After weeks of speculation, President Bola Tinubu, announced his first set of appointments. The appointments are no doubt the most powerful ones after the President and his Vice President in the executive arm of government.
The appointments announced by the Presidency were Chief of Staff to the President (CoS), Deputy Chief of Staff (DCoS) and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).
While Femi Gbajabiamila, the outgoing Speaker of the House of Representatives was named Chief of Staff to the President, Senator Ibrahim Hassan Hadejia was named DCoS and Senator George Akume got the SGF portfolio.
The Chief of Staff in Nigeria as the case may be whether at federal or state level holds a crucial position within the presidential system of government at least since 1999.
The primary duty of a Chief of Staff is to act as the principal aide and advisor to the President or Governor as the case may be. They serve as a key liaison between the President and other government officials, political leaders, and stakeholders.
The Chief of Staff is also responsible for managing the President’s schedule, coordinating meetings, and ensuring efficient communication between various departments and agencies of government.
The Chief of Staff plays a vital role in facilitating decision-making processes and providing strategic guidance to the President.
Often regarded as the gatekeeper to the President, the Chief of Staff controls access to the highest levels of power.
Although the Chief of Staff does not hold direct constitutional powers, the influence and impact of the office-holder on decision-making processes cannot be underestimated. The holder possess the authority to shape the President’s agenda, influence policy formulation, and recommend suitable candidates for key positions within the administration.
The Chief of Staff is also involved in crafting and implementing strategies to achieve the President’s goals and objectives. Through their close proximity to the President, they have the ability to provide valuable insights, advice, and guidance on matters of governance and public policy.
Within the office of the Chief of Staff, a well-coordinated team operates to support the efficient functioning of the presidency. This team comprises dedicated professionals who assist in managing the Chief of Staff’s responsibilities effectively. They handle administrative tasks, monitor information flow, prepare briefing materials, and coordinate with various government departments and agencies. By overseeing these essential functions, the Chief of Staff ensures that the President’s office operates smoothly, allowing for effective decision-making and the successful execution of the President’s agenda.
Who is Femi Gbajabiamila?
Olufemi Hakeem Gbajabiamila is the Speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives. He is a lawyer and politician with over two decades of active participation in the political life of Nigeria.
Rep. Gbajabiamila was born on the 25th of June 1962. He had his secondary education at Igbobi College, Yaba, Lagos and proceeded from there to the King Williams College, Isle of Man, the United Kingdom for his Advanced Level. He graduated at the top of his class and went on to the University of Lagos for a three-year LLB (Bachelor of Laws) degree programme. He graduated from the University of Lagos with honours in 1983 and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1984.
Femi Gbajabiamila started his career as a lawyer with the law firm of Bentley, Edu and Co., where he distinguished himself. He eventually left Bentley, Edu and Co. to set up his practice, Femi Gbaja and Co.
In 1998 went back to school at the to go back to school at the John Marshall Law School in Atlanta, Georgia in the United States of America. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from John Marshall and earned for himself a Juris Doctor (JD) degree. He then went on to write and pass the Georgia Bar exams, after which he set up another thriving law office where he practised until his return to Nigeria.
On his return to Nigeria, Gbajabiamila delved into partisan politics and offered himself up for service on the platform of the then Alliance for Democracy (AD) and has thereafter been elected for six (6) consecutive terms to represent the people of Surulere 1 Federal Constituency of Lagos in the National Assembly.
In 2003, Gbajabiamila was elected a member of the House of Representatives from Surulere 1 Federal Constituency. His first term in the House demonstrated his true passion for issues concerning his constituents and Nigeria as a whole. He worked passionately to address matters of great concern to him and quickly earned a reputation as a brilliantly competent legislator.
A true believer in qualitative representation, he took an active part in debates on the floor of the House and was quickly recognised as one of the bright minds in the National Assembly. He was always on the side of truth and justice, and his views truly reflected the wishes and aspirations of his constituents. This was especially evident during the “third term debate” when he was chairman of the 2007 movement in the House, a group primarily credited for ending the “third term agenda” of the then President
His exceptional record saw him overwhelmingly re-elected in 2007. In the same year, his colleagues elected him Leader of his party, the Action Congress (AC) in the House of Representatives, and Minority Whip. By the end of his second term in office, Gbajabiamila had sponsored the highest number of Bills in the National Assembly.
In 2011, Gbajabiamila sought re-election for the third time, this time on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). He won his election and was re-elected Leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and Leader of the opposition in the House of Representatives.
During this period, Femi Gbajabiamila was hailed as an effective opposition leader. He is remembered amongst other things, for bringing a motion on the floor of the House to invoke the doctrine of necessity, during the illness and absence of President Umar Musa Yar’adua. It was this motion moved in the House and the Senate, that led to the swearing-in of Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as Acting President.
