As the National Assembly resumed from break on Tuesday, Femi Gbajabiamila, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, explained that the 2023 general elections were “hotly contested.”
Gbajabiamila made this known in his remarks at the opening of plenary which lasted about one hour.
The speaker is representing Surulere 1 Federal Constituency in Lagos State, where an opposition Labour Party shockingly beat his party, the ruling All Progressives Congress.
Peter Obi of the LP had defeated the widely acclaimed grandmaster of Lagos politics and presidential candidate of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
Several APC candidates for the Senate and the House had also lost to their LP opponents at the elections held on Saturday.
Gbajabiamila said, “Our country has just been through a hotly contested general election. As we gather here this morning, the election results are still being collated and announced. We expect shortly to be informed who will be the next president of our republic and the people who will represent Nigerians in the 10th Assembly.
“Elections in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-party democracy too often devolve into fault lines, generating abundant conflict and controversy. The test of an advanced democracy is the ability to manage grievances and settle disagreements without causing fatal damage to the body polity.”
The speaker also warned against utterances that suggest illegal resolution of disputes arising from the elections.
Gbajabiamila issued the warning less than 24 hours after former President Olusegun Obasanjo, in an open letter, called on the Independent National Electoral Commission to cancel disputed results from the polls.
The speaker noted that the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act 2022 that govern elections in Nigeria both define a framework of post-election dispute resolution and adjudication.
According to him, this framework exists to protect the integrity of elections and ensures that when elections fail to meet expectations, contested issues of facts and law could be resolved through a due process within a legal framework befitting a constitutional democracy.
Gbajabiamila stated, “It is not in the interest of our country, now or ever, to advocate for or embrace extra-legal interventions to resolve electoral disputes and address grievances. We must avoid actions or utterances that set the stage for interventions that could be fatal to our democracy and the gains we have made over the last two decades.
“This is the time, despite whatever disappointments we may each feel, to reject considerations of partisan and other interests to come together and make sure first that our country survives and our imperfect democracy continues its march towards progress and a more perfect union.
“This is the time for political, social, religious and economic leaders across the nation to work steadfastly together towards the ends of law and due process. I am confident we will rise above the worst expectations others may have of us in this defining this moment. We will resist malign actors seeking to exploit this moment of tension for their own ends. We will defeat the cynicism of those waiting to see their worst predictions for our country become real. Nigeria will be at peace because we will work through the law and due process to resolve differences, settle disputes and ensure the peaceful transition of power.”
The speaker noted that the work of governance continues in the House as the members count down to the end of their term in the ninth National Assembly.
“We will also begin to prepare transition notes at the committee levels, as earlier proposed, as part of our reforms to build institutional memory and ensure continuity in governance. And we will continue reviewing legislative actions, interventions, successes and failures relating to the implementation of the ninth House of Representatives legislative agenda, which we began in January.
“As I said then, this is the basis of our report card to the Nigerian people at the end of our term. But just as importantly, it will allow us to better understand where we succeeded and where we didn’t as a guide for the future,” he said.