The 10th House of Representatives promises to be more interesting than the build-up to the forthcoming general election already is. Tongues are wagging among members of the House that the Speaker, Femi Gbajabimila, may seek to continue to occupy his coveted position.
Gbajabimila, who has already transformed his constituency and the entire Surulere metropolis of Lagos into a ‘small London’, has no fear whatsoever regarding his re-election bid. What is unclear, however, is whether he would be allowed to continue as Speaker, more so that his godfather is contesting to be the President. If Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu eventually wins, how much political balance will having the president and speaker of the House of Representatives from the same Lagos State represent? Only time will tell!
But as the saying goes, there is no free lunch even in a Freetown. Gbajabimila’s recent generosity to his colleagues is sure suggestive that something is in the offing. If the speculation among members is anything to go by, the speaker is already intimidating anyone who might be interested in taking his position with what look like huge financial inducements to members. Just in December, the speaker gifted all the members with something he believed would be enough to take care of the holiday expenses of the members irrespective of their political party affiliation. As if that was not good enough, as the House was planning to adjourn plenary for about two months to concentrate on political campaigns for the general election, the speaker doubled the amount he gave lawmakers in December, 2022.
One of the lawmakers in a casual discussion remarked that the cash gifts from the now generous speaker just within one month is almost enough to cover the election expenses of some lawmakers seeking reelection. As good as this generous handouts looks, the intention is very tricky and those planning to take Gbajabiamila’s job must be prepared to possess a stronger financial war chest, the battle is going to be a fierce one.
However, as always, there are two sides to every coin. While some lawmakers consider the speaker’s handouts as a token of his appreciation to his colleagues for ensuring that he enjoyed a turbulence-free tenure, others think is it a ploy to buy their loyalty and guarantee a second tenure for him. Those in the latter category are also surprised that an individual could effortlessly cough out such huge funds within 30 days just by occupying a vantage position.
The gesture may work two ways, no matter how much some lawmakers enjoy the cash gifts from the speaker, they would still not be happy to have him continue in office. After all, what is good should not be enjoyed by only one person for too long a time and the money he shared was not the proceeds of his private business.
Should the candidate of APC win the presidential election come February 25, the powers that be will have to contend with the choice of having a president and speaker in a ‘father and son’ relationship, this may sound impossible, but this is Nigeria where strange things happen on the political stage.
Amid the unfolding dramas, I chose not to place any interest in the political colouration of Mr speaker’s Largesse, rather I am worried about the monetisation of Nigeria’s political space and how financial inducements would flood the House when members begin to jostle for leadership positions of the 10th House of Representatives. Also, how can the speaker explain the huge sums moving around in cash at his behest in a cashless economy? Should I add that the fund was disbursed in a foreign currency strong enough to ensure that there are no traces of ‘Ghana Must Go’ bags?
While I commend the speaker and other principal officers of the House for the stability so far achieved in the 9th House, the reason behind the ‘Gbaja magic’ is gradually coming to the fore and I am as worried as anybody who has a genuine love for this country. I do not expect a pleasant reaction to this exposé, interested persons will in the coming days ask me to show proof that funds have been exchanging hands even when they know it is the fact. Quite unfortunately, this is the sad reality of the country we live and believe in.