Gbajabiamila’s Sense Of Entitlement/

The House of Representatives was in the news again last week, and, as many Nigerians have come to expect, for the very wrong reasons. Some aggrieved members of the Green Chamber threw decorum to the dogs and decided to “war war” rather than “jaw jaw” in the global best tradition of Parliaments.

The behaviour of most of the lawmakers since the inauguration of the National Assembly (NASS) on Tuesday, June 9, makes one to wonder whether the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) appreciates the enormity of the challenges ahead. It has been one debilitating crisis after another.

Yet, everyone knows that the country and its economy are in serious trouble and need a government that ought to hit the ground running. Unfortunately, what we are confronted with are contrived problems that cannot by any stretch of the imagination attenuate the socio-political and economic glitches staring us in the face. 

And just when Nigerians were about to heave a sigh of relief that perhaps the APC has finally realised there is a huge difference between a party in opposition and the one in government, another crisis has erupted in the NASS over chairmanship of “juicy committees.”

The shenanigans in the two chambers of the NASS controlled by the APC that runs the federal government is unsettling, to say the least. It is even more so in the House of Representatives where Femi Gbajabiamila is beginning to take himself too seriously, believing that he has also become such an important power centre in the country, punching way above his weight.

I don’t know what convinced Gbajabiamila, the majority leader of the House of Representatives, to think that without him, or that unless his egoistic interests are permanently accommodated, then the Lower Chamber cannot function. Perhaps, because of the way Buhari was blackmailed into foisting him on his colleagues as the Leader of the House, he thinks he holds more stake in the ever-faltering Nigeria Project than other people.

But Gbajabiamila has to watch it. He is stretching his luck too far.

The latest dog-fight between him and the House started on October 22, when Speaker Yakubu Dogara named the leaders of the 96 standing committees. Gbajabiamila said he was betrayed and shortchanged by Dogara because, according to him, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was favoured more with the chairmanship of “juicy committees” than the ruling APC although 48 of the committees are chaired by APC members and 45 by PDP members.

Gbajabiamila, who had earlier accused Dogara of deliberately alienating principal officers of the House from the selection process and constitution of the committees, followed up his loud complaint with an official letter to him where he formally alleged the chairmen and deputy chairmen of the committees were chosen without inputs from all principal officers of the House. But Dogara quickly exposed the lie in the allegation by releasing two memos showing that the appointment of committee heads was jointly done by the leadership of the House comprising all principal officers.

The first memo was a letter of invitation sent to all the nine principal officers, including Gbajabiamila, dated October 21, and signed by Dogara’s Chief of Staff, Jerry Manwe. They were to meet over the constitution of the leadership of the committees on October 22. And Gbajabiamila, the complainant-in-chief, was at the meeting because the second memo dated October 22 was the attendance list containing the names of all the nine principal officers who attended.

When that lie failed to sway other members of his party in the House, Gbajabiamila went for Dogara’s jogular by once again deploying blackmail, as he is wont to, in the pursuit of his self-serving agenda. On Monday, November 9, after he and 23 of his co-travellers on the boulevard of mischief boycotted the inauguration of the 96 standing committees, they went to have a closed door meeting with members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC at the national secretariat in Abuja, where they accused Dogara of working against the interest of Buhari.

Gbajabiamila is a protege of a political school of thought that revels in vicious intrigues, that believes that in any contest for power, the end must justify the means. Because of their untrammeled access to the media, they have a way of serving narcissistic, conceited and self-important agenda as national dish.

Rising from the closed door meeting, the lawmakers, who operated under the dubious aegis of “APC House Loyal Members”, said it was against the democratic principle to share committees equally with the opposition. Alleging that the activities of Dogara were against the party and its leadership, the group thundered, “Nowhere in the world do opposition parties share committees equally with the ruling party.”

Maybe!

But, it is not a crime to do so and Nigerian lawmakers may well decide to do things differently. Who knows? Other countries may learn the art of building inclusive governments from us.

The group further alleged that Dogara “has severally frustrated efforts by patriotic members who wanted to table salutary motions aimed at commending and encouraging Mr. President’s anti-corruption measures so far taken.”

And the clincher: “The composition of the headships of committees must be seen for what it is: a declaration of war against the APC and the Presidency – all calculated at sabotaging the majority advantage that APC enjoys, with the ultimate aim of rolling back the electoral victory of our party.”

Sheer blackmail!

Even the name “APC House Loyal Members” was mischievously contrived to create the impression that other members of the House are not loyal to the party. It is instructive that in a House of 360 members, with about 214 of them being members of the APC, Gbajabiamila was only able to convince 23 to join him in his ill-advised and ridiculous “juicy committees” campaign. It is even more so that the person spearheading this campaign is a self-acclaimed leading light of the APC that came to power on a change mantra.

Is the concept of juicy committee part of the change agenda of the APC government? In any case, what is this whole saga of juicy committee all about other than avenue for filthy lucre? A committee is classified juicy or not based on the ability of the parastatal to cough out millions of naira as bribe to lawmakers when they come for their statutory oversight duties. What makes one committee more important than another?

Why would the House even create 96 committees when Buhari is reducing the number of ministries, departments and agencies of government?

Isn’t the primary responsibility of every lawmaker to adequately represent his constituency and make laws for the good governance of the country?

How will the chairmanship of juicy committees translate to effective representation of constituents or making of good law?

Gbajabiamila is not more APC than those he is disparaging. He did not contribute more to the victory of the party in the last general election. He is not as important as he is claiming to be. He contested the speakership and failed, and without the intervention of Buhari, he would have also lost out on the majority leader position.

So, I don’t see where this air of arrogance and self-importance is coming from. If anything, the APC leadership is over-indulging Gbajabiamila. This brazen sense of entitlement is an insult to all of us. He is beginning to take Nigerians for granted. Nigerians are sick of the puerile antics of lawmakers like Gbajabiamila and the unending embers of discord they are stoking at the NASS. They can no longer hold us to ransom.