Two Senior Advocates of Nigeria have argued that former President Goodluck Jonathan cannot seek re-election into the office of the President with the coming into force of the latest constitutional amendment, Punch reports.
The amendment to the constitution signed by President Muhammadu Buhari last week stops a vice-president who completes the term of a President from contesting to be President more than one time.
It also stops a deputy governor who completes the term of a governor from seeking a second term in office as a governor.
A President’s term can be cut short by reasons of death, resignation, or death to pave the way for the Vice-President to complete the term of the departed President.
Following the death of then President Umaru Yar’adua in 2010, Jonathan as the then Vice-President, took a new oath of office to complete Yar’Adua’s term as President.
Had the law come into force in 2015 Jonathan would have been ineligible to contest the March 2015 presidential election which he lost to Buhari.
Despite the fact that Jonathan’s situation predated the new constitutional amendment, Messrs Paul Ananaba (SAN) and Ahmed Raji (SAN), argued in separate telephone interviews with one of our correspondents on Friday, that the former President could not seek a re-election into the office of the President under the current 1999 Constitution.
Without specifically mentioning Jonathan’s name, Raji argued that whoever had found himself or herself in a situation captured by the new amendment to the 1999 Constitution could not seek re-election into that same office more than once.
Raji said, “We have to look at the wordings of the new provision carefully to ascertain the mischief the amendment seeks to avoid or remove.
“I want to guess that the amendment is aimed at avoiding a situation where any person will occupy the seat of a Governor or President for a period more than eight years.
“This will be in line with the Supreme Court decision in Marwa vs Nyako. If that is the case, I will humbly think that the amendment will be applicable to all who have found themselves in such situation since 1999 when the constitution took effect.
“Any contrary interpretation will give rise to possible two classes of people under the same dispensation which will not augur well for our jurisprudence. Individual interests must bow to overall public interest.”
On his part, Ananaba said he had always argued that Jonathan was not qualified to seek re-election in 2015 even before the new amendment.
He said, “It is correct. It is the right thing to do. I have always canvassed that Jonathan had no right to go for a second term. This is because the governor and the deputy governor just like the President and the vice President ran on the same ticket which made it unnecessary to conduct an election to fill that position if the position of the governor or that of the President suddenly becomes vacant.
“So, once the Deputy Governor or the Vice-President completes the term, it means the term has been completed.
“In Goodluck Jonathan’s case, I argued that, though many people disagreed and even some courts even gave judgment contrary to my view, that if he (Jonathan) had won in 2015 he would have been in office for more than eight years which the constitution never envisages.
“This amendment is in good faith and I commend the government for it.”