Secretary of the council rejected Gbajabiamila’s call to step down, admitting she had discussions with the Speaker, but dismissed rumor she agreed to step down for Yussuf.
As it is said, all it takes for evil to succeed is for the voice of reason to be silent. Nigerians want positive change and so do the people of Surulere. It was time for that change, in which inclusivity is paramount.
And I sincerely think the name of our own dear Asiwaju needs to be divorced from these inconsiderate utterances spewed in that unholy meeting.