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Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila needs no introduction as far as the Nigerian political space is concerned. He made his name through hard work, diligence and consistency both in private life and public service. The difference between ‘race’ and ‘grace’ is the “G” which stands for the God factor.

“Gbaja”, as the 6-term member of the House of Representatives from Lagos State is fondly called, can only give credit to God for the journey of his life so far. Elected 6 consecutive times into the Federal House of Representatives since 2003, Hon. Gbaja voluntarily resigned from the Green Chamber after his inauguration in June 2023 to take up a new challenge as Chief of Staff to his mentor and political leader, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

A shining light and a noble parliamentarian, of the 20 years-plus that Rt. Hon. Gbaja served in the National Assembly, he was a principal officer for 16 consecutive years. From the cradle as Minority Whip, he rose to the pinnacle as the Speaker of the 9th Assembly. That can only be by grace considering the competing interests in Nigeria.

Between 2007 to 2015, Hon. Gbaja was the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, the longest anyone has ever occupied that position since the beginning of democratic practice in Nigeria. When his Party, the APC won the presidential election and attained majority status after the 2015 general election, Hon. Gbaja was chosen by his colleagues from his Party to lead them as the Majority Leader, a position he held until 2019 when he was elected by Honourable Members of the 9th Assembly across party lines as the 14th Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives.

The House under Gbaja witnessed peace, tranquillity, stability, effectiveness and executive-legislative harmony. The preceding 8th Assembly, led by Rt. Hon Yakubu Dogara never enjoyed a good working relationship with the executive for one day and there was no peace in the House. Though the two arms of government were being controlled by the same political party, they were set out for an unending confrontation from the very day of their inauguration when some dissenters from the ruling Party conspired both in the House of Representatives and the Senate to enthrone unpopular leaders for the National Assembly.

They were never accepted by the leadership of the party that nominated them for election and suspected by the executive arm of government they were meant to work with. It was a marriage of convenience that never experienced any love affair in four years.

A 1983 graduate of Law from the University of Lagos, Hon. Gbaja was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1984 after completing his Law School with flying colours. He worked briefly at the Law Firm of Bentley Edu & Co. before moving on to establish his own Firm, Femi Gbaja & Co.

In pursuit of higher knowledge and exposure, Hon Gbaja obtained a Jurist Doctor’s Degree from the John Marshall Law School in Atlanta Georgia. He was called to the Georgian Bar in 2001 after passing the Bar Exam. He settled down in Atlanta and set up a Law Firm of his own. It was in Atlanta that Hon. Gbaja got his political tutelage as he participated actively in the election of Bill Campbell as Mayor of Atlanta. So it would be right to say that he learned from the founders and custodians of the borrowed modern-day democratic system we practice in the country today in the best possible environment.

A protege and political associate of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, in 2002, Hon Gbaja returned to Nigeria and joined the Alliance For Democracy, AD, the then-ruling Party in South Western Nigeria. It was at a time when the incumbent president was the governor of Lagos State and though the Obasanjo tsunami of 2003 swept through many parts of the South West and “conquered it” for the PDP, Tinubu and his lieutenants held their ground in Lagos which saw the election of Gbaja as Member Representing Surulere 1 Federal Constituency. From then on, he never looked back.

With a background knowledge of American democracy, Hon Gbaja knows that the strength of the legislature is in the longevity of her members as experience is vital in the lawmaking and oversight responsibilities. To achieve longevity, you must be committed to the welfare of the electorate as that’s the only way you can continue to count on their support.

Gbaja never failed for one day. His footprints on the sands of Surulere 1 Federal Constituency are indelible. Beyond Surulere, he spread his wings to other parts of the State as his colleagues representing sister constituencies with a high turnover of Members never had the consistency and the experience to attract projects like the “permanent member”, which Gbaja became.

Though defection is a common phenomenon in our democratic practice, Gbaja remained with the core members of the AD as it metamorphosed into Action Congress, AC; then Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN before finally merging with other political Parties and factions to form the All Progressives Congress, APC in 2014. This again, is a testament to his consistency.

In the House of Representatives, he provided leadership to a cross-section of people from different political, religious, tribal and ethnic backgrounds. In sixteen years before he became the speaker, he saw the highs and the lows of the House. He had witnessed the rise and fall of those before him and knew where the “banana pill” of the House was hidden. He knew the importance of executive-legislative harmony and worked towards it while maintaining the independence of the legislature. He prioritised the welfare of his colleagues and earned their respect through his acts of selflessness.

Gbaja is indeed a child of grace and as the holy book says, “seeth thou a man diligent in his works, he will stand before kings”. Gbaja did not just stand before kings, he became a king and a king-maker. That’s the uncommon grace of the “Lagos Boy”. How has he been able to manage envy, jealousy and the ‘pull him down’ syndrome in Nigerian politics? He simply forgives and moves on. Anything to the contrary would have weighed him down before now.

Earlier in the year, an online news medium published a false story of how he wanted to convert about 30 Billion Dollars and 66 houses allegedly recovered from a former presidential aide and nephew to ex-president Mohammadu Buhari, Tunde Sabiu for his personal use. They titled it “re-looting the loot”.

At face value, nobody would have taken such news with a pinch of salt. What’s the size of the Nigerian economy that one single individual would have stolen $30 billion from it in 8 years? How did he do it? What’s our GDP or annual budget?

Those who promoted the news knew exactly what they wanted to achieve. Blackmail and pure blackmail. To tarnish the name and hard-earned reputation of a man of few words and many actions. Without prompting, the National Defence Intelligence Agency swooped on the report and wanted to know more details about the deal. If one single individual has such an amount in his system without corresponding investment or business interests, that should be a threat to national security.

They picked up the editor of the news outlet and wanted to know more. It was all a ruse. It was news not borne out of patriotism or diligent watch of the Fourth Estate of the Realm. It was a hatchet job by desperate politicians who have not been able to achieve anything politically in life.

Rt Hon Gbaja allowed the security agencies to do their job without interference. At the end of the day, the news outlet retracted the story, tendered a public apology to the honourable Chief of Staff and fired the editor who abandoned journalism for dirty politics. That is grace at work. Many have been blackmailed in the past and never survived it to tell their story.

Gbaja has since settled down to his new assignment which is principally to assist Mr President in his day-to-day activities and coordinate the activities of the president’s office and his aides. For a man who managed 360 independent and radical legislators for four years without blemish, the president has found a true manager of human and material resources in Rt Hon Femi Gbajabiamila and it is hoped that grace will continue to sustain him on his new job.


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