I join you, your family, friends and political associates to celebrate your birthday today. I wish you long life, prosperity and good health, IJN. While I share the joy of the day with you, may I crave your indulgence to equally share some home truths. As a constituent concerned about the development and progress of Surulere Federal Constituency, especially Surulere Local Government Area where I was born and raised, sharing an opinion or advice with you, in my view, is a more a responsibility than it is a privilege. As a vibrant and seemingly forward-looking leader, I think you will take and digest this in good faith. I am certain of the profundity of your appreciation to God, looking at the altitude you have attained in your second profession – politics. It is unlikely anyone in his right sense wouldn’t be thankful for such glorious opportunity.
Moreover, it is astounding that among a population of few millions inhabiting your constituency, you have dominated the local politics of Surulere –becoming its only representative in the Federal House of Representatives for 17 years so far! It is a bigger feat that you have become iconic in contemporary Nigerian legislative history, having become Minority Leader, and currently Majority Leader of the lower national parliament. No doubt, you are endowed with gift of gab, intelligent and a great debater. As Minority Leader in the last legislative assembly, you were dogged in your cause, brilliant in your presentations and admiringly smooth in your delivery. This definitely won you many hearts, especially among youths, including myself.
However, I may be mistaken about your political ascendancy, but I strongly believe it is by no means a result of some political wizardry or personality cult woven around loyal voters. As a student of Nigerian politics, activist and journalist, and given rigorous academic interrogations of our political and electoral systems, I know elections are not won solely by vote returns. This is obviously by the way, but I shall return to expatiate on the causality of the foregoing statements, using your hard-fought electoral triumph in the last election.
Sir, as your home boy from Surulere, you and I know that the local council politics is the center of attraction in that part of Surulere you hail from. It is sad commentary that division, brinkmanship and dissension are the hallmarks of Surulere Council politics right from its creation. It is instructive to say that this division, back-biting and needless supremacist tussles were the battle fought by the first chairman of the council area, late Alhaji Folarin Sikiru Ademosu.
No doubt, the late Ademosu suffered terribly for this, including an undeserved imprisonment by then Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari (now Nigeria’s current president). Led by his lawyer, late Barrister Abraham Adesanya, who later became Afenifere Leader, Ademosu won his case against his accusers at the Military Tribunal in 1983 and was released from detention, alongside his boss and political leader, former Governor Lagos State Alhaji Lateef Jakande. The kernel of this brief history is the fact that his deputy and former allies were the ones who testified against him at the Military Tribunal.
The action of those fifth columnists of yesteryear could apparently be put down to outright jealousy and political subterfuge. Sadly, the other past chairmen after the late Ademosu, including your respected mother, Alhaja Sherifat Gbajabiamila, faced similar betrayals, pull-him-down plots and needless in-fights among politicians in the area. In my well-considered view, this is why in the annals of Surulere council politics no chairman has been elected for a second term irrespective of how meritoriously he or she performed in office.
In reality, your name has featured prominently in all of the recent political brouhahas associated with the council area. Sir, critics, including party elders, have complained about your ‘alleged’ penchant to lord things over them and tendency to always want to have only your loyalists as ward and local government executives. In fairness to you, I am tempted to think that you are not the main issue of conflict in the council, albeit it is not uncommon for a Nigerian politician to want to own and dominate a turf of influence in his base to determine who becomes what. Studies of Nigerian politics have infallibly shown false entitlement, greed, political survivability and entrenched interests are underlying factors for political lordship. The simple euphemism for the foregoing statement is ‘godfatherism’ – a two-plane phenomenon that could either be for good or bad. If you search deeply in your hearts sir, you will agree with me that bad and purposeless godfatherism injects nothing but toxin to progressive and developmental politics.
With due respect Sir, I enjoin you to always remember that position and power are transient, and it is gracious that a right-thinking politician makes circumspection a guiding faith. For such sagacious politician, building a loyal circle of loyal voters is a far greater asset than a cult of following of predominantly butter-and-bread politicians with wavering loyalties. The results of your last election will put this in a clearer perspective. Based on the records in my possession, your candidacy on the ballot of the All Progressives Congress, APC, struggled to win in many of the nine wards making up the council area, namely Ward E (Itire, Lawan and environs), Ward E (I)( Ojuelegba, Karimu and environs), Ward F(I) (Yaba area), Ward G (Randle area), Ward F (Love Garden area) and Ward G3. Clearly, the situation was the product of the bile, division and tussles among politicians in the area.
With the dissolution of executive secretaries and subsequent appointment of sole administrators for Lagos councils and council development areas, democratic council poll is imminent. When eventually the bell tolls for the council election, it is important that we query the credentials, integrity and past performances, whether in business or politics, of aspirants for the council seat.
I hereby implore you as our leader and representative to bring all on board, friends and foes, to ensure broad-based participation, resolve long-seated political differences, shun praise-singing and help to deliver to the electorate a people’s chairman.
Happy Birthday Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila.
Long Live Surulere, Long Live Nigeria.
Folarin Ademosu Jr.
Folarin Ademosu, a journalist and public relations expert, sent this piece from Lagos