Richard Akinjide And The Twelve Two-Thirds Story: Setting The Records Straight By Femolad
The 1979 Presidential election was held on August 11,1979. Alhaji Sheu Shagari of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) polled the highest number of votes cast with a score of 5,688,657. Chief Obafemi Awolowo of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) scored 4,916,651.
After Shagari was declared president-elect on 16 August 1979, Awolowo went to court to contest that the NPN candidate did not meet the requirements stipulated by the electoral decree of 1977 that governed the presidential election of 1979.
The provision stipulates that in order to be elected to office, a presidential candidate must have scored at least one quarter of the total votes cast in at least two-thirds of the states in Nigeria, and the highest number of the votes cast. Nigeria had 19 states at the time.
In Richard Akinjide’s legal interpretation, the successful candidate, apart from scoring the highest votes, should also score 25% of the votes cast in 12 states and 25% of 2/3 of the 13th state.
In that Election Late HYPERLINK “https://www.blogger.com/blog/post/edit/7307176418173504254/1728165030262504766” Alhaji Shehu Shagari scored 25% in 12 states but scored 19% in Kano state.
By Chief Akinjide’s submission, Alhaji Shagari needed just 16% of the votes cast in Kano state, being the 13th state.
Late Chief HYPERLINK “https://www.blogger.com/blog/post/edit/7307176418173504254/1728165030262504766” Obafemi Awolowo represented by late Chief HYPERLINK “https://www.blogger.com/blog/post/edit/7307176418173504254/1728165030262504766” Abraham Adesanya and later by himself demurred that a state is an entity that cannot be split, for whatever reason – be it electoral or otherwise. The kernel of his submission was that Alhaji Shehu Shagari needed to win 25% of the votes cast in 13 states outrightly.
It was a contest of two political and legal giants.
On the professional level, a lawyer is rated by the number of landmark legal victories he has achieved in his career. Both Richard Akinjide and Abraham Adesanya (and later Obafemi Awolowo) were great legal luminaries. Each wanted to add a professional feather to his cap. So both Akinjide and Awolowo looked for a way to outwit the other in the field of law. It was a contest between “two learned friends”.
Now to the political side of the contest. Chief Richard Akinjide was a leader in the National Party of Nigeria. He was a member of the National Executive of NPN as the Legal Adviser.
The party chose him as their counsel in the legal tussle. The fate of the party and her presidential candidate depended on his legal prowess. He had to prove he was worth the trust his party had in him. It was a call to duty. Any man in his shoes would put in his best to win the case.
So on September 26, 1979, Richard Osuolale Akinjide stood before a panel of seven supreme court justices and convinced them that two-thirds of 19 states was ”12 two-thirds”, and not 13. As the counsel to Shagari whose victory was being challenged by Obafemi Awolowo of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Akinjide’s arithmetic put a seal to the former president’s victory.
Akinjide’s NPN had won the case at all three levels of Justice; from the Federal High Court to the Court of Appeal and finally the Supreme Court.
Akinjide had to win the case for his party and he propounded that ingenious theory which was widely applauded.
He also had to protect his job as a legal practitioner.
That was about 44 years ago.
Those who were grown up then, and now at least in their sixties should know the true story. Those who were not yet born then should read this account of the 1979 story.
I then wonder where the story that Richard Akinjide “prevented” a fellow Yoruba man from being president came from.
FACTS ARE ALWAYS SACRED
Records must be put straight. Those who have listened to falsehood and misrepresentations now know the truth.
Femi Ladapo (Femolad) writes from Ibadan, Nigeria