As pressure continues to mount on former President Goodluck Jonathan to contest the 2023 presidential election, two renowned lawyers in the country have sharply disagreed on his eligibility to run for the Presidency.
While human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) is of the opinion that Jonathan is legally hamstrung to contest for the highest position in the country, his colleague of other inner bar and an activist lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), argued otherwise, insisting that the former President is eligible to return to Aso Rock.
Falana, in his submission on the subject matter argued that former President Goodluck Jonathan cannot contest in the 2023 presidential election.
While citing constitutional provisions barring the ex-President from seeking re-election, Falana said Jonathan, who was Nigerian President between 2010 and 2015, would breach constitutional term limits of two terms of eight years if he runs for the Presidency and wins again.
He recalled that Mr Jonathan became the President of Nigeria in 2010 following the sudden death of President Umaru Yar’Adua, and later contested and won the 2011 presidential election.
Mr Jonathan spent five years in office as President which would make it nine years in office if he contests and wins again, Mr Falana said.
“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 nine years as President of Nigeria in utter breach of Section 137 of the Constitution which provides for a maximum of two terms of eight years,” Mr Falana said.
He further stated that by virtue of Section 137 (3) of the Nigerian Constitution, Mr Jonathan cannot seek a re-election to the office of the President having completed the tenure of the late President Yar’Adua and sworn in again for a full four-year term in 2011 upon winning the presidential election in his own name.
Section 137 (3) of the Constitution in reference reads: “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.”
But faulting this line of argument, Ozekhome said: “The truth of the matter is that the antagonists of Jonathan running in 2023, in their strange line of argument, are mainly relying on the above Section 137(3). They have probably not addressed their minds to Sections 141 of the Electoral Act, 2010, as amended, and Section 285(13) of the same Fourth Alteration to the 1999 Constitution, as amended, which 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, on the same ground of being ineligible to contest the said 2015 election, having allegedly been elected for two previous terms of office. The Section 137(3) being relied upon by the antagonists was signed into law in 2018, three years after Jonathan had left office. Can he be caught in its web retrospectively?
The case in question is 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 died while in office as President.
The appeal had been brought before the court by one Cyriacus Njoku, who was challenging the ruling of the High Court of 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 a 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.
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.
When President Yar’Adua eventually died on May 5, 2010, Jonathan was sworn in as president to serve the unexpired residue of office of Yar’Adua. Jonathan was later elected President in 2011 for the first time, on his own merit.
However, the court ruled that the oath that Jonathan took in 2010 was merely to complete the unexpired tenure of late Yar’Adua; adding that by virtue of Section 135 (2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution, Jonathan only took his first oath in May, 2011. The Court of Appeal further held that disqualification is through election, not oath taking.
is therefore clear that section 137(3) of the Fourth Alteration to the Constitution took effect from 11th June, 2018, when President Muhammadu Buhari assented to it. Section 137(3) is subject to section 318(4) of the 1999 Constitution which provides that, “the Interpretation Act shall apply for the purposes of interpreting (its) provisions”.
Section 137(3) is one piece of legislation that can be termed retrospective or retroactive legislation.
On retrospectivity of legislation, the apex court, coram Justice Kekere-Ekun, J.S.C, held in the case of SPDC V. ANARO & ORS (2015) LPELR-24750(SC) at (Pp. 64 paras. B), thus:
“There is a general presumption against retrospective legislation. It is presumed that the legislature does not intend injustice or absurdity. Courts therefore lean against giving certain statutes retrospective operation. Generally, statutes are construed as operating only in cases or on facts, which come into existence after the statutes were passed unless a retrospective effect is clearly intended. It was held inter alia, in: Ojokolobo Vs Alamu (1987) 3 NWLR (Pt.61) 377 @ 402 F-H that it is a fundamental rule of Nigerian law that no statute shall be construed to have a retrospective operation unless such a construction appears very clearly in the terms of the Act or Law; or arises by necessary and distinct implication. See also: Udoh Vs O.H.M.B. (1993) 7 NWLR (Pt.304) 39 @ 149 F – G; Adegbenro Vs Akintola (1963) All NLR 305 @ 308”
Tallen Explains Withdrawal From Senatorial Race
Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen, has explained that she never planned to run for the senatorial seat in Plateau State in the coming elections but for the withdrawal of her representative who happens to be a female, Prof Nora Ladi Daduut, who stepped down as a result of threats to life.
She gave the explanation on Monday, during a hybrid event, ‘Partnership for goals: Advancing the gender agenda for sustainable development; A High-Level Convergence by Pathfinder International in partnership with She Forum Africa to deepen awareness and build momentum for gender equality.
According to the minister, the female senator from her senatorial zone has survived three life-threatening attacks and has been receiving constant threats to back out of her race.
She said, “I have a sitting female senator. All I wanted was for her to continue. We have only eight women out of 109, my own senator from my senatorial zone is a woman, she is doing very well, and I’m fully ready to support her.”
While lamenting what she termed as political violence against women, the minister stated that her nomination form was picked for her by a group of women, adding that she had no hand in its procurement.
According to her, “a lot of things were put into consideration. There was an outcry of women from all the 35 states. I don’t want to be selfish but I was fighting for a just cause.
I did not on my own come out to pick the form. Because I have no reason to even say I will contest for the Senate when my senator, who is a female m representing me is already in the Senate. I wanted her to continue.
“But she has been harassed. And so much fear has been put in her. Her life has been threatened three times. She has backed down because she has to live to see her children, her life must continue. That was what led the woman in my constituency to contribute money and pick the form for me. Since I represent the women, I could not let them down. I honoured their request. Mr President was out of the country then and we were time-bound because we had only two or three days to submit the form, that was done.
