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2023: Jonathan not qualified to run for presidency, says Femi Falana

Anthony Iwuoma

Former President Goodluck Jonathan and those clamouring to lure him into next year’s presidential contest are in for a rude shock, going by the averments of human rights activist and constitutional lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana SAN.

He said Jonathan was constitutionally barred from the contest, having already spent five years in the saddle.

According to Falana, Jonathan first became Nigeria’s president, following the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua in 2010 and later contested and won the 2011 presidential election before he lost to President Muhamadu Buhari in 2015.

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He argued that if the former president contests and wins the  2023 election, he would be spending four years and when added to his earlier five years, would have contravened the constitution that stipulates a maximum of eight years in office for the president, ad he would occupied the office for nine years.

“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,” Falana said in a statement.

“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 two terms of eight years.”

Additionally, the activist lawyer cited section 137 (3) of the constitution, saying it is impossible for Jonathan to seek re-election to the office of the president since he completed Yar’Adua’s term  and also won and served a full term of four years from 2011 to 2015.

The senior advocate added: “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.”

The constitutional provision was introduced via the Fourth Alteration No 16 Act 2017 by the National Assembly and signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on June 4, 2018.

Though some argue that the said law does not affect Jonathan since he had already left office when it was passed, Falana disagrees.

He said: “Assuming without conceding that the amendment is not retrospective it is submitted that under the current Constitution a President or Governor cannot spend more that two terms of eight years.

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“In other words, the Constitution will not allow anyone to be in 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 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 Gov. 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.”

Some northern politicians have been making overtures to Jonathan  to fly the flag of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the 2023 presidential election and judging by his body language, it seems the former president is interested in the race.

However, it remains to be seen what will happen in the next few weeks as events unfold.