I have followed the argument of the APC where they have argued that Atiku is not a Nigerian by birth and thus was ineligible to contest the presidential election ab initio; thereby making the 11.1 million votes he “got” at the election void.
This argument of theirs has been hinged on section 131 (a) of the 1999 constitution. The said section reads,
“a person shall be qualified for election to the office of the President of Nigeria if he is a citizen of Nigeria by birth.”
Emphasis on #birth. So, on the strength of the above, the APC argues that as at 25th November 1946 when Atiku was born, Jada his native place was in Cameroun and not Nigeria. They further argue that Jada only became a part of Nigeria after the plebiscite of February 1961 where the then British Northern Cameroun voted to join Nigeria and British Southern Cameroun voted to join Cameroun. Thus, Jada in Adamawa State, Atiku’s birthplace became a part of Nigeria in February 1961.
So, on the strength of the foregoing, they maintain that in pursuance to section 131 (a), Atiku could not and should not have ran for the presidency of Nigeria, as one can only be president by birth and not by referendum.
Interesting as this argument sounds, it has dangerous consequences for us if it becomes part of our jurisprudence through the courts through political arm-twisting.
First, it is elementary law that that the literal rule of interpretation isn’t the only rule for interpretation of statutes. The golden rule and mischief rule are also used in interpreting statutes. The mischief rule has been used through the ages by the courts to interpret a document that would have awkward results and consequences, & the courts always in applying the mischief rule suppresses whatever mischief a document has or could have and advances a remedy. Thus, a literal rule of interpretation is not the rule to use in interpreting section 131 (a) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended). The mischief rule is the rule to take pre-eminence here and the rule can never support the awkward conclusion the APC canvasses.
If for whatever political reason, our courts give life and vitality to this awkward rationalisation, the consequences will be disastrous for us all. Consider this:
The Nigeria-Biafra Civil War was fought from 30th July 1967-12th January 1970. A 30-month civil war. During this period, Biafra was considered a nation under international law and had recognition from a number of African countries and even France. Biafra as a nation ceased to exist on the 12th of January 1970. Going by the strange reasoning of the APC, any Nigerian born in the South East within the defunct Biafran borders within that 30-month period is NOT a Nigerian by birth pursuant to section 131 (a) for the purposes of contesting a presidential election. The unsettling drift of this dangerous slope is that should any person born within that period in the south eastern region, contest an election for the presidency and wins, his win can be voided on the curious claim that such a person is not a Nigerian by birth.
This is the danger staring us in the face. This is the unsettling jurisprudence we are about to come to terms with if this ridiculous chicanery is not hacked down and buried immediately.
Who a Nigerian is, is about to become blurred and confusing than it could have ever been.