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Abuja 25 Percent: Victory For Nigerians



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By J.J. Omojuwa

It started like a joke. It continued to look like one until it actually became part of an election petition. A claim that pretended to misunderstand section 134(2) of the Nigerian constitution. That section 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 must have nothing less than one-quarter of the votes cast at the election in each of at least two-thirds of all the States in the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.” On Wednesday, the joke was handed a much-needed legal rest. The judges deemed the agenda, “completely fallacious, if not outrightly ludicrous”. I’d go with both, unequivocally.

In essence, the Labour Party and Mr Peter Obi‘s petition was arguing for an apartheid state. A country where the votes of the minority in Abuja could render the votes of Nigerians elsewhere less important. It was never going to pass any legal or even common sense test, but imagine for a bit that it did.

We would have a situation where every logical Nigerian of means and ability would seek to be an Abuja voter. Because according to the Obi argument, even if one won all the votes in the other 36 sub-nationals, as long as you scored less than 25 percent in Abuja, you were not to be declared president. That was the argument they made. Even if they had a more serious case at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT), it would have taken something otherworldly to successfully make an argument that would even make any judge pay any attention. Sadly, the Labour petition was generally weak and appeared to be unserious overall. Over 75 percent of their witnesses were proven to be bad witnesses. The judges struck off 10 of 13 of them.

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Of the matters before the tribunal, this Abuja special status matter was the very one that never should have been. There was nothing to test in court here. The constitution was addressing a mathematical issue, that in the calculations, consider Abuja and the thirty-six dates and then do your maths using 37 as baseline. 2/3 x 37 instead of 2/3 x 36. This was the whole point of section 134(2). That politicians desperately went to court to use that as a opportunity to win an election against what that would portend for Nigeria — that some votes are more important than others — speaks to the desperate length people can go when it comes to the pursuit of power. This is exactly what Nigeria does not need. I hope people will do better.

The judgment by the PEPT serves our country and reflects our democracy as being on sound footing. It is not without its challenges, but advancements have been made and there is a plethora of lessons to pick for the future. I am excited about this because for the umpteenth time, our democracy gets to prove its resilience. We have had our eyes on the judiciary — without screaming it out as an intimidation tactic. It was beautiful to watch Nigerians lend their ears and time to the judges as they delivered judgment over several hours. They were never going to reach conclusions that’d have met everyone’s expectations, but they did reach conclusions that were backed by the laws of the land and in the Abuja 25 percent matter, law and universal logic.

There was always going to be a winner and there’d be those who’d have to try again. Like the election itself, it is not a competition for the loudest noise makers. The judges proved that. You make your argument, present your valid witnesses and tender your evidence. In essence, we trusted the judiciary to do its job and with the judgments announced, they did.


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