Femi Gbajabiamila, the newly elected speaker of the House of Representatives spoke yesterday of the Green Chamber of his dream and told Nigerians not to expect a rubber-stamped lower chamber and promised to hold the office in trust for all.
In his acceptance speech after polling 281 votes to beat his only challenger, Umaru Bago, who recorded 76 votes, Gbajabiamila said there would be reform in the House but it would be gradual.
He said probity and accountability would be his watchword.
Gabjabiamila said: “It is my honour and pleasure to address you today as the duly elected Speaker of the 9th House of Representatives. No greater honour can be done a man than to be elected by his peers as their leader and standard bearer. This is the honour you have given me today and from the bottom of my heart, I say thank you.
“I thank Mr. President, my party leaders and colleagues across party lines for the confidence reposed in me. I thank my wife and family for putting up with my long hours and being absent over the months but, most importantly, I thank the Almighty Allah for I see his thumb and footprints all over from the moment this campaign started.
“Honourable colleagues, I understand that I hold this office in trust for you and Nigerians. Conscious of this sacred trust, I hereby dedicate myself to the service of this honourable House and of the good citizens of this great country, with the commitment that I shall at all times, strive to defend the constitution of our republic.
“I equally commit myself to always observe the tenets of justice, equity and fairness in my dealings with my colleagues, and to apply the ideals of transparency, probity and accountability in my management of the affairs of this honourable house.
”The contest for the speakership of this Ninth Assembly is now over and it’s time to move on. Our country is presently confronted with a myriad of problems and it is our responsibility as members of this institution to set aside political, ideological and other differences that may distract us from the assignment the Nigerian people have sent us here to perform. There’s a lot more that unite us than divide us.
“There is much work to be done and we must now pull together, roll up our sleeves, settle down and attend to the people’s business. Whatever political party each one of us may belong, we must be conscious of the fact that Nigerians are truly desirous of good governance and are looking to us to be the agents that will through meaningful legislation combat security, poverty, corruption and other problems and contradictions that have held our country back and stunted our development.
“It is this message of unity and coming together that informed the theme of our campaign…nation-building, a joint task.We have decided to carry this theme into the operations of the Ninth Assembly. As you can see, the logo, which embodies all parties represented in the House, will be displayed permanently behind the speaker’s chair for all to see and as a constant reminder of what this Assembly is all about.
“We must remain one nation bound in freedom, peace and unity. Our vision is very simple, and that is to use the legislative platform and the instrumentality of the law to make Nigeria a better and more perfect union.
“My deputy, Hon. Ahmed Idris and I come with a cumulative 30-year legislative experience which we intend to deploy in making our vision a reality. It was Winston Churchill that said ‘we make a living by what we get but we make by what we give a life’.
“I found those words very profound and Hon. Wase and I intend to have fulfillment through what we will be giving for the next four years.
“There comes a time in the life and history of a people when they interrogate the past and present, review past sacrifices, miscalculations and errors and collectively decide to opt for change, peace and progress. We are at such a moment in this country. Hon colleagues of the Ninth Assembly, this is our time, this is our moment and history beckons.
“The Ninth Assembly under my leadership is going to be a House of reforms; or, if you like, a reformed Assembly. The reforms will be dished out piecemeal and at intervals so as not to choke the system.
“Moving forward, therefore, my dear colleagues, it will not be business as usual and we will be shaking the table just a little. We will be introducing various reforms that will reposition this institution but please rest assured that they will be for the greater good.
“On our shoulders lies the responsibility of working together as a House to safeguard the future of our great country. The House must be reformed before the country can be reformed. We simply cannot and must not fail.
“In this regard, and so as to quickly hit the ground running, I am announcing the appointment of Hon. Sanusi Rikiji, the former speaker of Zamfara State as my chief of staff. Hon Sanusi comes with a wealth of legislative experience and I believe his inclusion in this Assembly will add immense value.
“Hon colleagues, there’s much work to be done in such little time. Let’s roll our sleeves and get to work. Nigerians are waiting. God bless you all.”