By Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa

At a recent lecture organized by the Lagos State House of Assembly to commemorate 25 years of unimpeded democracy in the country, the Speaker of Lagos State Assembly, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Ajayi Obasa reflects on pro-democracy struggle, its gains in the last 25 years and how popular rule can be deepened to meet popular yearnings in future.

ENJOY:

Let us take a moment to reflect on the significance of this occasion. We are here not only to celebrate but to also dissect, analyse, and criticise the 25 years of our democratic experience to guard our democracy journey ahead.

We are gathered here today celebrating the silver jubilee of unbroken democracy in Nigeria, a milestone that is worthy of recognition and celebration. Since May 29, 1999, we have consistently upheld the principles of representation, accountability, and the rule of law. We have ensured that power is transferred peacefully, that dissenting voices are heard, and that our institutions remain strong and independent.

Our democracy has endured despite challenges and setbacks. We have faced elections, protests, and debates, but our commitment to democracy has remained unwavering. We have demonstrated that democracy is not a destination but a journey, and we are proud to be on this path.

As we mingle and network tonight, let us acknowledge the heroes of our democracy, past and present, who have fought tirelessly to entrench democratic values in our land. Let us celebrate our achievements and acknowledge the progress we have made.

We honour the sacrifices of those who fought tooth and nail for the democracy we enjoy today. We remember the likes of Chief M.K.O Abiola and his wife Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, who paid the ultimate price in the struggle for democratic governance.

We remember the courage and resilience of those who stood firm in the face of oppression, who refused to be silenced, and who fought for the freedom we enjoy today; people like Prof Wole Soyinka, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Chief Bola Ige, Chief Frank Kokori, His Excellency (Sen) Bola Ahmed Tinubu GCFR, Gen. Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti, Abraham Adesanya, Chief Anthony Enahoro, Gen. Alani Akinrinade, Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, Alfred Rewane, Kayode Fayemi, Col Abubakar Umar (rtd), Chief Ganiyu Dawodu, Chief Ayo Opadokun, Chief Alao Aka-Basorun, former United States Ambassador to Nigeria between 1993 and 1997, Walter Carrington; late Navy Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe (rtd), Clement Nwakwo, late Balarabe Musa, Olu Falae, Lam Adesina, Chief Olabiyi Durojaiye, Dan Suleiman, Rt. Rev. Bolanle Gbonigi, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi (former Foreign Affairs Minister).

Also, we had Prof. Segun Gbadegesin, Ropo Sekoni, Ade Banjo and Professor Adebayo Williams who all offered intellectual support for NADECO. Others were Femi Falana (SAN), Femi Aborisade, Joe Igbokwe, Olisa Agbakoba, Chief Cornelius Adebayo, Ayo Obe, Governor Uba Sani, Rev. Fr. Matthew Kukah, Ebun Adegboruwa, Clement Nwankwo, Debo Adeniran, Akinola Orisagbemi (who was Personal Assistant to Kudirat Abiola), Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Innocent Chukwuma, Chima Ubani, Bunmi Aborisade, Dr. Tunji Braithwaite, Chief Ralph Obioha, Col. Gabriel Ajayi, Senator Shehu Sani, Abdul Oroh, and Ayo Adebanjo.

Journalists who joined the struggle included: former Governor of Ogun State-Olusegun Osoba, Nosa Igiebor, Bayo Onanuga of TheNEWS/TEMPO, Kunle Ajibade, who was jailed for life, Babafemi Ojudu, Chris Anyanwu, and Bagauda Kaltho, who was killed, to mention but a few.

Furthermore, there were others that joined the struggle including Dr. Frederick Fasehun and Aare Gani Adams of the OPC organisation, Ayodele Adewale and many unsung heroes who were killed on the streets of Lagos and other parts of Nigeria. Media organisations including National Concord, Tell Magazine, Punch, The Guardian and Tribune truly proved their worth as the Fourth Estate of the Realm.

