President Muhammadu Buhari, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and other notable personalities have showered accolades on the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, describing him as an exemplary patriotic leader.
They said the speaker had demonstrated capacity in his political journey, asking him to remain consistent and relentless in service to Nigeria.
They spoke in Abuja at the weekend during the presentation of a book, ‘Mr Speaker,’ authored by Dr Charles Omole and Mr Musa Abdullahi Krishi, chronicles the “legislative life, service and resilience of Femi Gbajabiamila.”
The event, a two-in-one, was also for the unveiling of the ‘Legislative Mentorship Initiative (LMI)’ piloted by Gbajabiamila to mentor young Nigerians on a career in politics, particularly grooming them for legislative roles in the Nigeria of the future.
The weekend event, which was part of the activities to mark the Speaker’s 60th birthday, was chaired by a former Governor of Ogun State, Chief Segun Osoba, and graced by dignitaries drawn from the public and private sectors of Nigeria as well as diplomatic and international human development support groups.
Buhari, represented by his Chief of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, described Gbajabiamila as a “true patriot”, who “is passionate about Nigeria.”
He stated that having watched the speaker’s political growth over the years, he had come to the conclusion that Gbajabiamila is “an astute legislator who wants a peaceful, united Nigeria to grow.”
The President praised the Speaker for his concept of ‘parliamentary diplomacy’, which had helped the Executive arm to resolve certain knotty issues, and the harmony that had existed between the two arms of government since 2019.
On his part, Tinubu, while appreciating Gbajabiamila, recalled how the speaker learnt fast in his early days as a politician, in spite of the tough terrain he found himself in back then in Surulere, Lagos State.
The APC presidential candidate noted that because of Gbajabiamila’s willingness to learn, he was able to turn his initial reluctance into an unstoppable politician.
“Politics is very rough and I told Femi. He would complain from morning and hours. Later on, he got used to it, but he never stopped complaining about one thing or another.
“As Minority Leader, he was always there to see to the thinking of the opposition to defeat the PDP. He had to brainstorm on strategies… Femi is a workaholic”, he added.
Tinubu narrated how he almost cried when Gbajabiamila lost in his first attempt to be the speaker in 2015, but said, “I told him, ‘stamp your feet, never give up.’ Then he fought hard.”
He thanked Gbajabiamila for being a good ally, wishing him well to aspire to occupy any position in the country, having demonstrated enough capacity to lead.
The Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, Mr Tony Elumelu, who was the Chief Presenter of the book, said Gbajabiamila remained “a man we have all come to love and admire.”
“He is extremely outstanding and humble, and this is why his friends have all come to celebrate with him. We must all begin to show interest in how we are governed and how laws are made”, he stated.
One of the Speaker’s former colleagues and member of the PDP, Rep. Nnenna Elendu Ukeje, was also on hand to testify to Gbajabiamila’s legislative expertise.
“Femi worked the House like no one could. Femi did more to ensure that Nigerians fell out of love with PDP. I wasn’t surprised he became speaker, and so far he has been absolutely wonderful”, she told the session.
Speaking, the chairman of the occasion, Osoba, wished the Speaker well, saying, “Gbajabiamila is going to clock 100 years. I thank him for his service to this country. I pray you will become the Nancy Pelosi of Nigeria. Gbajabiamila deserves to be given that type of support to be a Pelosi of Nigeria.”
The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ms Catriona Laing, congratulated Gbajabiamila for coordinating the 9th House effectively, leading to the passing of important bills, especially the Electoral Act, 2022.
Making his remarks, Gbajabiamila, who turned 60 on June 25, expressed gratitude to God for his life and his humble contribution to governance in Nigeria.
He thanked all those who had shaped his political journey, and also hailed Omole and Krishi for putting that historical journey down in a permanent form.
He went on, “Our lives are a gift, and all our stories are important simply because we are. Therefore, it is just as important that we try to tell our own stories for their own sake. And I hope that, if nothing else, the work that the authors have done here will inspire many of you to begin writing your own history.”
Among the dignitaries present was The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha; the Nigeria Governors’ Forum Chairman/Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi; his Kebbi state counterpart/APC Governors’ Forum Chairman, Atiku Bagudu; Kwara State Deputy Governor, Kayode Alabi; Ondo State Deputy Governor, Lucky Orimisan Aiyedatiwa; Minister of State for Health, Sen. Olorunnimbe Mamora; Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed; Minister of Power, Abubakar Aliyu, as well as the Chief of Staff to the Rivers State Governor, Chukwuemeka Woke.
Captains of industry present included betting mogul, Kensington Adebutu; airline operator, Dahiru Mangal, who was represented by former Head of Service, Bukar Goni; while Aliko Dangote, Femi Otedola and Abdul Samad Rabiu were all represented.