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Goodluck Jonathan Is Constitutionally Qualified To Run For Presidency

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Nigeria is a country of one major news item per day. At times, one scandal per day. The hot issue in the polity currently generating national ruckus, hoopla and bedlam is the presumed intention of Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to run for the 2023 presidency.

It does not matter that he has never himself confirmed to anyone, the swirling rumour about his purported planned defection from his opposition PDP party under which he was once elected President, to the ruling APC party.

The discussants are prepared, as in now commonplace in Nigeria, to predict and to shave his hair in his absence.

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”.

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THE ANTAGONISTS ARE DEAD WRONG IN THEIR LEGAL POSTULATIONS

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.

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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 case of Jonathan running had been challenged in CYRIACUS NJOKU V GOODLUCK EBELE JONATHAN (2015) LPELR-244496 (CA). In that case, the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, held that President Goodluck Jonathan had only taken the oath of office once and therefore upheld his eligibility to contest the then Nigeria’s presidential election slated for March 28, 2015.

The intermediate court held that the oath of office President Jonathan took in 2010 was merely to complete the “unexpired tenure” of late President Umar Yar’Adua, who had died while in office as President.

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The appeal had been lodged before the court by one Cyriacus Njoku, who had challenged the ruling of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, which on March 1, 2013, had dismissed the suit he filed to stop President Jonathan from contesting the 2015 polls.

In the lead judgement delivered by Justice Abubakar Yahaya, the full panel of the court unanimously held that President Jonathan had only spent one term in office as President, going by the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.

Recall that the then Vice President Jonathan had been empowered as Acting President on February 9, 2010, following a motion for operation of the “doctrine of necessity”, by the Senate, owing to the protracted stay of late President Umaru Yar’Adua in Saudi Arabia on medical grounds.

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