The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, has said that all Nigerians, whether in government or as professionals, must rededicate themselves to the protection of democracy.
He also said all Nigerians must see nation-building as a ‘joint task,’ saying each Nigerian has a critical role to play to achieve the best vision for the country.
Gbajabiamila was speaking on Wednesday night in Abuja at the 2021 Press Freedom Awards organised by the national body of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).
The speaker, who delivered the keynote address of the night, spoke on the topic, ‘Press Freedom, Democracy and Good Governance.’
Speaker Gbajabiamila stated, “Our democracy has survived twenty-two long years, but we cannot take it for granted. We are at this moment buffeted by ill wind on all sides.
“Our highest task, our most pressing ambition for which there are no other alternatives, is the protection of this democracy. If we fail in this regard, nothing else will matter, nothing else we do will count in our favour when the tally of history is settled.
“We have it in our power to improve our nation’s future and leave this world better than we found it. So, let us do that together.”
The speaker, represented by the Deputy House Leader, Rep. Peter Akpatason, supported the promotion of free press and free expression, noting that these were “fundamental safeguards of our democracy.”
Gbajabiamila also said he backed journalists in practising their profession by holding those in government to account.
However, he advised that in doing so, journalists must be truly professional by reporting the truth always, as against the growing trend in certain media outfits of reporting falsehoods.
He added, “You can only live up to this responsibility when you commit to the vigorous pursuit of elusive truths, and dedicate yourselves to the service of paramount principles.
“Unfortunately, a number of those who practice journalism in our country have failed and are failing to live up to the responsibility imposed by the power you hold.
“Far from giving voice to the aspirations of our nation, or holding the powerful properly to account, much of journalism in Nigeria has become an endless pursuit of clickbait through the careless writing of falsehoods and malicious publication of half-truths.”
The speaker urged journalists and all Nigerians alike to rededicate themselves to the ideals of democracy, calling for better safeguards for the practice of journalism in the country.
“So, we arrive at the recognition that all of us – government and journalists alike – have not always lived up to the responsibilities we owe to our country and each other.
“Let us all choose today to rededicate ourselves to the unyielding pursuit of excellence in governance and journalism, recognising that what is at stake is not profit or promotion, political power or personal ambition, but the very survival of our country. Nation-building is a joint task.
“Each of us has a role to play if we will in our lifetime achieve the best vision of a country that works for all our nation’s people.”
The highlight of the event was the conferment of the award of ‘Distinguished Defender of Free Press’ on the Speaker.