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Gbajabiamila: The Speaking Speaker At 57 | By Olanrewaju Smart

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Fifty-seven years ago, precisely on June 25, 1962, a star, a man of high intellect, a repository of legislative knowledge in person of Rt. Hon. Femi Hakeem Gbajabiamila, the Speaker of the House of Representatives was born.

Gbaja, as he is called by friends, associates and well-wishers, is a man that has a date with destiny. Today is exactly two weeks that this GREAT MIND became the Speaker of the 9th House of Representatives, in what has become the greatest, remarkable and most befitting cum historic way of marking one’s birthday on mother earth.

When Gbajabiamila first came to the Green Chamber 16 years ago, in 2003, little did he know he would spend more than a quarter of his life in the legislature. Out of those 16 solid years, Gbajabiamila spent 14years as a principal officer, first as a Minority Whip from 2005 to 2007, Minority Leader (Opposition Leader) from 2007 to 2015 and later as Leader of the House/Majority Leader between 2015 and 2019.

It was then natural that Gbaja should become speaker after acquiring more than enough experience in the House as one of its leaders for 16 years. In the history of the Nigerian Legislature, Gbajabiamila is the first person to have risen from the position of Minority Leader to Majority Leader and then to Speaker all in a space of 16 years. This is by no means a great feat. His legislative prowess certainly confers on him the title of ‘Legislative Czar’ in the Nigerian parliament.

As Minority Leader of the House for eight years, Gbajabiamila provided the needed voice for the opposition, and each time he spoke, it was as if an ordinary Nigerian was on the floor of the House speaking, because he spoke the minds of the masses.

After Gbajabiamila became the Leader of the House in 2015, he did not relent in defending and presenting the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians, despite being saddled with the responsibility of defending the position of the government of the day.

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No wonder Gbajabiamila single-handedly came up with a Bill to criminalise estimated billing by electricity distribution companies (Discos), which has arguably become one of the most popular draft laws in the 8th Assembly. History will indeed be kind to this lover of the Nigerian masses.

Make no mistake about it, Gbajabiamila had qualified to become Speaker over four years ago. After his historic contest to occupy the Number 4 Citizen’s seat in 2015, which should have been ceded to him naturally without any contest, Gbaja went on with his life as if nothing happened. He left everything to God and believed that our Creator did not will that he would be Speaker at that time.

Call him a workaholic, and you won’t be wrong because Gbajabiamila isn’t a lazy fellow. Despite being a principal officer for 14years, he remains one of the most resourceful lawmakers that have journeyed the House. Matter of factly speaking, Gbajabiamila served, and still serves, as an unpaid consultant to many of his colleagues. Before he presents any matter on the floor of the House, he makes sure that he researches it thoroughly, which explains why he never fails as a lawmaker.

To say that Gbaja became a household name all over Nigeria long before his present status in the House is to state the obvious. Despite all that he has achieved as a fine legislator, he never let it get into his head, which is what his upbringing is all about.

But if his campaign for speaker gathered strong momentum four years ago, the one he embarked on after the Presidential and National Assembly elections held on February 23 this year was a masterstroke. Yes, it was a masterstroke because it had everybody on board: lawmakers from both the ruling and the opposition parties did not only buy the idea, they also took it upon themselves to sell the idea to all members of the 9th House. No wonder Gbajabiamila polled 281 votes, which is unprecedented in the history of speakership contest in the House.

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The slogan for his campaign for speaker ‘Nation Building: A Joint Task’ captured all that Gbajabiamila stood, and still stands for, which is that every Nigerian, irrespective of party affiliations, must be on board for the country to move forward.

Unassuming, chivalrous, accommodating, sincere, humble, courteous, adaptable, adventurous, affectionate, amiable, intuitive, dependable, easy-going, compassionate, courageous, considerate, diligent, frank, charming, generous, gregarious, impartial, inventive, reliable, resourceful, sympathetic, name it, Gbajabiamila fits the bill for a perfect gentleman. Unfortunately, he is often misunderstood by some, which is normal with human beings. But those that relate with him closely know that he represents all the adjectives above. And I am pretty sure that those that misunderstood him would now have the opportunity of knowing him better as he pilots the affairs of the House in the next four years.

