My opinion is premised on logical, rational, objective roundabout reasoning and it is what it is and not what you may want it to be.
I am talking about legal positivism, the law as it is; not emotional ecstasy.
My understanding of Section 131 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which provides inter alia – “A person shall be qualified for election to the office of the President if, (d) he has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent” – is a distinctive departure from the public hysteria.
The fact in issue currently in our polity within the provisions of 131 of CFRN rests within this (d), which says “he has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent”.
Interpreting this provision by the professional rules of construction and interpretation of legislation, any person can see that the realities are far from the public hysteric glamour.
The legislature acting intra vires within the powers as vested upon them under Section 4 and 58 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigerian (As Amended) in their own wisdom couched the law as it is. Not any current presidential candidate, I can bet that all the candidates must have looked at this law critically before coming out publicly to announce their interests to run for the office.
1.By the literal rule of interpretation,the provision of Section 131(d) of the1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigerian (As Amended) is not an express instruction or command to any presidential candidate to submit certificate to INEC for the purpose of an election, an inference on the intendments of the framers of the Constitution as it is currently, is not for emphasis on certificate rather level of education,if our major concern is certificate then this provision needs to be reframed to denote an express and clear instruction to submit certificate.
- The law says a person shall be educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent, without a constricted particular way of evidencing and substantiating the claim of having been educated up to the required level,this means that any cogent and verifiable evidence can serve this purpose, such as photograph with class mates, receipt of payment of school fees, statement of result, letter from a principal or teacher of the school, etc.
3.By mischief rule, we ask ourselves, what is the mischief any law is seeking to cure, here the law is seeking to cure a situation where persons who do not have the exposure of secondary education or its equivalent should put themselves forward to preside over the affairs of the country especially in terms of having the ability to read and write, therefore any evidence that someone has this ability suffices, that is why the law says school certificate level or its equivalent, the legislature may have to alter the words used here to make different meaning otherwise this is the clear understanding and implication of this provision.
- Is there any offence submitting a university degree without first submitting primary and secondary school evidences? The answer is NO, this is because the law says “at least” school certificate level or its equivalent. “At least” means “not less than” and the law did not say it is an offence for any person to submit something higher, rather it only established the least thing a person should submit, which is evidence of being educated up to school certificate level or its equivalent, that’s all. If we want other things out of the current provision, the legislature also should alter the words used.
- Before we forget, at this present material time, we have two levels of education that can be referred to as school certificate level because we have the 6-3-3-4 system of education, consequently we have the junior school certificate and the senior school certificate levels, therefore this law is antiquated and antediluvian and as such, embedded in ambiguity, as it is today. It needs amendment to cure such conspicuous ambiguity, laws should always evolve concurrently with events in the society where the same laws are meant to serve as dictates. Here should read “at least senior school certificate”, that’s all.
- “Or its equivalent”. This clause is obviously embedded in vagueness, imprecisions and ambiguities as the framers of the constitution did not clearly enlist those qualifications that can serve as equivalents to the School Certificate level they are referring to, this means that anything can serve as this equivalent, provided a person is able to convince the relevant authorities.
For those who are enthusiastic of the news of disqualification of any candidate based on Section 131 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended) you may need to prepare your minds against emotional and psychological trauma that any person can be disqualified for not submitting Primary and or Secondary School certificates.
(Agbaeze, Esq., a Legal Theoritician and Constitutional/Political Development Researcher, writes in from Abuja)