The most unassailable legal opinion( in my view) that I have read on interpretation of the constitutional requirements to be met by a presidential candidate before he can be declared as winner.
Reference to FCT as part of the constituent territories in which a candidate must score not less than one quarter (25% ) of votes cast in order to emerge winner of presidential election at first ballot is not a separate hurdle to scale by a candidate . This is the provision of section 134 (2) (b) and 2) (b) of the constitution . It is an incorporation provision. It is to underscore the drafters’ intention to have FCT treated as a full fledged constituent state for the purpose of computing number of states that a winner must not score below lowest permissible votes in order to win the election at first ballot without a run-off.
This provision must be given a harmonious construction that is consistent with other relevant provisions of the constitution. That requires reading the provision of section 299 of the constitution into it . That section is a deeming enactment which states that provisions of the constitution shall apply to FCT “as if it were one of the states of the federation .”
The implication of the deeming section is that FCT is not ordinarily one of the federating units in Nigeria ; it is only part of the territory that makes up the federation as stated under section 2 (2) of the constitution. Nevertheless , where its status invites treatment of FCT as a state to satisfy constitutional function , it will be treated like a federating state whereas it is not . That is why FCT has its own High court with a chief judge like a Federating state exercising similar jurisdiction like state high courts – separate from the federal high court .
The next deduction to be made therefore is that the intendment of section 134 (2) of the constitution is to confer on FCT the benefit of being treated like one of the 36 federating states ; which status it would not have enjoyed but for that section and the deeming provision in section 299. It is not to raise it higher than the status of a state for the purpose of determining electoral acceptability of a candidate among at least two thirds of voters spread throughout the federation.
We can get a better insight into this perspective by looking at the US arrangement in determining federating units constituting the AMERICAN federation . Washington DC is not a state in America . Washington, D.C. is not a state nor is it part of any U.S. state . It’s citizens are disenfranchised because they only have one non-voting representative in Congress, elected as a single at-large congressional delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives . It was by 23rd constitutional amendment in 1961 that voters were allowed to choose three presidential electors from Washington D.C. during electoral college to ratify election of U.S. President . In our own case residents of FCT enjoy equal voting rights like other citizens in presidential election. So when the constitution states that FCT is to be treated as a state – it is conferring on it a status which belongs to states that FCT would not otherwise possess.
The incorporation is not to elevate FCT above the federating units that ordinarily should determine how popular and accepted a candidate is across the diverse demographic composition of the citizenry based on the territorial distribution in the federation .
The section therefore seeks to add FCT into the equation in determining one quarter of votes cast in each of at least two thirds of the states of the federation . It is not to set it apart as a separate territory in which a candidate must exclusively poll 25% of votes cast, regardless of how he fared in other stated of the federation . It is simply to recognize 25% of votes cast in FCT as equivalent of scoring 25% in any other state of the federation to meet the requirement of constitutional spread .
That translates to minimum of one quarter votes in at least 25 states. So a leading presidential candidate who already has 25% of votes in 24 states and in addition 25% of votes cast in FCT is deemed to have scored the minimum required in 25 states although one of them is FCT . It follows that if the candidate scores one quarter votes in at least 25 states , it does not require a single vote in FCT to be returned as winner provided he has scored overall plural majority in the election .
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