2023: Jonathan eligible to run for president – Court 

Dr. Goodluck Jonathan

‘…APC May 29 special convention shaky’

…NWC members still in the dark – Source 

…Pro-Tinubu women warn on imposition

The Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa state capital, has ruled that former President Goodluck Jonathan was eligible to run for president in next year’s general elections.

The presiding judge, Justice Isa Hamma Dashen, gave the judgement on Friday.

He also held that Jonathan’s right to vie for the office of president again “cannot be stopped by any retroactive law.”

Lagos lawyer Femi Falana had declared that Jonathan was ineligible to run for another term having been sworn in twice and served out the remaining term of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, but the Law and Order Group disagreed over the eligibility of Jonathan to run for president in 2023.

While Falana insisted that Jonathan cannot run by virtue of Section 137 (3) of the 1999 Constitution, the Law and Order Group disputed Falana’s assertion.

Falana, in a statement, said the former President has been disqualified by virtue of Section 137 (3) of the 1999 Constitution.

The statement read: “It has been confirmed that former President Goodluck Jonathan has decided to join the APC for the purpose of contesting the 2023 presidential election. However, the former president is disqualified from contesting the election by virtue of Section 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 two terms of eight years.

“In other words, the Constitution will not allow anyone to be in office for more than a cumulative period of 8 years. In Marwa v. Nyako (2012) 6 NWLR (Pt.1296) 199 at 387 the Supreme Court stated that Section 180 (1) and (2)(a) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has prescribed a single term of 4 years and if a second term, another period of 4 years and not a day longer.

“In the case of Governor Ladoja v INEC (2008)40 WRN 1 the Supreme Court rejected the prayer of Governor Ladoja for 11 months’ extension to cover the period he was kept out of office through illegal impeachment. The Supreme Court rejected the prayer on the ground that a governor is entitled to spend a maximum period of eight years or less and not more than eight years.

“It is not in dispute that Dr. Jonathan became the President of Nigeria in 2010 following the sudden death of President Umoru Yar’Adua. He later contested and won the 2011 presidential election. Having spent five 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 four 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 eight years.”

But the Law and Order Group, in a statement by its coordinator, Aliyu Mohammed, said: “We wish to categorically state that the said statement is erroneous and misconceived. In the first place, the 4th Alteration to the Constitution which introduced Section 137(3) was signed into law as part of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) by President Muhammadu Buhari on June 7, 2018.

“The said Section 137 (3) contains a commencement date which is the date it was signed into law. Thus, the provisions of Section 137(3) of the 1999 Constitution (4th Alteration) became operative on June 7, 2018, and not any time before that date.

“The law is settled beyond controversy or dispute that a law does not take effect retroactively. Again, it is the law that, where a piece of legislation sets out a specific commencement date, as in the case of Section 137 (3), all rights, duties, obligations, and interests created or intended to be created or imposed by that law will not be applicable to rights, events or duties which accrued or occurred before then. The case of Modu vs. FRN (2015) LPELR 4047 is very apt.

“As we all know, Jonathan left office in 2015. The oaths of office that he took were taken prior to the enactment of Section 137(3). In a case decided by the Court of Appeal in 2015, the court rightly held that the oath of office sworn to by Jonathan on May 6, 2010, cannot be taken into account in the interpretation of Section 137(1) of the Constitution. It follows, therefore, that the only oath of office sworn by Jonathan is the one he took on May 29, 2011.

“Again, it is not in dispute that Jonathan contested the presidential election in 2015 on the basis of the right which accrued to him. It follows, therefore, that Jonathan has the right to contest the forthcoming presidential election on the platform of any of the registered political parties in Nigeria.”

“Any contrary position will be manifestly inconsistent with the provision of the Constitution which grants him the right to contest for any elective office in Nigeria.”

There were, however, speculations in various quarters that the party might be considering a former President Goodluck Jonathan as its flag-bearer.

A Fulani group had obtained nomination forms for the former President, but Jonathan through a statement by his spokesman described the move as “an insult” to him.

In a statement by his media adviser, Ikechukwu Eze, the former president disowned the group that bought the forms for him and urged members of the public to disregard them.

The statement had read in part, “It has come to our notice that a group has purportedly purchased Presidential Nomination and Expression of Interest forms, of the All Progressives Congress (APC), in the name of former President Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.

“We wish to categorically state that Dr. Jonathan was not aware of this bid and did not authorise it. We want to state that if the former President wanted to contest an election, he would make his intentions clear to the public and would not enter through the back door.

“While we appreciate the overwhelming request by a cross-section of Nigerians, for Dr. Jonathan to make himself available for the 2023 Presidential election, we wish to state that he has not in any way committed himself to this request. “Buying a presidential aspiration form in the name Dr. Jonathan without his consent, knowing the position he had held in this country, is considered an insult to his person. The general public is, therefore, advised to disregard it.”

Although an online media (not Blueprint) reported that the former President properly submitted the nomination forms bought for him secretly, it was not, however, clear whether the Bayelsa state-born politician had even joined the ruling party or not.

Shaky presidential primary

Meanwhile, there is palpable confusion on whether or not the special convention slated for May 29 to elect the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) ahead of the 2023 general elections will still be held.

Blueprint reported Friday on the lack of preparations towards the said Sunday Convention of the ruling party.

It was further gathered that the lack of information and the body language of the presidency was responsible for the slow nature of the preparations to elect the party’s flag-bearer.

A reliable source in the party’s national secretariat told our correspondent that “even the national officers (NWC members) cannot tell you the true position of things for now, because they too don’t know.”

Tinubu support group’s appeals

In a related development, a group of women who are supporters of one of the presidential aspirants, Bola Tinubu, has appealed to the national chairman of the party, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, to ensure transparency and allow party delegates to choose a candidate of their choice at the forthcoming primary without any form of intimidation.

The group, under the aegis of Ondo state Women for Tinubu, also called on all APC delegates to ensure they elect the person of their choice as the presidential candidate without any harassment.

The leader of the group, Mrs. Bola Ige, in a statement issued Friday, said although there was a provision for a consensus candidate in the constitution, it should be a true consensus whereby all the aspirants would sign a written document “to show they all agree to it.”

According to the group, there was a need to ensure transparency and allow party members to choose a candidate of their choice at the primary.

The group, while condemning what it termed “an attempt in some quarters to compel the delegates to vote for a particular candidate,” urged the party leaders to desist from such an act and give all aspirants a level-playing ground.

“In the spirit of justice, equity and fair play, our great party should allow all the presidential aspirants to go for the primary. Let the people determine who will be their president,” Ige said.