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“He is a stabilizer and a mobilizer and a very humble and true democrat who tackles issues dispassionately. Not only did Femi conceive the Speakership project, he nurtured it and worked tirelessly and assiduously towards its reality. ” – Aminu Tambuwal, in ‘Fearless’ College Press, page 129.

“When he contested the Speakership, this may sound vainglorious; I single-handedly pushed his(Tambuwal) Speakership bid, not to talk of his presidential bid. But he must have reasons for doing what he did” – Femi Gbajabiamila, on Channels TV, Wed, August 26, 2015.

The two quotes above signify a friendship stretched across the Niger bridge. They indicate that a political friendship does not last  once the tentative connection of interests that links it cease to exist. This may be why the opinion that a friend in politics is no friend subsists. The House Leader of the 8th Assembly, Femi Gbajabiamila, before and after his misgiving in the last Speakership election expressed no-regret over his role in Tambuwal’s emergence as Speaker of the 7th assembly. He stuck to his position that “merit” placed Tambuwal over the former House Leader, Mulikat Akande-Adeola rather than his tribal affinity with the former. Same goes for Aminu Tambuwal who claimed his support for the incumbent Speaker Yakubu Dogara during the speakership election is just to satisfy “merit” and not “friendship”.

This now begs the question, of  merit, tribalism and friendship, which should inform political expediency? Nigerians reacted online in the following sequence, advising that people you meet at the corridors of politics are not your friend. They opine that such people are simply acquaintances with common interest at a particular time. To them, your friends are those you grew up with, playing, quarreling and schooling together in various stages of education. They submit that anybody you meet outside these forage is not a friend.

A commentator opined that Northerners can never betray themselves, which was why Tambuwal supported the incumbent Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, while Gbajabiamila betrayed Mulikat in preference of Tambuwal. The ball game is that the Northerners will never betray themselves. As the South continue to play dirty politics the North will continue to reap the profit. Another provoking commentator simply said merit should hold sway anytime, notwithstanding the possibility of having a “friend” from same “tribe”.

However, there is an exception to the rule when politicians mention the word merit which departs from its literally meaning.

According to Tambuwal, he supported Dogara against Gbajabiamila for Speaker in the 8th Assembly because Dogara merits it. But reading his account one would have wished he had kept quiet for many reasons:

1. After dilly-dallying on the matter for what seems to be eternity, he finally admitted that he is a chronic liar.  Governor Tambuwal had several times before and after the election denied to individuals and many of his Party leaders that he was not supporting Dogara and indeed that Gbajabiamila was his candidate.  When the rumour was so strong he declared publicly and in the press that he was neutral. Alas now we know him to be a liar, a coward and a treacherous man.

2. He has now admitted for posterity that he betrayed the same Party that brought him to national prominence. He actually worked against the Party candidate (anti party) behind the scenes.

3. Tambuwal, in his most ridiculous statement said Dogara was more competent because for 8 unbroken years he was the Chairman House services Committee and he informed Nigerians that this was the committee that handled members welfare and was in charge of procurement. Goodness! He unwittingly gave tulip to the rumour that made the rounds before the elections that he was supporting Dogara so as to not only cover the dirty financial deals they had together, but to sustain same. He in fact referred to Dogara’s tenure as House services Chairman during Etteh and Bankole. Was is it not illegal procurements and over inflated invoices that led to the downfall of both Speakers? Yet this, to the smooth liar that Tambuwal is, was the basis of  competence over Gbajabiamila !

4. In a desperate attempt to defend and justify his treachery, Tambuwal claimed that 8 out of 10 Principal Officers supported Dogara. Again he lied. What he did not say was also that the then Minority Whip Samson Osagie was also a supporter of Gbajabiamila and that out of the 10, 6 were from the PDP and not supporting a man who had given their Party hell for 12 years was not unexpected. It was almost natural they would go for Dogara who had just recently crossed from their party PDP to APC. Of the 10 Principal Officers, 4 were from APC and all except the deputy minority leader Hon Suleiman Kawu ( a known Tambuwal acolyte) supported Gbajabiamila.

5. Accepting to chair a reconciliation committee, when he was partial arbiter, something he hid from the governors forum. says a lot about Tambuwal’s morals and integrity. If Dogara according to Tambuwal’s logic was more competent to be Speaker, how come Tambuwal as Chairman of  the reconciliation committee still did not want Gbajabiamila as the House Leader. Methinks this is more a personal fight than ‘for the love of country’.

6. It is interesting that Tambuwal was one of those that  played on the intelligence of members of the House by insisting on independence of the legislature and the need to resist outside influence. But now we know that as Governor of Sokoto and outside the orbit of the House, he by admission, was the biggest outside influence of all in the passionate choice for who succeeds him. This is the height of hypocrisy.

What is more perplexing is that Tambuwal’s statement was unnecessary especially at a time the House was just healing and coming together. It was an affront to the sensibilities of the South West and millions of Gbajabiamila’s admirers all over the world, because take it or leave it, this is a man who has earned the love and admiration of Nigerians who have followed his career over the years.

Another perplexing instance where Gbajabiamila and other legislators had to scale the locked gate of the National Assembly to stop Tambuwal’s impeachment, shows his political dexterity, which was at once national in outlook and very personal. It was a desperate move to save a friend whom he once also helped to betray his erstwhile party(PDP). Did Femi Gbajabiamila advise Tambuwal to be a good party man and not contest in the first instance against his party’s chosen one, Mulikat Akande-Adeola?

As one would expect the circumstances that made Dogara and Gbajabiamila Speaker and House Leader respectively to produce a strong internal checks and criticism that would be healthy for the system. But, it also portend that they would never be ”friends” as they have been polarized by a tribal agency which gave twisted meaning of merit to suit a new preconceived common interest. Indeed a friend in politics don’t last because only interest last forever.

***Abubakar Adamu, Former Member of House of Representatives and Chairman, Northern Professionals (NP).

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