Speaker Yakubu Dogara’s 50th birthday celebrations, which culminated in a soiree fit for a prince will probably be the talk of the town up until, when folks stop sharing the, “Happy New Year”, greeting in 2018.
Events to mark the Speaker hitting the golden age started with a charity football match, which not only had lawmakers looking very much like failed footballers, with many of them tumbling across the pitch, making tubby, look so uncool. The charity match witnessed by the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki had some of the country’s wealthiest investors, including Alhaji Aliko Dangote and Femi Otedola as spectators-it was fully exploited to raise money for charity. And for Dogara, charity began from home with his announcing, that all the money raised from the footie event and the launch of his biography A Reed Made Flint would be expended on assisting the less privileged, most especially Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from the North-East.
Dogara who visited two orphanages in Abuja and sent his colleagues to 17 other orphanages on his birthday, Tuesday 26th December, was feted by his colleagues at the popular International Conference Centre (ICC). It was a day the will remain indelible in the mind of the Speaker. Turn by turn those that walk the corridors of power in the country, alongside the Speaker, took turns to shower encomia on him. Saraki described Dogara as a reliable ally an individual worthy of trust. President Muhammadu Buhari who many would agree isn’t given to praise singing, acted very differently by heaping praises on Dogara who sat with his wife, Gimbiya and two children. But the best of eulogy came from former presidential spokesman and respected columnist, Dr. Ruben Abati, who reviewed Dogara’s biography written by Ovation Magazine publisher, Dele Momodu.
Dogara’s birthday shindig which turned out to be one of the biggest fundraisers for IDPs, with no less than N265 million raised on the night, could as well be described as a rendezvous for political and non-political reconciliations. Nigeria’s high and mighty who were guests at the event witnessed the characteristically critical Dr. Abati, score Momodu’s first attempt as writing a biography highly, showing that both men who had a famous breaking-up have reconciled. Bauchi State governor, Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar, who has been at loggerheads with the Speaker stormed the event, even making a donation of N10 million.
But one reconciliation that seemed not to have taken place between former friends turned strangers, Sokoto State governor and former Speaker of the House, Aminu Tambuwal and House Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila almost turned a low point in the joyful event which had the Speaker clearing doubts that he has become a major player in project Nigeria. It was the turn of the House Leader to speak on how members would support the Speaker, the microphone was passed to him after a few generous donations has been made and rather than go straight to his announcement, Gbajabiamila jokingly asked Tambuwal, who stood in the opposite row on brightly lit stage, to explain the role he played in Dogara emerging as Speaker. Doagara took over as Speaker of the House on June 9, 2015. Though the choice of the ruling All Progressives Congress party (APC), for the number 4 position in the country, Dogara defeated the House Leader by eight votes, with many asking who this new giant killer was.
Gbajabiamila started out the joke which was met with nervous laughter and a few gasps, one coming from me, by saying biographies like Dogara’s are mostly expository and the exact role played by Tambuwal is one matter that lots of observers would still like to fully understand. “Since the speakership contest, nobody can really say this is the role Tambuwal played. But, with this book, I believe we should be able to know. He has not been able to tell anybody the role he played. Maybe, he should be the one to tell us now. Nobody has been able to pin him (Tambuwal) down to state the role he played”, the Lagos lawmaker said. Tambuwal dogged the question, joining in the laughter. He latter made a N30 million donation on behalf of himself and the governors of Zamfara and Kebbi states. Gbajabiamila also performed the task of which he was called on the stage for, with the announcement that 359 members will purchase a copy of the book for N50 thousand with a total of N17,950,000.
The House Leader is right that political biographies, particularly one written by a seasoned journalist would contain expositions, that make headlines and could even become historical landmarks. The bedroom begging by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who is Gbajabiamila’s godfather, that Dogara back down for his candidate has already made headlines. Other stories will be sourced from the book. But the eloquent lawmaker wasn’t quite accurate when he joked that Tambuwal hasn’t told Nigerians, how he worked against him and ensured that Dogara was his successor.
Premium Times reported on August 10, 2015, that the Sokoto State governor backed Dogara because he felt he is best suited for the job and he chose to use his head and not his heart by supporting Gbajabiamila who against all odds supported him to become Speaker in 2011. Folks still remember the funny photos of Tambuwal in a bowler hat and his deputy, Emeka Ihedioha dressed in a babariga. Both men were ferried into the National Assembly fully disguised. Many still remember the drama and the roles played by members of the 7th House, Gbajabiamila inclusive.
Like I stated earlier, Governor Tambuwal back in 2015 told leaders of Sayawa Community of Bogoro and Tafawa Balewa Local Government Areas of Bauchi State, where the Speaker comes from, that the issue of competence led eight out of ten members of the body of Principal Officers of the 7th Assembly to endorse Dogara.
“The survival of the legislature as an important arm of government made it imperative that competent hands are headhunted to be its leaders. Eight out of ten members of the Body of Principal Officers in the last Assembly supported Dogara’s aspiration,” he revealed”.
Tambuwal shed his diplomatic toga on the day, adding that: “The acknowledgement of Dogara’s competence did not start with me. It started from the time of Hon Patricia Etteh and Hon Dimeji Bankole when they entrusted him with a sensitive position of the Chairman of House Services Committee. “The committee is one of the most sensitive in the legislature. Apart from taking care of the welfare of members, the committee oversees all procurement processes. As the Speaker, I only did what my predecessors did by giving Dogara this sensitive position.
“No person, as far as I know, has ever served as chairman of the House Services committee in two dispensations. Dogara broke that jinx. All through my tenure, I brought Dogara close to me because I found in him a person who is competent, accommodating, and with capacity to lead”.
It will also be recalled that Premium Times reported Gbajabiamila, responding that he had moved on. “Alhaji Tambuwal has spoken,” he said. “For me I have moved on and I can only wish him the best in his future undertakings. I guess Alhaji Tambuwal has finally spoken”, was how he was quoted.
Regardless of the fact that Gbajabiamila managed to get people laughing, his joke did make a number of people wonder if the popular legislator had really dumped his defeat in the past. Though many perceive politicians to be carpetbaggers, who only care about the next deal, they are remain human beings with emotions. And some of our political players are still considered to be decent enough to be trusted. Gbajabiamila happens to be one of those considered as statesmanlike and though he might still be hurting, just might go higher politically, even with a hurtful past.