Allow Gbaja Some Space! – A Commentary by Kayode Alfred

Femi Gbajabiamila, serving as Chief of Staff to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu since June 2023, has faced relentless scrutiny and criticism, becoming the focal point of the new administration. Despite not appointing himself and lacking the sole authority to appoint ministers or agency heads without his boss’s approval, Gbajabiamila finds himself continuously vilified for carrying out his duties.

Even when allegations against him seem implausible, critics persistently attempt to associate Gbajabiamila with every instance of wrongdoing in public office. An example is the baseless connection made between Gbajabiamila and Betta Edu, the suspended Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, who faced suspension for authorizing the transfer of approximately N585 million from the ministry’s funds into a civil servant’s private account. The perplexing link between Gbajabiamila and this incident leaves discerning Nigerians baffled. Undoubtedly, if there were a symbol for the adage “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown,” Gbajabiamila would epitomize it perfectly.

Thankfully, President Tinubu is not oblivious to the relentless campaigns of calumny against the person and office of Gbajabiamila. He had to declare implicitly last October that; “I have absolute confidence in the integrity of my Chief of Staff. All campaigns of calumny and insinuations should stop, the buck stops here. If I make mistakes, I’m ready to own up to (them) and we’re all joining hands to fight corruption.” Yet, the noose on Gbajabiamila’s neck was neither relaxed nor released.

In December of last year, the Chief of Staff was compelled to refute claims of a provision in the 2024 Appropriation Bill for a massive N10 billion renovation of the Chief of Staff to the President’s residence. He emphasized that he resides in his private accommodation. His statement read: “…There is no provision in the 2024 Appropriation Bill for the renovation of any residence for the Chief of Staff to the President. I live in my private residence. The sums mischievously quoted by online bloggers and fake news merchants are for renovating the Presidential Quarters in Dodan Barracks and the Vice President’s Lodge in Lagos, overhauling the information management and communications facilities in the Presidency to meet modern standards, and providing vehicles for the staff of the Presidency. The sums proposed for these projects are clearly stated in the budget proposal and bear no resemblance to the deceptive online commentary.”

In the midst of challenges, Gbajabiamila continues to shine brightly. With five terms as a legislator and rising to the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives, his profound understanding of legislative processes has aided the president in navigating potential Executive-Legislator conflicts smoothly. He exemplifies the president’s core values of loyalty, discipline, honesty, direct communication, commitment to due process, and relentless efficiency. Those close to him attest to his unwavering focus on assisting President Tinubu, who provided him with his political breakthrough, in achieving his Renewed Hope Agenda for Nigerians.

This dedication is evident in his recent commissioning and handover of an 80-bed hospital to the Lagos State Government. Located in Surulere, Lagos State, the Femi Gbajabiamila General Hospital, formerly a primary healthcare center, now offers advanced and specialized care facilities. Equipped with a 500kva generator, a 100kva solar power supply on the roof, an Intensive Care Unit (ICU), a borehole, water filtration system, and a dialysis center on the second floor, the hospital also features radiology, a comprehensive laboratory, pediatric, physiotherapy, surgical, and X-ray facilities. Gbajabiamila emphasized that the hospital’s establishment stemmed from the understanding that a populous and growing metropolis like Lagos must prioritize access to quality healthcare.

Hon. Gbajabiamila also oversaw the commissioning of several noteworthy projects, including a state-of-the-art conference center at Lagos State University (LASU) in Ojo, an ultramodern, dualized Babs Animashaun Road and Census Bridge, and the Sam Shonibare Community Development Centre, all situated in Surulere. Additionally, in February 2023, he facilitated and inaugurated the Accident and Emergency Unit for both male and female patients, as well as the Medical/Surgical Wards at Randle General Hospital, providing crucial healthcare facilities for the residents of Surulere.

He had done so much more for his constituents over the years. Gbajabiamila recalled at the commissioning of the general hospital, “I am proud that we have constructed over 250 roads in selected federal constituencies in the state, especially Surulere I and II constituencies, and completed 15 mini stadia. We facilitated heavy investment in education and healthcare, including constructing and equipping over 20 ICT centers in public schools where children are taught computer programming and coding. We have provided solar energy systems to light up neighbourhoods and support commercial trades in our constituencies.”

Without delay, it’s high time Nigerians allowed Gbajabiamila some breathing room so he can focus entirely on fulfilling the duties of his office and work in harmony with other dedicated appointees of the president to realize the goals of the Renewed Hope agenda.

Kayode Alfred is a journalist, The publisher of Lagos Times

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