The Speaker of the House of Representatives urges his colleagues to ensure that Nigerians live in a just society, writes Grade Olomu
He is one of them. House of Representatives Speaker, Rt Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila feted fellow learned colleagues at the recently concluded Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). Gbajabiamila, an erudite legal professional who plied his trade in the United States before his foray into Nigerian politics is a public delight any day.
The Speaker who has been mobilizing Nigerians including political elites to forge a common, bipartisan front against the myriad of challenges facing the nation, also challenged his professional colleagues to take the lead in rebuilding Nigeria.
“I am delighted to address this distinguished gathering on the occasion of the 2021 Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association. While I make this address as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, it is important to note that I also speak today as a Lawyer and I consider it a great honour to speak in such a great gathering of my colleagues.
“Let me thank the leadership of our association for the invitation to address my distinguished colleagues and the opportunity to enforce my hope that this Conference will light the fire in our profession and prepare us all to take the lead and consolidate the position of the NBA as a critical stakeholder in our affairs as a nation.
“Our nation and the world are slowly recovering from the pangs of the Covid-19 Pandemic and while this affected the physical gathering of lawyers in the AGC last year, we as a people and a nation have shown that we cannot be defeated. Our association was at the risk of a severe breakdown during the pandemic but Nigerian lawyers are resilient, tough, inventive, and resourceful even in the face of daunting odds and challenges and the association came up with creative and ingenious ways of hosting our traditional and much-cherished annual conference virtually and remotely, taking account of COVID-19 while not submitting or resigning to it.
“As we gather this year, We should pride ourselves in the reality that this is the largest gathering of lawyers anywhere in the world and this is a feat worthy of commendation. This year, the NBA as its theme has chosen to TAKE THE LEAD’’.
“This theme is not only timely but timeless in light of the challenges we face as a nation. This theme presents a fierce urgency for Lawyers to capture the moment and take the driver’s seat in the conversations surrounding our collective patrimony,” the Speaker said at the conference to the admiration of hundreds of lawyers.
It was a patriotic call to his fellow learned colleagues; he wanted their thoughts on nation-building to align with his. As a worthy ambassador of the bar, Gbajabiamila has been making the legal profession proud in a manner he has been handling the national assignment entrusted to his care and his informed, timely interventions on burning national matters.
He said, “We answered the call to serve and commit to the cause of the downtrodden and to rebuilding our nation and raising it from the ruins. If we are poised at taking the lead, we must be ready to do more, do better and do so with haste that shows our understanding of challenges and promise of this moment in history and our determination to succeed against the odds.”
The Speaker charged his colleagues to keep faith with the pledge to ensure that Nigerians live in a just society free from abuse of power and protected by a justice system built on fairness and the rule of law.
Gbajabiamila reminded them that nation-building is a joint task and all have roles to play as small pieces in the big puzzle. “As legislators, we are committed, now more than ever, to promote policies and institute measures that will ensure that the practice of law thrives. Lawyers also have a role to play individually and collectively as an association in promoting social justice and respect for the rule of law and if we all play a part and intentionally contribute, we will pull our country from the deepest trenches of strife and systemic failures to the mountain top of peace and prosperity”, he said.
Many who have been watching the Speaker closely since 2019 when he assumed the position of the speaker will attest to his passion to see a new Nigeria. He has redefined public service with his deft inter-governmental relations which has ultimately resulted in the benefits to Nigerians.
Rather than engaging in needless power tussle with the Executive, he maintained a harmonious relationship with the Villa without compromising the independence of the legislature. Despite being a leader in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), he has never kept quiet when the leadership dropped the ball or failed to live up to the expectations of Nigerians.
At various challenging periods in the nation, just as the speaker galvanized lawyers, he is always a rallying figure in times of crisis. When university lecturers under the auspices of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), shut classrooms over poor welfare, or when health workers went on strike, among others, the speaker was among the leading national figures that broke the truce.
In the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gbajabiamila showed the stuff he is made of. He championed the cause of the downtrodden and challenged the elite to give to the poor who were adversely impacted by the pandemic.
The speaker led his colleagues in the House of Representatives to donate salaries to the poor. He didn’t fail in his legislative duty either. For the first time, the speaker with the support of the members of the house ensured the return of the budget to the January to December cycle. Life and nation-transforming bills also scaled through in his chamber. Far-reaching motions and resolutions were reached on critical matters of national importance especially insecurity.