That Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila, the legislator representing Surulere 1 Lagos Constituency, at the Federal House of Representatives, has been in the eye of the storm in the last few days is a fact that needs no contestation. No thanks to a piece of information that sent both the new and traditional media in a frenzy that he coughed out whooping N75million to buy a wonder-wheel for his wife, Salamatu, as a gift for his golden age attainment, at a period such as this when the economy has just been barely pulled out of recession economic austerity and when his religion, Islam, expects him to be ascetic.
The four-time House of Representatives member has reacted in his quest to set the record straight and disabuse the public mind against the notion created by the deliberately acerbic news.
Critics of Gbajabiamila’s will do right to acknowledge that his salaried income of over 15 years puts him in good stead to make such acquisition in honour of his wife. What lawmakers earn is another matter but the fact remains that such gift is very affordable to a man in Gbajabiamila’s position.
The four-time House of Representatives member has reacted in his quest to set the records straight and disabuse the public mind against the notion created by the deliberately skewed news.
Gbajabiamila, whom many have acknowledged as one of the shinning lights of the 8th National Assembly and one of the most meticulous and committed legislators in Nigeria on the basis of his robust representation and ever-present empowerment programmes whose beneficiaries extend beyond his Surulere 1 Federal Constituency, took out time to render his stewardship on the one hand, and how he had been saving towards the event in appreciation of a wife who has been his loyal friend and stood by him through thick and thin.
According to the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, the birthday celebration was not an impromptu event but one that had been anticipated and planned for over a couple of years, to convey his gratitude to a wife who has weathered all kinds of storm with him.
“I could never have been half the man I am today without her support and unbelievable understanding. Truly, the monetary value of any gift real or imagined, pales in significance when I consider how much of a ‘rock and pillar’ she has been to me…(it was) an expression of deep appreciation and love for my wife of almost 30 years, rather than one of flamboyance,” Gbajabiamila said.
He explained that he was not unmindful of the pervasive poverty bedeviling the country, and especially the need to be conservative and ascetic in the month of Ramadan. He took these into consideration and decided to make the matter a private family affair witnessed by relatives and friends in moderate numbers.
Ordinarily, that kind of event would have attracted the crème de la crème due to Gbajabiamila’s clout and political network but he chose to make it a private affair, in sensitivity to social and economic realities of his immediate environment.
With regards to his stewardship in the National Assembly, Gbajabiamila comes off as a utilitarian politician with socialist leaning. It is to his credit that a bill which seeks to criminalise and prohibit the issuance of estimated electricity bills, perennially foisted on Nigerians by power distribution companies, DISCOs, has passed second reading and is slated for public hearing next week, June 5 precisely, all things being equal.
This will be a watershed in the history of power billing in Nigeria and the entire populace will be benefit from it. The sponsorship of the Nigerian Students Loan Bill (2016), the Nigerian Labour Act (Amendment Bill (2017), the Physically Challenged (Empowerment) Bill (2017), Amendment to Immigration Act (2016), the National Minimum Wage (Amendment Bill to mention few, are also to his credit.
Gbajabiamila’s constituency outreach programmes range from Entrepreneurial Empowerment Programme conducted by SMEDAN for 250 youths, drawn from nine wards in Surulere 1 Federal constituency, the training and distribution of fish farming tools to 100 youth and women, his partnership with Eko Club (Atlanta Georgia,USA) to provide free medical outreach, presentation of CCTV tool box to 50 youths trained on installation and maintenance of closed circuit television, to football tournaments, and many others worthy of mention but for space constraint.
Gbajabiamila has certainly achieved commendable feats as a federal lawmaker, what he appears to have failed to be very mindful of was the ubiquitous power of the social media and inclinations of critics to be mischievous and economical with the truth.
Just one image and…boom! The lawmaker’s act of love was misconstrued as a flagrant insensitivity and disregard to his people’s plight. Such a stickler for robust legislative deeds and responsibilities couldn’t have been apathetic to prevalent realities.
Perhaps he should have been mindful of being misunderstood in his need to celebrate his virtuous wife. Discretion is the better part of valour and Gbajabiamila has certainly learnt the hard way.
The lawmaker’s successes should never be beclouded by the misinterpretation of an act of love that was taken out of context by his critics and detractors jostling to gain a few column inches and crucify him. Gbajabiamila might have misjudged the pulse of the nation and let his guard down. But even so, what he has achieved in his constituency cannot be ignored or eroded. The facts are there for all to see.
It will be of great disservice to the man, if he is continually crucified because he let his guard down as a public servant and allowed his heart to rule his head in his quest to be a man and husband appreciative of a inestimable wife.
Several people have made expensive public gestures to their loved ones and intentionally so, so their joy can be shared and witnessed by many. Gbajabiamila should not be maligned for that.
While injustice, swift and erect, sweeps unrestrainedly across the social space, and tramples over him in reckless abandon, his exploits and achievements as a lawmaker establish him as a man with a patriot’s heart and the soul of a revolutionary.