New Senate President, Bukola Saraki, on Tuesday thanked his colleagues for electing him as the President of the eighth Senate saying their decision adds to democracy.
He said this in his maiden speech after he was sworn-in as the Senate President even though the All Progressives Party (APC), through which he contested rejected the outcome of the election arguing that he was not the candidate of the party.
Below is Saraki's speech as read at the floor Senate:
Distinguished Colleagues, Senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I am most honoured and privileged to be elected from among such distinguished men and women of your caliber to serve you as President of the Senate.
I accept with humility and respect the honour you have conferred upon me today. I am indeed moved by such demonstration of faith and trust you have reposed on me. I am truly grateful and I accept this call to serve with humility, responsibility and sense of duty.
I give all glory to the Almighty God for the significance of this day for our dear country. I am delighted that only a few months after we witnessed an uncommon democratic transition in our country, we are witnessing yet again, a further consolidation of that lofty victory for our country and our democracy.
I want to thank all members of the National Assembly, especially the distinguished Senators for your maturity and patriotism in the exercise that we have just concluded in electing the leadership of the 8th Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
We have demonstrated that even though we may belong to different persuasions and parties, we are ultimately united by our common desire to entrench democracy and allow its core principles guide the conduct of our political affairs.
I thank all those who have supported me and journeyed with me through the difficult road that has brought us here. I believe that the courage and the commitment that you have demonstrated go beyond your support for any individual’s ambition. I believe that what you have demonstrated is an unflinching commitment to the sanctity and integrity of this hallowed chamber as the primary bastion for the government of the people, by the people, for the people.
Beyond any political party or personal victory, the 2015 general elections, in many ways, represents a major watershed in the political annals of our great country. And for long would forever be remembered as that moment when our democracy truly came of age. The uniqueness of these times, fired by our people’s overwhelming desire for change would remain an inspiration for the future generations of our country. However, the enormous responsibilities that it imposes on those of us who occupy leadership positions in our respective capacity at this time can hardly be over-emphasized.
The change that our people voted for is a change from a life of poverty, misery and hopelessness to a life of prosperity, happiness and confidence in the future; a change from a pervasive culture of fear to a life of security and comfort; a change from impunity and elite arrogance to a life of accountability and respect for every citizen, regardless of tribe, gender, religion, region or political persuasion. This is the change that all of us in this National Assembly must strive to bring about, if we must justify the privilege of representation conferred on us by our people. Nigerians want to see a proactive National Assembly that will devote itself to rigorous thinking, rolling up sleeves to forge a new and prosperous Nigeria.
As the President of the 8th Senate and the Chairman of this National Assembly, I shall be guided by the enormity of the responsibilities that this moment imposes on us all. As a first among equals, I shall strive at all times to be just, equitable and fair to all. I shall work with you all to build a National Assembly that will enjoy greater confidence and trust among the people that we represent. We shall entrench greater openness and accountability. We shall strengthen our capacity for public engagement as well as broaden access for inclusion, recognizing that this temple of democracy belongs to all the people of our country.
Modern democracy is built on the principle of separation of powers. It will be my responsibility to protect the independence of the legislative arm of our government in the overall interest of our democracy. However, I will pursue this duty with the understanding that our autonomy must be embedded within the collaborative framework that allows government to function more effectively in bringing the greater good to the greatest number of our people. Our quest for autonomy must not lead us into pursuing adversarial relationship with other arms of government, especially the executive. Our oversight duties must be constructive, supportive and productive, believing that while we all have different roles to play; we have a common responsibility to the people of Nigeria.
At this juncture, permit me distinguished Senators, Honourable Members to salute the President and Commander-In-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR for remaining steadfast in his defence of the right of the National Assembly members to choose its own leaders. With his principled position, he has laid a solid foundation for the stability of the 8th National Assembly and for strengthening our democracy. On behalf of my colleagues in the Senate (and the House of Representatives,) I promise that we shall reward the great confidence you have reposed in us by being worthy partners and dependable ally in the great task ahead.
Similarly, I thank all the leaders of our party, the All Progressives Congress for the leadership you have provided and the efforts you have made in providing guidance and in managing the process that would lead to amicable resolution of the conflict and contention that any democratic process necessarily generates. Now we can move forward with renewed confidence in our efforts to build a stronger and virile party, where all members would find comfort and space to pursue their legitimate aspirations.
I shall end this address by expressing the immense gratitude of all members of the 7th Senate and House of Representatives to His Excellency, David Bonaventure Mark, for the uncommon leadership that you have provided for us over the years, which has stabilized the National Assembly and paved the way for the enormous achievements that were recorded under your leadership. Thank you for your immense service to our country.
My dear distinguished colleagues, we are entering the saddle at a time when a lot is being expected of us. Nigerians expect the barest minimum out of our agenda; that the new Senate and National Assembly must make laws that will enable us renew our infrastructure, reform the oil sector, reform our security systems, boost agriculture, create jobs and make doing business in Nigeria much more competitive. In the coming days we shall be converging to hammer out an aggregate agenda that will help us focus and deliver on these minimum expectations.
Distinguished Senators, Honourable Members, as we formally assume the legislative task of our nation’s government today, I pray that the Almighty God will continue to increase us in wisdom and visit us with courage to always do that which is best for our people and our country. May our hallowed chambers continue to ennoble the memory of our great country men and women who fought and died so that democracy may see the light of day in our country. And, may the future generations of our citizens look upon the 8th National Assembly as a true assembly of our people’s representatives who did their very best in the service of our nation.
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