In 2011, Femi Gbajabiamila was nominated for the national award of Officer of the Federal Republic, (OFR). He rejected the nomination on the grounds that he did not believe the being used in the way it was intended to reward service to the nation. Subsequently, Rep. Gbajabiamila proposed an amendment to the National Honours Act of 1964 to make stringent guidelines for selection of National Award nominees. Gbajabiamila thus became the third and youngest Nigerian to reject National Honours after Late Chinua Achebe and Prof. Grace Alele-Williams.
In 2014, Femi Gbajabiamila as the Leader of Opposition in the House of Representatives, led his colleagues into the merger that gave birth to the All Progressives Congress (APC). During his time as Leader of the APC caucus in the House, the party increased its membership and became the majority in the House of Representatives. In 2015, Rep. Gbajabiamila put himself forward to lead the House as Speaker of the 8th House. He narrowly lost that election. He put himself forward again in 2019 and was on the 12th of June, 2019 overwhelmingly elected Speaker of the 9th House of Representatives.
In the buildup to his election as the Speaker of the House, Gbajabiamila mounted an aggressive campaign where he galvanised his colleagues under the slogan ‘Nation Building: A Joint Task’. Since he assumed office, Rep. Gbajabiamila has sought to love up to the promise of that platform by running a unified House where every voice is heard, and only those ideas that gain currency with the majority carry the day.
Shortly after his inauguration, the Speaker constituted an Ad-hoc Committee to draft a Legislative Agenda for the 9th House. The Legislative Agenda was adopted by the House and unveiled to the world on the 11th of October, 2019. The Legislative Agenda is an all-encompassing document that outlines clearly the ambitions of the 9th House of Representatives. One of those ambitions was to return the country to a regular January To December budget cycle. This was achieved with the 2020 Appropriation Act which was passed and signed into law by the President, His Excellency Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR on the 17th of December, 2019. This unprecedented feat was immediately followed by the quick passage of the Finance Bill 2020 and the Deep Offshore Sharing Formula Bill, both of which the President has since signed into law.
On the 4th of December, 2019 Rep. Gbajabiamila held a special programme to mark the International Day for Persons Living With Disabilities. In March, the House also held a special session for Nigeria’s millions of out-of-school children. Both of these events brought stakeholders together to proffer lasting solutions to the challenges faced by persons living with disabilities in Nigeria and the millions of children who have bee denied the opportunity for education and self-discovery due to the circumstances of their birth.
Also, as a first-class lawmaker that he is, Gbajabiamila personally sponsored some bills, aimed at improving the lives of Nigerians. Some of the Bills are Students’ Loan (Access to Higher Education), Bill, 2019; Physically-Challenged (Empowerment) Bill, 2019; Criminalisation of Estimated Billing System Bill, 2019; Emergency Economic Stimulus Bill, 2020, and the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill, 2020, amongst others.
Since the novel coronavirus arrived on our shores, the House of Representatives under the leadership of Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila has been proactive in looking after the best interests of the Nigerian people. The House has since passed the Emergency Economic Stimulus Bill to provide tax relief for qualified corporations, defer mortgage obligations for millions of Nigerians and improve our nation’s ability to acquire the medical equipment, testing kits and personal protective equipment we desperately need to win the battle against the coronavirus in Nigeria.
In addition, the House of Representatives led the charge to provide free and constant electricity to Nigerians during the lockdown; insisting that government’s palliatives through the Social Intervention Programme (SIP) must reach the vulnerable and the needy as well as working towards providing sound legal footing for the SIP. Rep Gbajbiamila also led his colleagues to donate their salary for two months to the fight against COVID-19; sought to address the fears of Nigerians over the arrival of Chinese doctors and advocating for the welfare of Nigerians who had suffered varying degrees of ill-treatment in China.
Femi Gbajabiamila has always been passionate about public service, and over the years he has demonstrated an unwavering dedication to this cause through the policies and programmes he has pursued and promoted in office. He has also sought to improve his abilities to serve and to lead by attending various leadership courses including at the Stanford University, Cambridge University, and the world respected Said Business School, Oxford University.
Since his emergence as Speaker, Gbajabiamila has left no one in doubt that he is not only capable of leading Nigeria’s most truly representative chamber but has shown exceptional capacity as the Chairman of the Conference of African Speakers of Parliament (COSAP).
Rep. Olufemi Hakeem Gbajabiamila is married with children.
(Aare Olaseni O. Egbeyemi , a Public Affairs Analyst write from Ikeja , Lagos)Follow us on social media