Immediately after becoming speaker two weeks ago, Gbajabiamila made it clear that his would be a House of reforms. Though he promised to ‘shake the table’ in bringing reforms to the House, he said it would be in phases in order not to bring too much shock into the system. If not a man of intellect, who would make such move?

During his inaugural speech on that auspicious occasion of his emergence as Speaker on June 11, Gbajabiamila did not mince words. He said: “Hon Colleagues, I understand that I hold this office in trust for you and Nigerians. Conscious of this sacred trust, I hereby dedicate myself to the service of this Honourable House and of the good citizens of this great country, with the commitment that I shall at all times strive to defend the constitution of our Republic.

“I equally commit myself to always observe the tenets of justice, equity and fairness in my dealings with my colleagues, and to apply the ideals of transparency, probity and accountability in my management of the affairs of this Honourable House.

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“Whatever political party each one of us may belong, we must be conscious of the fact that Nigerians are truly desirous of good governance and are looking to us to be the agents that will through meaningful legislation combat security, poverty, corruption and other problems and contradictions that have held our country back and stunted our development.”

To show that he knows the nature of the Herculean task ahead of him, Gbajabiamila has since set in place the machinery of how to go about his reforms. I believe very soon, Nigerians will have the privilege of seeing that unveiled to them.

At the age of 57, Gbajabiamila has achieved a lot both as a lawyer, who practised both within and outside the shores of Nigeria, and a legislator per excellence. But hey, the man never blows his trumpet! Because he represents excellence, Gbajabiamila doesn’t accept anything short of that.

As Mr Speaker marks his 57th birthday today, I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever that he has acquired more wisdom to lead the 9th House of Representatives and bring the right reforms in the next four years as he promised. Once again, Happy Birthday Mr Speaker, Sir!

 

Olanrewaju Smart,

Office of the Speaker,

House of Representatives, Abuja.

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Opinion

Plates of rice | By Tunde Busari

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Without being prematurely critical, I can only fold my arms and sit to see results which the Southwest Security Network (Amotekun) would bring to the geopolitical zone after yesterday’s passing out of 1500 personnel in Oyo town.

Oyo State Governor Engineer Seyi Makinde has incontrovertibly blazed the trail since all the Southwest governors loudly spoke in unanimity in 2019 to confront headlong the threatening insecurity in the region. So help them, God.

However, I maintain my reservation on the implementation of the security agenda given what looks like hurried pace with which the Oyo State Amotekun was trained and presented to Governor Makinde yesterday. I’m still not convinced that three weeks training can be adequate to face the monstrous problem at hand.

Yes, reports have it that within the three weeks, members demonstrated full grasp of march past. But march past is ceremonial than operational required now. How many weeks do it take secondary school pupils to learn the art to put up flawless displays at annual inter-house sports fiesta?

Anyway, without being critical, I want to believe that Colonel Olayinka Olayanju, the commandant, has, in the past three weeks, subjected the recruits to appropriate reorientation to meet the public expectations in curtailing crimes. I want to believe intelligence gathering skill was intensively taught and exhaustively explored because, in my view, that’s what should be the strong point of the Amotekun in all the states.

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Let us see the police, civil defence and army in their uniforms. We are used to seeing them. We are familiar with them. Let us, conversely, not see Amotekun. Let Amotekun work like undercover. Let them be anonymous. Let them be faceless. Let them work like ghost. Let them walk like Elemosho in Baba Lere Paimo film.

Should Amotekun members also parade themselves on the streets in their flashy maroon uniform, there is tendency that they will abuse their oath and also end in the convoy of politicians at social gatherings. Later, they would also be struggling and fighting themselves over plates of rice and amala. They would be disgracefully giving compliment to every Dick and Harry, including criminal elements assumed to have some Naira notes to throw at them.

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Opinion

Six Consequences Of Being Stingy

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According to the dictionary, ‘Stingy’ simply means unwilling to share, give, or spend possessions or money. Interestingly, many people are yet to discover that selfishness is one of the reasons they remain the way they are.

