As a child growing up in the Lagos Island area of Lagos state, it was obvious Gbenga Ashafa was always going to be a man in charge. Whilst in primary school at the Christ Church Cathedral primary school on Broad Street, Mr Ashafa held the post of Class Monitor throughout his six years at the school, from Standard 1 to 6.
“He always had a knack for leadership and organization,” recalls an old school classmate of his. “He wanted to run everything, and he was pretty good at it.”
Now, at 65, Mr Ashafa has been in charge of many things – the founder of a beverage company, Director of Planning for Lagos state, Executive Secretary of Lagos State Land Use & Allocation Committee, Permanent Secretary for Lagos State Lands Bureau, and Senator representing Lagos East. But to whom much charge is given, much service is expected – Mr Ashafa has indeed served well.
“The charge of nation-building is a challenging one and it is not the exclusive preserve of just a few. Everyone can contribute towards it according to his or her capabilities. As a senator and public servant, Gbenga Ashafa is one of those currently doing their share of this collective charge,” says Dr Tunji Olowolafe, the Lagos-based Physician, Industrialist and Businessman.
In his first outing as Senator in the seventh senate, Ashafa was vice-chairman, Senate Committee on Lands, Housing and Urban Development. He was also a member of the committees on Environment and Ecology Committee, Committee on Federal Character and Inter-Governmental Relations, Gas Committee, and Senate Services Committee.
During his second tenure, in the eighth senate, apart from being the chairman of the Senate Committee on Land Transport, he was also the chairman of the Senate Joint committees on Marine Transport and Aviation as well as Conference committee of the Senate on the Nigerian Railway Authority Bill.
Executing his assignment as the chairman of the Senate Committee on Land Transport, saw Mr Ashafa set the pace for the provision of legislative support for the executive in achieving the complete turnaround of the railway sector in the country. This earned him the nickname “The Rail Man” and a top spot as one of the twenty lawmakers who shaped the Senate’s Eight Assembly.
There is no diminishing the importance and impact of his dedicated legislative support for the railway sector in Nigeria in the form of the National Transport Commission (NTC) Bill. For the first time, the country had what now serves as a common platform to regulate the entire transport sector and raise standards to international levels across the board.
Designed to be an effective, objective, and independent regulatory authority in the transport sector, the crux of the bill is efficient economic regulation of the transport sector as well as promote the implementation of the National Transport Policy.
Speaking of his tenure as Senator, the linked article above said of the celebrant: “Ashafa has stood himself out as a senator without blemish, even though he won’t be returning to the senate in the 9th assembly. However, one thing is certain: his name and work remain indelible on the marble of the federal legislature.”
The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria also hailed Mr Ashafa on his birthday. Through a statement released by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, President Muhamadu Buhari noted Mr Ashafa’s passion for development and humanitarian services, as well as emphasized that he contributed largely to bills that continue to positively impact the development of the country even after his exit from the Senate.
“It was always clear on whose side he stood when he contributed on the floor of the senate – where he was relentlessly committed to defending the interest of Lagos and Lagosians. The country needs more committed and competent parliamentarians like Senator Gbenga Ashafa whose selflessness and democratic ideals are imperative especially at a time when the entire world is grappling with global health and economic crisis,” said Ayodele Adio, Principal Consultant, Adio Strategy and Communications.
Beyond the Senate, Mr Ashafa has led important youth initiatives that are fostering developing and increasing opportunities for young people.
“We don’t train these young ones because we want to win elections, we do this to invest in their future and to give them an opportunity for a better life,” is the idea behind Senator Ashafa’s commitment to young people.
Through his Gbenga Ashafa Trust Endowment (GATE) foundation, thousands of youth in his constituency have been trained over the last 8 years in entrepreneurial skills and received seed capital to start up their various enterprises.
Mr Gbenga Ashafa’s exit from the Senate has ushered him into a new vista in which he has continued to extend his service to his constituency, especially the youth, supporting and creating opportunities at the grassroots level.