Femi Gbajabiamila, the Speaker of House of Representatives, has pressured aspirants vying for chairmanship and councillorship positions in Surulere Local Government Area of Lagos to step down for his proteges.
Gbajabiamila, who has been representing the local government area in the House of Representatives in the last 18 years, handed down the order at a meeting attended by a few aspirants and his loyalists on Tuesday, at the AirForce Base, Kofo Abayomi Street, Victoria Island.
An audio recording of the meeting has Gbajabiamila telling the aspirants his instruction to them was an “order from above”.
He said: “Leaders at the topmost echelon of the party, when the list (of aspirants) emerged, beckoned on me. They said, ‘Mr. Speaker nine aspirants are vying for chairmanship position in your constituency, which is untoward’.
He added: “We cannot be from the same family and not able to talk to ourselves. Stones are not used in purchasing party nomination forms; I do not know the aspirants have such money as to be able to purchase nomination forms in their numbers and they would be saying there is no money.”
“Though we know we are practicing democracy, but, on the other hand, it is a shameful thing ( to have aspirants in such numbers). It will turn friends into foes.
“It does not augur well to see nine chairmanship aspirants file out for the primaries because such development portends unforseen consequences. We must find how to streamline the number of aspirants.
“This is an order, and you all know where such order is coming from. You all know that I have just one leader ( Asiwaju Bola Tinubu); I don’t have two. And, this is the rway to go”.
As learned, Gbajabiamila is rooting for his longtime protégé, Sulaiman Bamidele Yussuf for the chairmanship position. Like his political godfather, Yussuf has served in various administrations in Surulere LGA cumulatively for 18 years. He is currently the council vice chairman, the same position he held in the previous dispensation. Before becoming Vice Chairman, Yussuf was a councillor, and supervisor respectively at different times.
Yussuf supporters, under the auspices of “Awalokan” ( translating to, “It’s Our Turn”) said they are confident he would dispense freely with public funds and offer them patronage.
However, some chairmanship and councillorship aspirants have kicked against the Speaker’s perceived “autocratic style”.
Bamidele Hussein, former Executive Secretary of the council and also an chairmanship aspirant, has rejected Gbajabiamila’s call for her to step down. In a WhatsApp message circulating among Surulere politicians, Hussein admitted she had discussions with Gbajabiamila, but dismissed rumour she agreed to step down for Yussuf.
“ I have an ongoing discussion with the Speaker. Please note I have not stepped down for Sule. Will keep you updated. Let us stay TOGETHER and fight our course (sic)”, said Hussein in the message issued by her aide, Afeez Adewusi.
Another chairmanship aspirant opposed to Gbajabiamila’s order is Idris Aregbe. In a statement he issued, Aregbe, who is Lagos APC Youth Organising Secretary, said he is banking on his popularity among “youths, women, children, and seasoned politicians within and outside Surulere”. He also vowed not to step down for Sulaiman Yussuf.
Similarly, councillorship aspirants were equally told to forego their aspirations in order to allow the nine incumbent councillors emerge consensus candidates for the July 24, 2021 local government polls.
According to multiple sources, Speaker Gbajabiamila allegedly promised an aspirant juicy appointments and contracts when he takes over from Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu as governor of Lagos State in 2023.
So far, nine chairmanship aspirants indicated interest to contest the office. They include Funmi Braithwaith, Bamidele Hussien, Sulaiman Yussuf, Idris Aregbe, Billy Balogun, and Bisoye Kuti. Some among the aspirants are said to have accepted to step down