This is because there is a step on the ladder of greatness that a selfish person may not go beyond. They could live comfortably but they can never be a world changer.

A good way is to critically look at the consequences of being stingy, which is the opposite of being generous and they are as follows:

Inability to take risks

Since the stingy person does not want to lose anything at all and as a result of that , they might find it difficult to take risk in investment. Businesses is all about risk and the higher the risk, the higher the returns and vice versa. Similarly, religion is all about faith, so people take the risk in faith and that’s why they consult God before investing in any business. The stingy does not have faith because they believe their money will be lost if they take a giant step to move further.

Erode people’s blessings

There is blessing in giving. Therefore, failure to give is failure to get blessing. If the Bible which other religions also shared same sentiment with says, “give and it shall be given unto you”, meaning that if you don’t give , nothing shall be given in returns; because if you do not let go the seed, you cannot reap the fruits.

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Deters business expansion

Selfish people lack human relationship because selfishness send people away from you and no matter how talented you are, if you cannot work with people, you may not go far in business world. Most of the times, when you give , the blessing that would come will come through your business or your job but if you are selfish , the blessing that is supposed to come through the business will be denied and thereby deter the expansion of the business.
Selfish people even finds it difficult to pay salaries of their workers and when the workers are not happy, how can the business expand ?

Loneliness

Being stingy discourages friendships and relationships, thus people would prefer not to associate with such individual. Giving attracts people and where the spirit of giving is lacking, people will not like that person and this may cause loneliness to the fellow

Negative confession

“I do not have” statement have ruined many and they didn’t know. Stingy people always saying negative confession, even when they have more than enough they would still not fall short of this negative confession, “I don’t have ” which is a negative prophecy.

Greed

Investigations revealed that the selfish people are much greedier. They always want to get everything to themselves. They are full of ‘I before others’ attitude. Unfortunately, greediness prevents people from the way to greatness.

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Opinion

#EndSARS: The Melancholic Beats Of A Two-Faced Drum | By Wole Adejumo

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I entered Akinola Maja Street, Jericho, Ibadan and approached the Superintendent of Police who was the most senior officer on the scene and after checking his name tag, I greeted him and identified myself, in my characteristic manner; “my name is Wole Adejumo, I work with The Street Journal”. I told him I noticed unusual movements and I came to check what was going on. “It is nothing serious, just a routine exercise”, he replied. So I stood by, blended with the already gathering crowd and looked on.

As the officers marched the suspects out of the premises of a petroleum haulage outfit, I brought out my camera and clicked away. I had barely taken the second picture when a hand tried to snatch the camera from behind me. I turned round to face the person and ensure that I didn’t lose the camera. Behold, it was a police sergeant and within a minute, another policeman had joined him.

I kept struggling until it crossed my mind that struggling for a camera with two men carrying Kalashnikov rifles might not be a very sensible thing to do, especially with the many cases of ‘accidental discharge’ that I had heard of. Help was not coming from any of the bystanders. I left the camera and almost immediately, the Sergeant bellowed at me, “sit down there”.  Of course seeing that the rifles were no longer on their shoulders but in their hands, my compliance was not delayed.

Right there, I was dispossessed of my phones and voice recorder. Minutes seemed like hours and the two policemen were already accusing me of being a “spy”. They put a call through to their superior officer while I sat there on the asphalt. Fortunately, the phone was on speaker, so I heard the conversation audibly. When the Sergeant reported that they had caught me, the response from the other end was “is it the guy wearing a green shirt and blue trousers? Leave him, he is a journalist”. That was how I got to know that it was the Superintendent at the other end. The Sergeant however gave reasons for which they should hold me. “He is a spy, we caught him taking pictures, sir”, he said. This time, the Superintendent said “don’t mind him, he is a foolish man. Wait for me”.

On his arrival, I was ordered to stand up and move towards the patrol van he rode in. He asked what they took from me. When I told him the items, he looked at the Sergeant and said “return his phones”.

By the time I retrieved the camera from the office of the Police Public Relations Officer later, the pictures had been wiped. My voice recorder was never found! Of course, being an expert in damage control, the PPRO apologized and said they were doing their job just as I was doing mine. He gave reasons we should be friends, especially since we had the same godfather. That was around June, 2010.

