By Yinka Olujimi
Olufemi Hakeem Gbajabiamila, the Honorable Speaker of the House of Representatives, is a product of God’s unceasing grace. In a country where life expectancy is 55.2, the Nigerian Number Five citizen is not only lucky to have a 90-year-old mother, but also blessed to have no problem with money; only with how to spend it!
Mama Lareefat Olufunke Gbajabiamila turned 90 recently, creating an opportunity for the Honorable Speaker to, once again, stamp his name in the pantheon of the global glitterati!
Off to Dubai, the glittering capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Femi and “few” friends freighted mama’s understandably weak and creaky bones for a one in a lifelime bash!
Femi is my man any day. He is a man of class, and he moves with people of exquisite tastes. Why would he not crave life at its fullest, and display it to the envy – and admiration – of all?
The unofficial megaphone of the Nigerian tribe of naysayers, that terrible, spiteful and jealous online news medium, saharareporters this week reported that Femi had concluded plans to ship about 300 guests to Dubai for mama’s birthday celebration.
Apparently hoping to rouse the citizens to anger against the good man, the news medium noted that the Abuja/Lagos-Dubai return ticket is around N229,320, thus putting the total that the Speaker must have committed to the trip at N68 million.
Add to that the likely cost of luxurious accommodation for the said esteemed guests. A room per night at the Conrad Hilton Hotel where the news nediun has proof of booking for accommodation for some of the guests, is N43,920 per night. If that is the standard for the 300 guests, Hon. Gbajabiamila may be shelling out – directly or getting his friends to spend – at a princely sum of N13, 176,000 per night for the planned one-week bash!
Femi cannot settle for less, and I agree with him. You don’t rise to such a dizzying height as Speaker of the House of Representatives in Nigeria and not do things in a manner that matches your newly acquired status. The days of struggling for funds are over, for good. The Attorney Femi Gbaja who reportedly ran from the United States of America to Nigeria with his client’s 25,000 dollars (about N9 million) has had a 360 degree turnaround life in Nigeria since arrival and venturing into politics. It is a brand new day – one in which committing at least N200 million to a frolic means nothing. Allah be praised.
That is why I consider the press statement by his media aide, Lanre Lasisi, seeking to douse the fire that was created by the saharareporters publication highly unnecessary. According to Lasisi, the jamboree was attended by only the Speaker, his family and “few” friends. He also declared that no public fund was committed to the celebration.
The media aide gave no hint about how few the said.few guests were. Two? Ten? Twenty? Taking the family to and fro for a birthday party for a 90-year-old is surely not a 24-hour event, lending credence to the report that it was, or was planned as, a weeklong event.
Having been at the National Assembly for 17 years, representing the good people of Surulere 1 constituency, Lagos State, capping it with the attainment of the office of Speaker, Gbajabiamila’s claim of not committing any public fund to the frolic is hardly surprising.
Although most Niger-Deltans whose oil money is sustaiing Nigeria live well below the poverty line, some living under bridges in Lagos State, those who manage the nation’s affairs are officially given a life of gourmandizing by the Nigerian system. With unfettered access to so much funds, the Nigerian elite is sworn to the epicurean life, enjoying on our behalf.
A friend calculated the possible cost of the Dubai frolic by the Speaker and burst into tears. He wondered why the nation’s fufth hughest ranking citizen would not consider holding such a party in Nigeria.
“By holding the elaborate party in Dubai, the Speaker has only empowered the UAE financially. The airlines that flew the guests, whatever their number, are smiling to the banks. The hotels where the guests took accommodation, airport taxi drivers, tour companies, local food market, the clothiers, the dealers in pricey apparels, shoes, jewelry shops and so many others smiled to the banks, all partook in the largesse one way or another. That is huge revenue that could have helped reflate the Nigerian economy, thrown out through the window!” he exclaimed.
He spoke angrily. My friend asked if I had ever read of the British Prime Minister going to Germany to celebrate his birthday, or the French President shipping out huge sums for frolic in another country.
“Has it ever been said that the Indian leader travelled with his family and “few” friends to Italy, or the Russian leader to Ukraine,” he asked on end.
Well, my response to him: Nigerians are a special breed. Our leaders, more so. “You want them to hold such a party in Nigeria where the army of poor kids will circle the venue to pack the leftovers of esteemed friends? You want the sight of those kids scrambling for leftover foods to churn the stomach and upset the delicate kids of the rich?” that is asking for too much, my brother.
Please do not preach the need to develop local facilities so that the rest of the world will troop here too, the way we line up for journeys to Dubai at every conceivable excuse. Yes, the leaders of that country have their heads well placed above their shoulders, They rolled up the sleeves and turned the desert into the land of gold and diamonds.
The Nigerian elite, especially those of the progressive stock, cannot bear the sight of those hungry, frail poor people, except at election times. So, they take their elaborate parties well out of the reach of their impoverished constituents. Besides, how will the world notice the arrival of the nouveau riche from Nigeria if their lavish parties are not held at the international stage?