By Hon. Francis Ottah-Agbo
It was an appointment waiting to happen. And when finally, President Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu on Friday, June 2, 2023, announced the outgoing Speaker, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila as his Chief of Staff (CoS), the news hit the political landscape with a bang!
The reason is not far fetched. At the 60th birthday celebration of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Gbajabiamila at the Congress Hall of Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who was at the time, the Presidential Candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) commended the leadership qualities of the Speaker and thanked him for his support over the years.
Tinubu who had just won the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential ticket in 2022, added that the support given him by Gbajabiamila and his worthy Deputy, Hon Idris Wase, helped him to win the APC presidential ticket.
The relationship between the President and the Speaker goes a long way as Tinubu also acknowledged that right from when he was governor of Lagos State, he has been consulting Gbajabiamila on all critical decisions, one of which he said was the payment of WASCE/SSCE fees for Lagosians who were in their final year in secondary schools.
This level of trust and friendship that exists between the two men, coupled with the competence of Gbajabiamila and his over 20 years of legislating for good governance, puts the latter in a good position to serve a central role in the Tinubu administration.
Gbajabiamila is an archetypal public servant, a turn around expert, a bridge builder and a smooth operator with superb diplomacy and public relations skills capable of turning apathy to interest and failure to success.
Gbajabiamila is also a skillful; prolific politician whose oratory, power of conviction and persuasion are capable of mobilizing Nigerians to achieve target goals, a quality for which he is rarely appreciated for.
Also, he is intelligent, smart and organically connected to the people and institutions of government. These attributes make him the tailor-made Chief of Staff to Tinubu, the sixth Executive President of Nigeria.
First elected to the House of Representatives in 2003 to represent Surulere 1 Federal Constituency, Lagos State, the Speaker, who hit the ground running as a Federal legislator, was able to make an impression on his constituents who kept voting and returning him to the House for six consecutive times!
This is because he listens and attends to them in every area of need and has been able to attract legacy projects to the constituency like no other has done.
Not surprisingly, he won election to represent his people for the sixth time in the 10th Assembly and can any time readily repeat the feats that have seen him coming back to the Green Chamber.
With excellent human relations skills, Gbajabiamila has been able to preside over the House effectively, making it to function smoothly without rancour while performing its functions effectively as a legislature.
His ability to reach out to each member in the 360-member strong parliament has confirmed his talent as an efficient manager of human resource, which will be needed to coordinate affairs for the Presidency.
With contacts in all parts of the country and good knowledge of how things work in each arm of government, there is arguably no better person to serve in the capacity of Chief of Staff than Gbajabiamila.
With his background as a lawyer, and experience as a Federal legislator and one who rose through the ranks from being a floor member to be the minority leader, majority leader and later Speaker, he has seen it all in terms of experience, tact, courage, diplomacy, partnership, patriotism and wisdom.
Before he became Speaker, he had convinced both his colleagues and constituents that he stands for the unity and progress of Nigeria.
Many recall how as a legislator of the progressive hue, he was able to stay true to the cause in entrenching democracy when he fought against the third term agenda of the Olusegun Obasanjo era.
He is sociable, accessible, approachable, and ready to attend to people, and is one of those who gave their all to the APC at a time nobody gave the party a chance to make a headway.
Since Gbajabiamila became Speaker, the quality of bills and motions passed has been enhanced and is tailored towards serving the citizenry.
It was due to his leadership of the House that the Reps intervened and called in the Executive arm of government to rise up to the occasion about the security situation in the country in view of the threats it was posing to citizens.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, the House again, through his leadership, worked out many palliatives, including financial packages that alleviated the suffering of the masses.
The House again waded in strongly when citizens were experiencing hardship due to the redesign of the naira and caused the CBN Governor to appear before it.
The Speaker also intervened in the ASUU strike and it was his intervention that made the lecturers to soft-pedal and return to the classrooms.
He was also in Ghana and South Africa when Nigerians and other foreign nationals were threatened.
With such excellent records, brilliance, proven integrity, reach and commitment to duty, it will be a privilege having such a hard working and committed individual on board.
This administration of renewed hope requires people with deep experience and vast knowledge of governance to work as the expectations of people of the administration are high. And Gbajabiamila snugly fits that bill.
What is more is the fact that he commands the respect of the legislators as Speaker, has earned the respect of the judiciary as a lawyer of international repute, and has deep understanding of the executive with his interactions with heads of government, ministries and agencies.
With people like Gbajabiamila around the President, the administration’s commitment to a smooth take-off would be enhanced and its stability guaranteed.
*Agbo is the Chairman of the Narcotic Drugs Committee and spokesman for the Minority Caucus of the 9th House of Representatives.