Femi Gbajabiamila is now the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives. He tore his clothes to win the fight. The stakes required him to audition for the job naked!
It wasn’t beneath the dignity of ‘’Honorable’’ Gbajabiamila to fight dirty. He couldn’t bear to lose. Because he didn’t have ambition: Ambition had him –for a captive.
It’s some relief to know that Gbajabiamila’s drama is ended. The god who would not be appeased with palm oil has been fed blood. We could now have some peace.
One imagines he has already begun to enjoy the most important dividend of his victory- the rare feeling of being the Majority Leader.
The announcement by Speaker Yakubu Dogara that, after weeks of internecine slugfest, Gbajabiamila would become Majority Leader, must have teleported Gbajabiamila to the peak of exhilaration.
His mind goes blank! He feels like this is an out of body experience. He decides to believe his eyes. He sees a crowd high on adrenaline. Then it hits him: I am the Majority Leader!
You don’t recover from this kind of elation soon. The echo chamber of your mind makes a loop of that declaration, affirming the alien reality to you.
I am the Majority Leader! I am the Majority Leader! I am the Majority Leader!
Still, Gbajabiamila won’t be easily persuaded he is now the Majority Leader. The hangover that afflicts winners of a protracted battle will sustain a vestige of incredulity within him. It will be a pretty while before he sheds his combat mood and becomes reconciled to the fact that the hostility is ended.
So Gbajabiamila would be guarded and suspicious. He would continually wrestle with the fear that his hard earned position is under some threat. He would be, to some degree, paranoid; quick to place his colleagues in the binary binder of friends or foes. For an already battle weary man, this would be a heavy psychological load.
His more formidable challenge, though, will be resuming as Majority Leader in earnest and doing the job. His colleagues and a watchful nation will ask too much of his leadership. They would take no excuse. Gbajabiamila made it so, himself.
He had projected himself as the Indispensable One. He was so wedded to the excellence of his credentials he could not be convinced that other people were qualified to be Majority Leader. Even when it became untenable to prolong the stalemate, he remained adamant. He seemed to have researched the mettle of all his colleagues and concluded they don’t measure up to his command of qualities. He may have panned his eyes over their full assembly and whispered to himself: ‘’If not me, who?”
He is now the Majority Leader. He will have to start doing the extraordinary wonders no other human being is able to do. He has to meet the high expectations. He asked for it.
He presented himself as the one and only competent choice. The fairer of ten thousand. One obligated to save the House of Representatives and the Federal Republic of Nigeria from the disaster of functioning without him.
His urgent, elementary task is to deal with the ruins of his divisive ambition. He would have to repair the breach. The impelling inertia that drove his bid created a lot of bad blood.
It is the ultimate triumph of poetic justice that he now bears the burden of reconciling the factions he created.
The only hitch is Gbajabiamila has foreclosed his chance of succeeding as Majority Leader. The ruthless route he chose, his my-way-or-the-highway quest, has effectively alienated him from the majority of the members. And it’s even worse.
If he looked behind him today, he would discover he is leading himself and his circle of friends. Majority of members will be loath to follow a man who prosecuted such horrible scorched earth campaign.
Gbajabiamila has virtually exhausted his congenial capital. His siege has made it impossible, or at least very difficult, to secure the buy in, loyalty, and regard of many of his colleagues. He promoted himself as a ravenous, power hungry individual. And that’s the worst personal demarketing any aspiring leader can do.
Gbajabiamila performed a grotesque plastic surgery on himself. When his colleagues see him nowadays, they see a man who swore to rule over them willy-nilly.
But this Gbajabiamila that reintroduced himself to us could have been an imposter, a failure at mimicry. Gbajabiamila was a noble person. The new Gbajabiamila is a megalomaniac. An incontinent megalomaniac.