It didn’t come as a surprise that the then Superintendent’s name appeared conspicuously on the list of officers rumoured to have been penciled down for reprimand by the Force as a fallout of the Anti-SARS protests. Though the Force debunked the list, it might be an indication that the senior officer in question has always had potentials for controversy.

While I cannot claim to have had an encounter with the now disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), I have friends who cannot say the same.

Way back in 2003, Tunde Aluko was caught in their web twice. The first was when policemen came and claimed that he and two other neighbours were apprehended at the scene of a robbery and they were in SARS custody. The second was when he stopped by at one of the ‘joints’ on Ring Road to buy cigarettes. Gun wielding policemen came and arrested him.

My friend left Nigeria some months after. Why? One of the SARS officers issued him what seemed like a personal threat. “You know this is the second time they would bring you here. You wear designer clothes, expensive watches and jewelries, yet you claim to be a student. If you are brought here a third time, I will shoot you”, the officer told him. Since his mum, who was the source of the designer clothes and watches was not ready to lose him to an embittered policeman’s bullet; she took the all-important steps of taking him out of the country.   

As we already know, SARS is not self-existent; it is a unit in the Police Force. As such, officers in the disbanded unit will be transferred to other units, thus retaining them as members of the Force. They will undoubtedly operate with the same character.

The truth is that the whole Police Force needs to be overhauled. For instance, the officer that shot and killed Jimoh Isiaka during the #EndSARS Protest in Ogbomoso was not from SARS.  Gone are the days when the Force enlisted passionate young people. Not a few of the present crop of policemen are doing the job for want of a better choice. That explains why many officers are unhappy when they see someone that appears to be doing well.

The squalor in the Police College has become an open secret and one wonders how officers trained under such squalid conditions are expected to be happy to secure other citizens.

Quite unfortunately, it is not just a police problem. Earlier in the week, a truck parked on what was supposed to be the fast lane at the popular Mobil Junction leading to Oluyole Estate. Not only did the truck obstinately obstruct traffic, some youths were beside it dancing right there on the road. It was just around 6:50 when people were returning from work. They were marketing a certain “bitters” which was relatively new in the market. They rebuffed my efforts to make them realize that they were wrong to have blocked the road. “Motor wey big pass your own don pass here, oga dey go”, some of them told me as they started banging on my car.

It may not be wrong to infer that from politicians to policemen, community and religious leaders; it is with relentless vigour that people use their positions as tools of oppression and enrichment.

That explains why internet fraudsters suddenly became the prime target of SARS officers. Policemen want money and since Yahoo Boys are cashing out illegitimately, police officers have taken it upon themselves to get a piece of the cake.

Who would blame the policemen? The dilapidation in the average police barrack is more than enough to becloud the vision and competence of even the most upright man in the force. Hardly can any officer living in such an environment give peak performance at work. And sadly, years ago, the Police, SARS inclusive became a tool often deployed by big men to harass people and settle scores.

So when SARS started arresting fraudsters, no one bothered to ask whether powers of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) were being usurped or whether the Police Anti-Fraud Unit had become extraordinarily useless to the point of not being able to handle internet fraud.

Given the same opportunity under the same conditions, many of the #EndSARS protesters and by extension, average Nigerians would fare worse than the people they are protesting against. So, it is not just the Police Force that needs reforms, the government of Nigeria at all levels, and every Nigerian needs to be reformed and re-orientated in one way or the other.

While we look towards ending police brutality once and for all, we also need to look into other forms of abuse that have impeded Nigeria’s progress thus far. For instance, the Manager who will not employ a female applicant unless she warms his bed, the female student who is willing to give sex in exchange for good grades, the lecturer who is willing to aid such student, the civil servant who will not move a file unless he gets a tip and the electorate who sell their votes to the highest bidder are all as bad as the police officers we are all criticizing.

Sir Winston Churchill once said “if you are going through hell, keep going”. The youth have channeled a course and with the assurance that there is always light at the end of the tunnel, the journey into a better Nigeria seems to have only just begun.

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