On Thursday, LEADING lawyer Mr Femi Falana doubled down on his claim that former President Dr Goodluck Jonathan is constitutionally barred from running for office again.
This time he went to both jurisprudential and constitutional to prove his point. As vice president, Jonathan succeeded his late boss, President Umaru Yar’Adua, in 2010 and won the 2011 presidential election to extend his term to five years.
He lost in his bid to extend his presidential stay in 2015 to incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari.
Being widely seen as interested in staging a comeback, another four-year term will bring his total to nine.
Falana, in his conviction rooted in jurisprudence and the constitution, declared that the former president could no longer stand for re-election.
In an op-ed he sent to the Nigerian Tribune, Falana argued that the Supreme Court had ruled that the amendment banning a situation like Jonathan’s can apply retrospectively.
He pointed to the Supreme Court’s decision on a similar amendment to reach his conclusion. It is true that the particular provision, section 137(3) has not yet been tested directly in the courts.
The provision reads: “A person who has taken the oath to complete the term for which another person has been elected President may not be elected to that office for more than a single term.”
The amendment, among others, was signed into law by President Buhari. Jonathan, being the only living ex-president to have benefited from the default succession arrangement, is widely seen as the target of the amendment, implemented by the dominant majority in parliament from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). .
Curiously, Jonathan is now brought into the 2023 equation on the platform of the ruling party that sacked him and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), from office.
In the op-ed, titled “Why President Jonathan Can’t Run,” Falana said, “It has been confirmed that former President Goodluck Jonathan has decided to join the All Progressives Congress with the goal of running. in the 2023 presidential election.
“However, the former President is disqualified from contesting the election under Section 137(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, which provides the following: ‘A person who has been sworn in to complete the term for which another person has been elected President may not be elected to that office for more than one term.
“Some people have said that the amendment is not retroactive and therefore cannot apply to Dr Jonathan.
With respect, this is a misleading interpretation of the amendment in question. Toyin c. Musa (2019) 9 NWLR (Pt.1676) 22 at 43 – 44 and Toyin v. PDP (2019) 9 NWLR (pt.1676) 50 at 64 – 65, the Supreme Court held that the constitution of The Republic of Nigeria (Fourth Amendment, No. 21) Act 2017 which amended Section 285 on pre-election matters was retroactive and not prospective.
“As a result, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeals, even though the pre-election filing was filed in 2015 while the amendment went into effect in March 2017.”
The rights lawyer also sought another angle to the debate, to completely close the case against the former president. Beyond the amendment, he pointed to the settled issue of term limits, returning to the supreme court as his backing authority.
Referring to the famous case of former Oyo State Governor, Rashidi Ladoja, Falana explained, “Even though it is said that the amendment is not retroactive, it is argued that under under the current constitution, a president or governor cannot serve more than two eight-year terms.
“In other words, the constitution will not allow anyone to hold office for more than a cumulative period of eight years. In Marwa v. Nyako (2012) 6 NWLR (Pt.1296) 199 at 387, the Supreme Court said that Section 180 (1) and (2) (a) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria prescribed a single four-year term and if it is a second term, another four-year term and not a day more.
“In the case Gov. Ladoja v INEC (2008)40 WRN 1, the Supreme Court denied Governor Ladoja’s request for an 11-month extension to cover the time he was held out of office by an unlawful impeachment.
“The Supreme Court rejected the prayer on the grounds that a governor is entitled to serve a maximum term of eight years or less and no more than eight years. “It is undisputed that Dr Jonathan became President of Nigeria in 2010, following the sudden death of President Umaru Yar’Adua.
He then contested and won the 2011 presidential election. “Having spent five years in office as president, Dr Jonathan is disqualified from running in the 2023 presidential election.
“The reason for this is that if he wins the elections, he will serve an additional term of four years. the Constitution which provides for a maximum of two terms of eight years.