My fellow Distinguished Senators, I am pleased and privileged to stand before you today to commence a historic journey of selfless service as President of the 9th Senate. This is an extremely special moment for me. I humbly and gratefully accept my election as the President of the 9th Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I am deeply grateful to all my Distinguished Colleagues who overwhelmingly elected me to lead the 9th Senate as first among equals and for their gracious concession, I declare myself your Humble Servant and you Distinguished Senators as my true bosses in every sense of the word.
I acknowledge and salute three categories of people: your families and friends for their support and sacrifice; your various political parties on whose platforms you stood for election, and our constituents for their invaluable trust and goodwill in electing us into this position.
To all my fellow contestants, I say this is our collective victory for it was a very hard-fought campaign. They all did well. Permit me to pay a personal tribute to Distinguished Senator Danjuma Goje and others who withdrew from the race and graciously endorsed me. I am deeply grateful. Senator Ali Ndume put up a dogged fight and gave the race added-value. You all have worked tirelessly over the years and in particular in the past few months and I owe all of you Distinguished colleagues a debt of gratitude for your sterling services to our country. I congratulate all of us for the friendliness and camaraderie that was demonstrated during the intensive but rancour free campaign.
The elections are over and we are all back together in the spirit of one indivisible Senate, united in our commitment to work for the Nigerian people. Working together, we will begin the urgent task of rebuilding our institution and renewing the Nigerian dream. I’ve spent the last 20 years learning the ropes of how to make the National Assembly work better. In this humbling and extremely critical role you have all agreed to assign to me, I pledge to do my best to serve the best interest of the institution, its members and the good people of Nigeria.
Today’s epochal event is symbolic in many respects. It marks the beginning of another decade in the annals of the country’s federal legislature, recognizing that the Fourth Republic National Assembly was first inaugurated twenty years ago, on June 4, 1999. So, today, as we commence the 3rd uninterrupted decade of our National Parliament, we pledge to remake, reform and revitalise the Senate in line with our constitutional duties, the urgent expectation of our citizens and global parliamentary best practices.
Our determination is to evolve a well-resourced Senate with a vision and a great sense of commitment to securing a prosperous future for our great nation. I strongly believe that for the 9th Senate to live up to this declaration, it must be operated as an institution that is largely accountable, participatory, collaborative and responsive to the needs, aspirations, rights and liberties of the masses whose mandate we hold in trust.
Let me reassure my Distinguished colleagues that in the discharge of my duties as the President of the 9th Senate, I will be fair and just to all, irrespective of party affiliations, religious and ethnic extractions. I, therefore, solicit for unalloyed support of all my Distinguished Colleagues. Together, we can reinvent a vibrant, robust and result-oriented Senate.
In the 9th Senate no dream is too big to imagine, no challenge is too great to surmount. We will pursue our goal of a better and brighter future, we will no longer settle for anything less than the best. We will work with and collaborate with other arms of government to reclaim our country and restore our values. We will dream big, aim high and take bold initiatives. To this end, I will work with my colleagues to build actionable consensus around a robust legislative agenda that serves the best interest of majority of our people.
To this end, we will focus on improving the institutional capacity and capabilities of the Senate for effective performance of its constitutional and political duties in the most cost effective and service enhancing manner. Issues such as bill and motion progression and tracking, enhanced internal operations and funding of committees, an open and ICT enabled Senate will be on our front burner.
We are going to work collaboratively with the executive arm of government to strengthen our planning and budget linkage that ensures effective service delivery and fulfilment of essential government obligations to the citizens, while taking care of the perennial delays in our annual appropriation bill passage and implementation.
We will embark upon a sustained pursuit of national ethical renewal, through legislative and political support for the fight against corruption and other major security challenges that Nigeria faces today, namely; rural and highway banditry; inter-ethnic conflicts; herdsmen and farmer conflicts, cattle rustling; kidnapping and all other forms of criminality in the country.
We have a plan to make Nigeria an economic growth hub and the most sought after business destination in Africa. This is to be achieved through legislative and policy coordination with the Executive Arm of Government to put in place the necessary reforms and legal instruments that promote the diversification and investment in the critical (real and service) sectors of the Nigerian economy.
We will frontally address the current high level of youth unemployment, underemployment and high use of illicit drugs as well as depression and high rate of suicide.
At the same time, we will collaborate with the House of Representatives and State Houses of Assembly, with a view to having legislative partnerships that address the existential challenges of corruption, insecurity, emerging criminal gangs, kidnaping, poverty, decayed educational system that has left Nigeria with an embarrassing reported figure of 14 million out of school children.
I want to seize this opportunity to tell the entire nation, particularly those that are in doubt, that the Senate and indeed the legislature is going to operate independently in accordance with its own rules, procedures and time honoured norms and best practices. While working closely with the executive arm to deliver the dividends of democracy to the Nigerian people.
Our legislative agenda must focus on enacting laws and strengthening existing laws to facilitate the reforms required to truly take our nation, our people and our economy to the next level.
Within us as a Senate, our leadership will commit to partnership rather than partisanship and between us and the executive arm of Government, we will choose unity of purpose over conflict and discord while also working towards further strengthening and guaranteeing our independence and that of the judiciary. We will sustain and strengthen our institutional working relationship with critical stakeholders especially the Civil Society Organizations, the Media and Development Partners within and outside Nigeria.
In conclusion, let it be said that we have come to this chamber conscious of the trust our constituents have reposed on us. Dear colleagues, we must not betray that trust. To this extent, in the next four years, we must drive a transformative Senate dedicated to serving the people with confidence, courage and patriotism. Indeed, the urgent task towards socio-economic reforms and transformation through legislative intervention has begun.
In so doing, we are convinced that our past was only a story told while our future can yet be written in gold.
I thank you all, May God bless Federal Republic of Nigeria!