“But I’m sure you are aware that Mr President called for a meeting on Friday, where we discussed all these issues. At the end of the meeting, it was clear that the matter will be looked into as I’m talking to you now I’m going in for another meeting. The matter will be looked into. I know Mr President is a true father, the national chairman of our party, is also looking into it to ensure fairness.”
Tallen said even though she was not desperate to contest, she wants more seats for women.
She said: “if the Senate seat is being denied of a woman in my state and other states, women should be compensated with two or three more seats in the Federal House, House of Assembly and local government. So it is not about Pauline Tallen but is about women.”
“My own senator, the senator from Rivers State has been denied ticket, the only senator from North-East, who is the best candidate for the Governor in Adamawa is not coming back to the Senate, our sister Remi Tinubu her husband is going for presidential office so she cannot contest. Looking at the number of the remaining four, how are we sure they will return. Our governors are pushing them out because the Senate is becoming retirement ground, it is time for action.”
Speaking on the event, she said gender equality was the fastest way to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, adding that gender equality must start from the home.
Enugu 2023: Ekweremadu Raises Alarm Over Alleged Plot To Arrest Supporters
The Ikeoha Campaign Organisation says it has uncovered plans to frame up, arrest, and detain supporters of the former Deputy President of the Senate and the governorship aspirant in Enugu State, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, ahead of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) primary elections in the state
It also alerted the public of plans to unleash cultists on Ekweremadu’s supporters.
The campaign organisation revealed this on Monday in a statement signed by the Director-General, Hon. Charles Ogbo Asogwa, and called on the heads of the security agencies and leadership of the PDP in Enugu State to take note and nip the plots in the bud.
He said: “Credible intelligence has alerted us to sinister plans to plant arms, ammunition, and other implicating items on the property of notable Enugu and PDP chieftains resolutely supporting Senator Ike Ekweremadu’s gubernatorial ambition.
“The aim is to arrest, arraign, and have them consigned to the Correctional Centres (Prisons) to ensure that they are out of circulation until after the primaries and 2023 general elections.
“Nigerians should recall that the Chairman of the PDP in Okpatu Ward, Udi LGA, Paulinus Ugwu (Ayaya), is still detained in the Enugu Correction Centre (Prisons) on trumped up charges and refused bail by the Enugu State Judiciary for many months now. His continued detention is primarily to keep him away from the primaries where he is a statutory delegate.
“Likewise, several of our supporters have been charged to court for baseless offences to weaken our struggle for a New Enugu State”.
The Organisation said it was equally in possession of credible intelligence pointing to plans to use a confraternity group to intimidate and attack his supporters.
“They also plan to unleash a particular confraternity group on Ekweremadu’s supporters to intimidate and muscle them out of their legitimate political convictions and choices.
“It is recalled that during our 6th May 2022 press conference, we projected graphic footages and images of attacks unleashed on our supporters. This was most dastardly and widespread during the 30th April 2022 three-man delegates election and all the incidents dating back to 2021 have been formerly reported to the law enforcement agencies.
“Consequently, we wish to alert the Inspector-General of Police, Director-General of the Department for State Security (DSS), Commandant-General of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, the military service chiefs, the General Officer Commanding 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, and all the security agencies with a view to relating with their relevant commands to ensure that the evil plots do not come to pass.
“Likewise, this is a call on the leadership of the PDP in Enugu State to work with the relevant security agencies and party leaders to ensure that every plot capable of jeopardizing the party’s cohesion and chances in the forthcoming elections is thwarted”, the campaign organisation concluded.
Be Wary Of Court Ruling, Bode George Cautions Lagos PDP
Former National Vice Chairman (South West) of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Bode George, has warned the party against accepting the congress carried out by its former Lagos State chairman, Deji Doherty, saying the court ruling against him may cost the party the elections.
In a press conference at his Ikoyi office on Monday, George said Lagos State High Court had last year ruled against Doherty and reinstated former caretaker chairman of the party in the state, Adegbola Dominic, as the legitimate chairman.
He said, if the party accepts the executive produced at the congress carried out by Doherty, it risks losing the election.
He also urged the PDP to move its national convention which is scheduled to take place on May 28 and 29 from Abuja to Lagos due to the fact that the All Progressives Congress (APC) would also hold theirs at the same venue on 30 and 31.
“It is important to point out that Deji Doherty was removed by a court of competent jurisdiction, therefore any congress he conducts is null and void under the law. It will be better to avoid any of the candidates that emerged from the congress he conducted so that in future, no one will tell you that the election is illegal.
“I want to use this medium to speak on the venue for the convention. APC wants to hold their national convention on May 30 and 31 and we are holding ours on May 28 and 29 in Abuja. How is that possible? People would arrive for the PDP convention two or three days before the day and APC delegates would also arrive a few days before theirs. This could create confusion which would be disastrous for us.
“Because we want to impact positively in the minds of Nigerians that we are better managers without encumbrances, to move our convention from Abuja to Lagos. Which tribe in Nigeria does not reside in Lagos? If you want to fly or come by water or road, you would get here. There are many hotels, from one star to five stars. Holding it in Lagos would completely cut off any plans by the APC to want to scuttle our convention.
“On the issue of zoning, a memo was done and the first paragraph of that communique identified that zoning and rotation remain absolutely sacrosanct in PDP. It remained the cultural and political spinal cord of our party. In other words, people should not think that we have forgotten zoning. It remains very important in our party.
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