A Federal High Court sitting in Yenegoa, Bayelsa State has declared that former President Goodluck Jonathan is eligible and “constitutionally” qualified to contest for president in 2023.
In his judgment on Friday, Justice Hamma Adama Dashen said Jonathan is not affected by the fourth alteration to the constitution barring Vice-Presidents who succeed their principals from serving more than one full term.
In 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari signed the fourth alteration of the 1999 Constitution which bars Vice-Presidents who succeed their principals from serving more than one full term.
Jonathan was Nigeria’s vice-president between 2007 and 2010. He became the president in May 2010 following the death of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and completed the latter’s tenure.
He won the 2011 presidential election but lost his attempt to secure a second term in office in 2015.
Using proxies, Jonathan approached the court praying he “is pre-eminently constitutionally, morally and legally qualified to contest the 2023 presidential election.”
The case with suit no FHC/YNG/CS/86/2022 has Andy Solomon and Idibiye Abraham as plaintiffs while All Progressives Congress, Jonathan and the Independent National Electoral Commission were listed as defendants.
Apparently in a haste to ensure that the judgement was delivered before the APC primary which is slated for Sunday, the plaintiffs requested an accelerated hearing via a motion ex parte.
We gathered that the judgment was part of the plans of the Aso Rock cabal supporting Jonathan to take over from President Muhammadu Buhari.
The newspaper on Thursday reported that Jonathan had submitted the N100 million forms a few days earlier to the National Chairman of the ruling party, Abdullahi Adamu.
“His form has secretly been submitted. He submitted his nomination form through the APC Chairman a few days ago,” a source in the ruling party privy to information had said.
“Members of President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabal are still pushing for Jonathan to become the party’s consensus candidate.”
Jonathan had recently rejected the presidential form of the ruling APC purchased for him, purportedly by a group of supporters from the northern region.
Speaking through his Media Adviser, Ikechukwu Eze, the former president said it was an insult for the group to have bought him the forms without his permission.
However, sources had told us that claims by the former President that he did not authorize the purchase of the multi-million-naira forms are far from the truth.
“Contrary to his denials, former President Goodluck Jonathan gave over N200 million to the governor of Jigawa, Mohammed Badaru, to purchase the APC nomination and expression of interest forms for him,” a source privy to the arrangement had told our reporters.
Interestingly, the Jigawa governor, Badaru had also joined other interested presidential aspirants to vie for the ticket of the APC by buying the N100 million nomination and expression of interest forms.
“I will join the Presidential race since everyone knows I’m a highly qualified person to do the job,” Badaru was quoted as saying during an APC stakeholders’ meeting held at Government House in Dutse recently.
The governor was also said to have told the gathering during the meeting that he was pressurised by his colleagues to contest for the presidential seat.
His media aide, Auwalu Sankara, had said his principal had sought President Muhammadu Buhari’s blessings before buying the forms.
But we learnt that the Jigawa governor had bought the forms and come up with the statements as a ruse to deceive Nigerians; as he was indeed working for Jonathan.
It was further learnt that Jonathan had backed out of the plan and swiftly come up with the denial after the APC National Chairman, Abdullahi Adamu, had refused to guarantee that the former President would be the consensus candidate of the ruling party.
Jonathan was Nigeria’s leader as a member of the PDP, which is now an opposition party.
“The reason why he (Jonathan) gave him that much money – over N200 million – was that he asked the governor to buy himself a form too in order to cover up the deal,” a source had said.
“And upon purchasing the form, Jonathan alerted Buhari. Buhari told him to meet with the APC National Chairman, Abdullahi Adamu, but Adamu said he can’t guarantee him as a consensus candidate.
“At that point, GEJ (Goodluck Ebele Jonathan) started denying that he purchased the form,” another source had said.
We broke the story of how a cabal in the ruling APC had pushed for Jonathan to succeed Buhari, after being impressed by how the former President never openly criticised Buhari government despite its ineptitude and the insults the APC, as an opposition party, hurled at him (Jonathan) ahead of the 2015 presidential election.
The fact that Jonathan cannot spend more than one term in office, if they can manage to get him there, is also not lost on the cabal. However, we had also reported how Jonathan was later called a betrayer by the cabal after he failed to fulfil some of the conditions given to him, including convincing some PDP governors to defect to the APC.
Following speculations that Jonathan was preparing to defect to the ruling APC and seek the presidential ticket of the party, some Nigerians, including human rights lawyer Femi Falana (SAN), argued that his candidature will breach the constitution. Other Nigerians have also expressed different opinions on the issue.
Falana had based his position on Section 137 (3) of the Constitution, 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.”
Falana had said, “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 Umaru 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.”