Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, the speaker of Nigeria’s 9th House of Representatives began his working career as a practicing lawyer and distinguished himself as a brilliant legal practitioner. He proceeded to set up his own law firm in Nigeria and later in Atlanta Georgia in the United States. He demonstrated his brilliance in his educational career – emerging on top of his class in Nigeria and overseas.
His active involvement in politics began in the United States where he worked for the election of Bill Campbell who later went on to become Mayor of the city of Atlanta. On his return to Nigeria, he sailed smoothly into the political scene and pitched his camp with the Bola Tinubu-led Alliance for Democracy.
Working closely with the party’s leadership, Gbajabiamila impressed his party with outstanding leadership qualities and commitment to party ideals. These qualities endeared him to the party’s leadership – which worked with him to clinch nomination for the House of Representatives’ seat in his Surulere 1 constituency for the 2003 general elections.
He won the election in 2003 and made impressive marks in the house that quickly distinguished him as a brilliant legislator. He demonstrated passion in issues concerning his constituents and Nigeria as a whole and showed the kind of commitment to resolving such issues that apparently was lacking among most legislators.
Gbajabiamila stood out as truly a defender of the interests and aspirations of his constituents in his first term in the House of Representatives. The result was an overwhelmingly re-election on the platform of Action Congress in 2007 and since then he has continued to return to the house.
He was elected his party’s leader and minority whip of the house. It is on record that at the end of his second tenure in the house, Gbajabiamila had sponsored the highest number of bills in the National Assembly.
His bills and motions in the house are public interest driven such as employee rights bill, local content in construction industry bill, vocational schools bill, the economic stimulus bill, interest-free students loan and establishment of Nigeria Education Bank bill, among others. Through several motions, he fought for the interest of Lagos State for the recognition of the then newly created local government councils.
Gbajabiamila contested and retained his seat in the House of Representative for the third term in the 2011 general elections on the platform of ACN. Again, he was re-elected his party’s leader in the house and leader of the opposition. While on this position, he recharged the role of the opposition in the house and was a thorn on the flesh of the then ruling party.
Then came the eventful years that began in 2014 when the merger of two political parties gave birth to All Progressives Congress. Overnight, Gbajabiamila, then leader of opposition in the house, became in charge of the majority.
Re-election into the House of Representatives for the fourth time was a smooth task for him in 2015. His pursuit of the position of the speaker of the house was however considered as Lagos asking for too much. He lost the election to Yakubu Dogara by nine votes.
Having been elected into the House of Representatives for the 5th time running in the 2019 elections, the build up to the speakership seat again became a major contest. It was however a contest in which the untidy ends that snatched the seat from him in the 8th assembly had been tightly fixed.
A little careless that let that happen was not going to happen again, Tinubu vowed. “We would not take that this time, no matter who you think you are”.
The Lagos political power house was pressing every button everywhere to see that Gbajabiamila sails through to the speakership of the house this time around. Bourdillon never slept nor slumbered or even blinked until the mission was accomplished.
In the height of the leadership tussle for the speaker’s seat, Tinubu threatened to whip opposing lawmakers out of the party. “It is either you stay with us or you follow us or you leave”. By his party’s zoning arrangement and the reward system for loyalty, time and chance were ripe for the Lagos lawmaker to rule the House of Representatives.
Unable to confront the powers on his side, some of his challengers resorted to allegations bordering on fraud to close his path to the office. Law suits sprang up speedily against him in the effort to stop his ambition of becoming the speaker of the 9th assembly.
Despite the odds, he was elected speaker of the House of Representatives in the 9th National Assembly with an overwhelming majority of 283 votes against his challenger’s 78 votes. His victory is one of great missions of the Tinubu’s political machine accomplished in rewarding loyalists with high ranking positions and postings.