There were also the resilient market women ably led by Alhaja Abibatu Mogaji, the late Iyaloja General. We also remember the noble roles of some of our royal fathers, particularly the Awujale of Ijebuland, HRM Sikiru Adetona. The Nigeria Labour Congress at the time played formidable roles as well as the National Association of Nigerian Students(NANS).

They have all etched their names in the golden book of this great nation. Here also, we must mention some countries that stood staunchly with us during the turbulent military era especially the Canadian and South African governments.

The sacrifices of all the heroes have made it possible for us to gather here tonight, enjoying the fruits of democracy.

We are able to assemble freely, to express our opinions openly, and to participate in the democratic process without fear of persecution. These are rights that were hard-won and we must never take them for granted.

Of course, we also remember the inglorious activities of those who were against democracy in Nigeria. The likes of Gen Ibrahim Babangida, Gen Sani Abacha, Tony Anenih, Chief Uche Chukumerije, Daniel Kanu, Arthur Nzeribe, Alh Lateef Sofolahan, Gen Ishaya Bamaiyi, Sergeant Rogers, Col. Frank Omenka, , and a host of others.

All these individuals in one way or another have been criticised for their links with the anti-democratic forces during the struggle for the present democracy. Definitely, history will not forget all their roles while sabotaging the democratic progress of this country.

As the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, a House that prides itself as being above the common standards of excellence, I am proud to acknowledge the critical role that the legislative arm of government has played in shaping our democracy.

We have worked tirelessly to promote good governance, accountability, and the rule of law. We have passed laws that have transformed the lives of our citizens, and we have held our executives accountable for their actions.

The Lagos State House of Assembly has fostered strong relationships with democratic governments and institutions worldwide through exchange programmes, foreign parliamentary visits, and interactions with parliamentary leaders and members.

The Assembly prioritises the education and development of its members and staff, sponsoring them to attend various training programmes, seminars, and conferences locally and globally.

These include the annual Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conferences (CPA), National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) in the USA, International Bar Association conferences, International Law Institute programs in Washington, USA. and visits to the British parliament.

As a transformative and people-centric legislature, the House of Assembly has delivered impactful laws and representation, reforming justice, social welfare, and security systems, and driving tax reforms, infrastructural development, and transportation improvements.

These have attracted significant attention from local and international admirers, leading to frequent visits from international representatives and private citizens seeking to learn from us, exchange ideas, conduct research, or participate in exchange programmes. These visitors hail from Europe, America, and Africa, reflecting the Assembly’s growing global reputation as a transformative legislature.

In this vein, we recognise countries like France, Italy, Germany, the USA, China, the UK, South Africa, Kenya, and Liberia that have had relationships with the Lagos Assembly. As we speak, we have also received PhD students in the House who have chosen our institution for their thesis.

But our democracy is not a destination as I said earlier; it is a journey. And we must continue to guard it jealously, for it is the foundation upon which the fabric of our nation’s progress is built.

We must continue to promote democratic values, protect human rights, and ensure that our democracy remains perpetually unbroken.

Thus, in assessing the level of progress of our democracy, we have invited local and foreign speakers to give us their honest perspectives.

Let me use this medium to acknowledge the presence of our esteemed guests, newspaper editors and other stakeholders who have consistently played crucial roles in shaping our democracy.

Your contributions, whether through criticism, bills, or activism and what not, have been invaluable in holding our leaders accountable and promoting democratic values.

As we will be raising our glasses and toasting to 25 years of democracy, to the continued growth and strength of our nation tonight, and to the unwavering commitment of Nigerians to democratic governance, I want to specially thank our esteemed guest speakers.

I urge us to play roles in developing our democracy as commentators or as critics.

At the same time, I solicit for more support for legislative institutions, particularly state Houses of Assembly throughout the federation to further deepen democratic values in the states, protect democratic institutions and entrench representative governments in the grassroots.

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