- Falana, Ozekhome Differ
- Nigerians Divided
The issue of whether former President Goodluck Jonathan is qualified to run in the 2023 presidential election has been dominating political discourse in the last couple of days.
While Jonathan has not yet declared any intention to run, there have been speculations of his plan to join the race for the top job.
The first rumor to that effect emerged a few days ago when the social space went abuzz that the former president is being wooed to contest.
However, Reno Omokri, a former media aide to the ex-president debunked the rumors.
Omokri in a post on his official Facebook page on Sunday urged Nigerians to disregard a comment by the Arise TV’s “The Morning Show” presenter, Reuben Abati that Jonathan would soon declare.
According to Reno, the former Nigerian leader has not made such a statement, saying it was the imagination of the journalist.
“Disregard the news credited to Reuben Abati that former President Jonathan will soon declare. He never made any statement like that. At best, it is a figment of the imagination of that journalist #FakeNews!”
This has however not done anything to assuage the rumor mill.
Another issue that has been at the forefront of discourse is the eligibility of the former president to contest if he decides to.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana disclosed that the Nigerian constitution disqualified the former president from running for the office of president in 2023.
Falana citing Section 137(3) of the constitution disclosed that Jonathan is disqualified from contesting for the office of the president.
“It has been confirmed that former President Goodluck Jonathan has decided to join the All-Progressives Congress, APC, to contest the 2023 presidential election,” Falana said.
“However, the former President is disqualified from contesting the said election by 137 (3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended which provides as follows: ‘A person who was sworn in to complete the term for which another person was elected as President shall not be elected to such office for more than a single term.
“Some people have said that the amendment is not retrospective and therefore cannot apply to Dr. Jonathan. Assuming without conceding that the amendment is not retrospective, it is submitted that under the current Constitution a President or Governor cannot spend more than 2 terms of 8 years. In other words, the Constitution will not allow anyone to be in office for more than a cumulative period of 8 years.
“It is not in dispute that Dr. Jonathan became the President of Nigeria in 2010 following the sudden death of President Umaru Yar’Adua. He later contested and won the 2011 presidential election. Having spent 5 years in office as President, Dr. Jonathan is disqualified from contesting the 2023 presidential election.
“The reason is that if he wins the election, he will spend an additional term of 4 years. It means that he would spend a cumulative period of 9 years as President of Nigeria in utter breach of Section 137 of the Constitution which provides for a maximum two terms of 8 years.”
Countering the position of his fellow learned colleague, another human rights lawyer and a SAN, Mike Ozekhome has posited that Jonathan is qualified to run.
Ozekhome quoting the constitution on Friday stated that if the former president decides to join the race, he is constitutionally permitted to do so.
“I have carefully read the many arguments of those (I call them antagonists) who believe that Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is disqualified from contesting the 2023 presidential election. According to them, he had already done two terms of 4 years each and will thus be ineligible to contest for a third term. They cite the Fourth Alteration (No 16) Act, which was signed into an Act by President Muhammadu Buhari on the 11th of June, 2018. The section they are relying on is section 137(3) of the said Fourth Alteration to the 1999 Constitution, which provides that “a person who was sworn in to complete the term for which another person was elected as president shall not be elected to such office for more than a single term” he stated.
Speaking, Ozekhome stated that “The truth of the matter is that the antagonists of Jonathan running in 2022, in their strange line of argument, are mainly relying on the above section 137(3). They have probably not adverted their minds to the provisions of sections 141 of the Electoral Act, 2010, as amended; and section 285(13) of the same Fourth Alteration to the 1999 Constitution, as amended, the very Alteration they are relying on. More revealing is that these antagonists are probably not aware of an extant and subsisting Court of Appeal decision where Jonathan was frontally confronted and challenged before the 2015 presidential election, with the same ground of being ineligible to contest the said 2015 election, having allegedly been elected for two previous terms of office. The very section 137(3) being relied upon by the antagonists, was signed into law in 2018, three years after Jonathan had left office; and 7 years after he took the oath of President upon Yar’Adua’s demise. Can Jonathan be caught in the web of section 137(3) retrospectively? We shall see that anon”.
The human rights lawyer added that only Jonathan and not the present state of the laws in Nigeria can determine whether to run or not.
“But, as regards his eligibility to contest, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan is pre-eminently constitutionally, morally, and legally qualified to contest the 2023 presidential election. So, run, run, run, GEJ, if that is your wish and desire. Goodluck to Goodluck” he added.
Many Nigerians have also been weighing in on the discourse with some urging him to run while others are asking him to keep his integrity and not run.
According to Lumi Ibrahim Emmanuel II, the former president should not bother to run again.
“His time is long gone; he should relax and enjoy his affluence peacefully,” he said.
On his part, Temi Tope said “I don’t think he has the right to fight for it he has been there as president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and contested for the second term and voted out. So, I think his tenure is over” he wrote.
Biodun Omonayin advised him to stay retired to avoid regret.
“Jonathan, many of us have advised you to allow Buhari and his party to solve the problem they created for Nigeria, you refuse to listen, you will regret coming back,” he said.
It is left to be seen if the former president will heed the call of many support groups who have been calling on him to run.