PATRICK ETIM, an Abuja based lawyer, in this analysis, says the former president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan has been barred by the amended 1999 constitution, from the contesting the 2023 presidential election.
Recently, the news all over the social media is that former President Jonathan is about to defect from the PDP to the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC. This, according to sources, is preparatory to contesting the 2023 Presidential election on the platform of the APC. It was further suggested that the incumbent President is favourably disposed to a Jonathan Presidency.
It was further alleged that the plan is for the former President to return and complete is “second tenure”, as the South South, his geo-political zone, believes they have one more tenure to complete their turn at the Presidency. The argument is that in 2010, Jonathan only completed the tenure of late President Yar Adua and his “real tenure” started in 2011 and was truncated by the APC in 2015.
While one will not want to bother with the unverified reports of him decamping to the APC, it is necessary to look at the current legal framework to see if he can really contest again for the Presidency. The document that will determine whether Jonathan can contest or not is The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (4th Alteration No 16) Act, 2017, which was assented to by the President on 4th June, 2018.
Sections 137 and 182 of the 1999 Constitution were amended to bar anyone who was sworn in to complete the term of an elected President or Governor from being elected into to same office for than a single term. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (4th Alteration No 16) Act, 2017 amended Section 137 of the Constitution by inserting a new subsection (3) after subsection (2) as follows:
(3) a person who was sworn-in as president 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.
A similar amendment was made in Section 182 as it affects Governors. So, we now have a new subsection (3) of Section 182 as follows:
(3) a person who was sworn-in as governor to complete the term for which another person was elected as governor shall not be elected to such office for more than a single term.
Thus, it is apparent that Jonathan cannot return to contest as President. So why the rumours? Politics and distraction. By flying the kite about Jonathan’s possible defection to the ruling party, the APC subtly sends a message that it is the party to belong to. Of course, a subtle message is also sent to the South South that the North is willing to allow the South South have the presidency again. So, if the law now forbids Jonathan from contesting, why not ask the South South to bring out someone else who will come to “complete” the turn of the South South and rule for only 4 years? This is why you have the Wikes and the Amaechis standing by.
2023 will be full of intrigues and tradeoffs.
Then the question: is Dr. Goodluck Jonathan qualified to contest the 2023 Presidential Election? Where does this leave off Jonathan in view of his speculated return in 2023? Going by the express provisions of the said amendment on tenure, Jonathan is not qualified unless this extant law, which is now deemed a constitutional provision, is repealed and set aside.
In the light of this constitutional provision barring Dr. Goodluck Jonathan from contesting in 2023, those prompting him to throw his hat into the ring are either ignorant of this law or are being mischievous. Yes, mischievous in the sense that they would want to ridicule the statesman and cause bad blood between the South East and the South South whose relationship has been waxing cozy since the present dispensation.
In the light of this too, Dr. Jonathan should be advised to be guided by the quoted law and distance himself from the whispering clamor for his return in 2023. As alluring as it may appear, he should know that those who spearheaded that new law are the same vanguard now asking him to contest.
As a patriot and statesman who handed over power when he had reasons not to, rightly or wrongly, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan should help the rotation of presidential power to the South East. He ought to be in the vanguard for Nigerian President of South East extraction in reciprocation of their unalloyed support for the Jonathan Presidency. Even yours sincerely is a Jonathanian and was in the trenches for him in 2015. One good turn, they say, deserves another.