Again, lawyers are giving us needless headache.
Over the past several years, I have observed that every so often we are caught up with ambiguous statements in the most important document of our country. I have had to work with many legal documents especially contract documents over the years. In many of those documents, you can hardly misconstrue any of the clauses. Some come with explanatory notes. Where there are two or more documents operative on same project, there is usually a guide on how to use them and which takes precedence should there be a conflict. These result in highly reduced legal battles over the meanings of contract clauses. Happily, most of these documents were drafted by lawyers. Coming back to the most important document of our nation, is it that it was not drafted by same lawyers? Or that lawyers were not in the drafting teams? Or that they were not passed through lawyers to help streamline the senses in those crucial statements? No patient enjoys seeing his doctors debating what the book says about his health condition!
If I have quoted right,
Section 134, subsection 2 of the 1999 Constitution states:
“A candidate for an election to the office of President shall be deemed to have been duly elected where, there being more than two candidates for the election-he has the highest number of votes cast at the election; and he has not less than one-quarter of the votes cast at the election each of at least two-thirds of all the States in the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.”
The second requirement in the quotation above certainly leaves room for argument. Let’s look at what it says.
The operative phrase here is: ‘not less than one-quarter of the votes cast at the election’, and targets two objects- (1) at least two-thirds of all the States in the Federation AND (2) the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The two objects are not conjunctive here.
Better still, the word each in ‘each of’ refers to each of the objects as a separate entity and cannot be to both as a combination. If it were, ‘each of’ would not be necessary. You can’t say each of one thing. You can only say each of two or more things.
So, what the constitution says is that nobody can be declared president elect if he has not scored up to 25% of votes cast in the FCT. I do not think that this is what the drafters of the constitution meant. Unfortunately, this is what they have said to us, as I understand it. A simple explanatory note would have saved us from this headache. Now we are going to be forced to wait for the decision of the courts on this and abide by it whether right or wrong.