Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Dinner

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May I welcome again you to Nigeria, and to thank you very kindly for hosting me this morning when I represented our President at the opening of the Conference.


I trust that you have all enjoyed your dinner this evening, I must say that it is such a sumptuous meal because of the generous budgetary provision of the National Assembly. Those sitting close to me would notice that I ate everything on my plate. My reason for doing so is simple. I do not want a situation where when the Honourable Members of the National Assembly come on their oversight visit and accuse me of wasting resources. But I am greatly comforted by the fact that Speaker of Kenyan National Assembly, Rt. Hon. Justin B. N. Muturi, who sat right next to me is my witness.


You will notice that I have not cited the Rt. Hon. Speaker of House (Nigeria), Femi Gbajamiala as my witness. The truth is that only the Rt. Hon Muturi will be believed to be an independent witness.  In this heavily charged partisan political atmosphere, speaker Femi Gbajabiamila’s testimony will be considered compromised, he and I belong to the same political party and we are both from Lagos.


Let me commend you all for an Informative and enjoyable opening ceremony. But I must say that since Hon. Dr. Zainab Gimba, said this morning, that women hold half the sky and that if they got angry, they may let it fall. I have been deeply worried because I suspect that if they were to let half the sky fall, they will let it fall on us men who, of course, they rightly hold responsible for discrimination against them.


I have therefore pledged to ensure that I take gender equality and reorientation issues seriously. So that in the unlikely event then that the sky falls it will fall with gender equality in mind on all of us.


Frankly, I have always resisted being called a politician, politicians are always maligned.  I am a lawyer and I also serve as a pastor, but I must tell you that I have really been changing my mind and getting more comfortable with the idea of being called a politician. Especially because I have been hearing some really good stories lately about politicians. For example, just last week in Ghana, a West African Head of State for whom I have tremendous respect told me this story. He swore to me that the story was told to him by a Reverend Father.


He said two men died on the same day, advanced in years, one a very distinguished Bishop and the other, a well-known Politician. They both went to heaven, the first to arrive in heaven was the bishop and he was met by several angels and he was taken in a small car to his modest house where he was to reside until the evening when everyone would gather again.


Then the politician arrived in heaven and the whole place was a buzz, he was received by double the angels that received the bishop, and was driven in a grand limousine to his palatial residence. The bishop looked out of his window and said how can this politician who I knew to make promises he never kept, be treated so much better than me?


That evening when the new arrivals gathered, the bishop went up to Angel Gabriel and made his complaint. How can a politician be treated better than me, a bishop? Angel Gabriel pulled him aside and said, “bishop, the reason is that we don’t usually see these people here in heaven so when we see one, we are so excited!”


Let me again commend Commonwealth Parliamentary Association for taking this association’s affairs seriously. The attendance at this conference from so many countries is truly remarkable. It is to your credit that the Commonwealth has evolved into a global community that is not merely united by a shared past or even, as some have unfairly charged, mere colonial nostalgia. It is bound by common values and a shared vision of the future. The question that should constantly occupy us is what this future would be and how we can bring it into being. This is a cause to which we should ceaselessly apply our minds and energies.


As I said in the morning, please enjoy Nigeria, especially our culinary delights. Some of you might know that aside from football, Nigeria’s rivalry with our brothers in Ghana is also over food.


There has been a raging controversy over who makes the better jollof rice. We would like you as distinguished and fair-minded legislators to taste our jollof rice so that you can judge fairly and justly that Nigeria indeed has the best jollof rice. All say aye!


Let me again thank you for choosing Nigeria as the venue of your meeting and for honouring our invitation to this dinner. I wish you all a safe trip back home and we look forward to seeing you again in Nigeria soon.


Thank you and enjoy the rest of the evening.