‘’To be or not to be’’ was Shakespeare’s question. For Gbajabiamila, it was a rhetorical question. The answer was definitely ‘’to be’’. To be Majority Leader. To be Majority Leader or nothing. And did he awe us with his desperation and stamina!
Ronald Reagan said people run for office to be something or do something. Gbajabiamila proved as best he could that he wanted ‘’to be’’ something. He could not be dissuaded from pressing to be. He didn’t fight to be because of ambition. He fought to be for the sake of existence.
After he lost the Speakership to his rival, Yakubu Dogara, he decided he couldn’t survive below the minimum of Majority Leader. He fought for 49 days. Days in which he held the House hostage. He insisted he must take the seat or the House would not function.
The issue with Gbajabiamila was what he was going to be if he wouldn’t make do with Majority Leader. He simply could not figure out ‘’being’’ outside the pride of place he thought he deserved. He fought like his life depended on it. He couldn’t have battled more fiercely for his very life than he did to grab the position of Majority Leader.
He was the implacable child who would not let the House have peace until he got his toy.
And a pliant APC secretariat was the spoilt, indulgent parent. It backed him to the hilt, opting to use ‘’party supremacy’’ –a wretched euphemism for party dictatorship –to coerce its caucus.
Just to show it could kill for Gbajabiamila, the party asked Deputy Speaker Lasun, another South Westerner to resign. If it would be incongruous for two principal officers to come from one geopolitical zone, then Lasun had to leave for Gbajabiamila, the favorite, to enter.
The party threatened it would self-destruct if its will on Gbajabiamila was not done!
In any case, Gbajabiamila has taken his ransom. So will he now revert to that gentlemanly persona he necessarily disowned to fight become Majority Leader? Will he live happily ever after?
Gbajabiamila notched the prize against all odds. But he paid a huge price. A hauntingly impoverishing price.
He won a pyrrhic victory. Decimated what honor he had accumulated from the day of his first entry into national limelight. Damaged that brand of a consummate, gifted legislator.
The smooth talking, refined man, the Gbajabiamila who would speak to patriotism whenever he marshals his persuasion, auctioned off his credibility. He sold it cheap. Sold it for the ephemeral title and privileges of a Majority Leader.
Gbajabiamila has lost credibility. The desperation he exuded to become Majority Leader, his resolution to hold all of us in the grip of his villainy, to bring down a highly populated edifice on his head like a bitter, bruised Samson, is hard to digest. He went the farthest distance to prove that self comes before country.
Gbajabiamila is solely responsible for his conduct. He was mentally competent and capable of exercising agency. At 53, Gbajabiamila is an adult. It’s an insult to exonerate Gbajabiamila and lay the blame for the impasse on Bola Tinubu. Gbajabiamila was no moron. He is a lawyer. He calculated his acts and their consequences. He wasn’t bound to be the outrider of a godfather’s politics.
Gbajabiamila demystified himself. He killed the promise of finesse and grace that he seemed to embody. He killed it in a shameful hara-kiri that has smudged his name.
When he led his supporters to congratulate Speaker Dogara and pledge to work with him, after the election, we all praised his nobility. Nobody knew he had a caveat. We did not know he would demand a non-negotiable consolation prize.
Femi Gbajabiamila sank below the nadir of the character of the average Nigerian politician. The worst of them still fake a commitment to ‘’moving the nation forward’’. Gbajabiamila couldn’t even afford any attenuating pretence. He was ready to make the gridlock last until we budged. He made clear his obsession wasn’t serving Nigeria: It was about appropriating a political position.
A London based Nigerian pastor says ‘’ it is not over until you win’’. This statement is perversely true for Gbajabiamila. He has won. It is over. He has truncated his politically career with this show of inelastic intransigence.
This is a fight he would have been better off not winning.
Becoming the Majority Leader was supposed to be an ascension, a climb from power to greater power. But Gbajabiamila’s ascent was a downfall. He traded a good name for the height.
Emmanuel Uchenna Ugwu
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