Clearly, the House of Representatives majority leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, cannot be happy with those folks who gave us Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter. They have succeeded in not only making him miserable, but have aided the expose of things he would have preferred covered. From the evening of May 27 when Gbajabiamila decided to celebrate his wife’s 50th birthday, it is doubtful if he has ever had a sound sleep. How he must be grateful for the saga involving the Nigeria Police and our senate president.
From the indiscretion on his part to the broadside a former classmate gave him on their class WhatsApp forum, complete with pictures of what transpired at the birthday celebrations, Gbajabiamila must surely be wondering if he has any friends left. True, clocking 50 years in this part of the world is a landmark. What with our life expectancy continually stagnating at under -50 and what could be more romantic than a husband giving his wife a cool gift to celebrate half a century? That must have been what the man who nearly became the House of Representatives Speaker had in mind when he decided to celebrate his wife’s 50th.
But the furore that greeted pictures from the birthday party showed the palpable anger in the land. They affirmed again that Nigerian politicians underestimate the ubiquity and power of social media. Long before conventional photographers and journalists could even provide gist of what happened at the party, the pictures already circulating publicly. Possibly, some of the guests at the party thought they were doing no harm in circulating such pictures, however, the public access generated a backlash that the suave Gbajabiamila found difficult to handle, one can actually argue that the after-effects are not yet over. A gift of a Mercedes Benz G-Class, which Nigerians love to call G-Wagon, particularly triggered the online maelstrom.
Initially, one could be taken in by Gbajabiamila’s argument in defence of a car gift which goes for anything between N60 – N100 million depending on the specification that he saved up for the celebration in anticipation of his wife turning 50. After all, as a scion of a popular family in Lagos, a Gbajabiamila should be able to afford any gift for his wife. Properly schooled and well heeled, who does not know the family in our part of the world? And for a House of Representatives member who was first elected in 2003, what is a N60 million car that he cannot buy for his darling wife? When one factors in the unrestrained access to easy cash that our federal legislators possess, especially the so-called constituency projects which is usually more than a billion naira annually, it becomes glaring that indeed the car is a little gift.
If Gbajabiamila would, however, be honest enough and take a trip round his Surulere federal constituency, he must admit that the gift was in bad taste. Its optics could only have been ignored by an insensitive and inconsiderate leader, part of a sybaritic ruling class who does not care about the lives of the people they lead. Running through the veins of public officers in our country is a condescension that is patently Nigerian whereby our leaders see us as conquered subjects that can only be treated like slaves. While poverty has become a perpetual state of existence of most citizens, our leaders continue to ignore the citizens’ cries preferring instead to behave like the French queen who said, “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” loosely translated as “let them eat cake” when told that peasants had no bread. The gnawing insensitivity shown by our leaders at all levels can only be tolerated in our part of the world where the oppressed continually make excuses for their leaders’ ineptitude.
It is inconceivable that some Nigerians could defend and rhapsodise the absurdity claiming that Gbajabiamila was only appreciating his wife and that nothing is too much to give to a wife. Except that it will be interesting to know how Gbajabiamila saved and for how long to get the money to buy such a car. After a seemingly contrite apology circulated publicly, the House Leader gave himself away when he sent a message to his class WhatsApp group claiming that he owes no one apology for the gift adding that he had done so much in life that such luxury should not be frowned at. Dutifully enough, another member posted a riposte lambasting him for such insensitivity. It is possible that Gbajabiamila has stayed long in opulence for 15 years that he has lost touch with the reality his constituents confront regularly, but a little bit of insensitivity does not hurt.
By the way, Happy 50th Birthday to Mrs. Gbajabiamila.