John ODHE, Yenagoa
If Dr. Goodluck Jonathan decides to yield to mounting pressure to contest the next presidential election, it has emerged that there are concerns that some constitutional issues may be invoked against that dream.
According to some schools of thought, the former president is ineligible to re-contest for the Nigerian Presidency. Recently, a document containing a 4th alteration of the Nigerian constitution went viral on the social media, to the effect that by the alteration, Jonathan was no longer qualified to contest for president.
The document entitled ‘2023: Goodluck Jonathan Not Qualified To Contest’ reads that
“those peddling rumours of his plans to defect to APC to contest the 2023 presidential election are ignorant of what the law that bars him from contesting say. The law in question is:
“The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (4th Alteration No 16) Act, 2017). This new constitutional amendment may have been contemplated following the rancour occasioned by the same Jonathan contesting the 2015 presidential election.
“The constitutional amendment assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari on 4th June, 2018, does not permit former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to contest in 2023, unless repealed.
The section states in its explanatory note that “the Act alters the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to disqualify a person who was sworn in as president or governor to complete the term of an elected president or governor from being elected to the same office for more than a single term.”
Since its appearance on the new media, the above material has become a subject for discussion in public places especially at Newspaper Stands where members of the ‘Free Readers Association’ are always on hand to discuss and digest both factual and baseless issues amidst heated arguments.
A legal practitioner, Mr Kumo Clerk who spoke to TNN in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa state capital, said the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was clear on those qualified to contest for the most exalted political office in the land.
Quoting from Section 137 of the 1999 constitution as amended, Kumo said “a person shall not be qualified to contest for the office of president if he has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of another country other than Nigeria, or in such cases as may be prescribed by the National Assembly, he has made a declaration of allegiance to such other country.
“Or he has been elected into that office at any two previous elections or under the law in any part of Nigeria, he has been adjudged as a lunatic or otherwise declared to be of unsound mind or he is under a sentence of death imposed by any competent court of law or tribunal in Nigeria or a sentence of imprisonment for any offence or fine.”
The lawyer, however, pointed out that if the 4th alteration had been signed by the president, it would actually debar the former president from contesting the 2023 presidential election, having completed late President Musa Yar’Adua’s tenure and elected once as president.
Meanwhile, documents available to TNN shows that president Muhammadu Buhari had on June 8, 2018, signed into law a 4th alteration governing ascension tenure limits for a vice-president or deputy governor who completes the terms of his principal to seeking re-election only once more; known as constitution amendment number 16 or restriction of tenure of President and Governor .
The principle is premised on the “fact that having taken the oath as President once, you can only contest for once again and no more.”
Also contributing, another legal practitioner, Great Temedie averred that the constitution of the country was a ground norm that superseded every other law.
The lawyer further pointed out that any secondary legislation can be disputed in court and declared null and void based on the extent of its inconsistency with the constitution of the federal republic.
He, however, noted that in a situation where the president has assented to an alteration, such automatically becomes a binding force.