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Buhari’s New Law Shuts Out Jonathan From 2023 Presidency, Lawyers Speak

Falana, Ozekhome, Ubani offer legal opinions

7 mins read
Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan (Left) and National Chairman of APC, Senatoer Abdullahi Adamu
Old Times? Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan (Left) and National Chairman of APC, Senatoer Abdullahi Adamu

Despite the noise being made about the possibility of  former President Goodluck Jonathan trying his luck once again in 2023, an Act of the National Assembly signed by President Muhammadu Buhari in June 2018  threatens to shut him out completely  and would soon make his ambition a subject of  protracted litigation.

President had, four years ago, signed into law a Bill that limits a vice president or deputy governor who completes the terms of their principals to a one-off re-election.

This could mean that  President Jonathan  may not be eligible to participate in the 2023 elections even if he so desires  or succumbs to the call by some northern power brokers  to join the ruling All Progressives  Congress (APC) for that purpose.

The Bill was one the three President Buhari signed on Friday June 8, 2018, which made key changes to Nigeria’s  pre and post election laws.

The President’s Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters, Ita Enag, was quoted as saying that Bill Number 16, which became an Act in June 2018 following President Buhari’s assent, would ensure that where a vice president or a deputy governor succeeds  and completes the tenure of a president or governor, he or she can only run for the office only one more time.

Recall that President Jonathan was vice president to the late Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua from 2007 until his death in 2010 after which he assumed the position of Acting President and later substantive president until 2011 when he ran for the office as candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and won. Jonathan was President between 2011 and 2015 when he lost a re-election bid to the incumbent Buhari  and his All Progressives Congress (APC).

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Explaining the new Act that could bar Jonathan from contesting again, Enang  had said in June 2018: ”The other one is Act or Bill number 16 which is now an Act and the intent of that Act is to ensure that where a Vice President succeeds  that President  and where a deputy governor succeeds a governor, he can no more contest for that office more than once more.

”And the fact is that having taken the oath as President once, and you can only contest for once again and no more . That is the intent of this amendment.”

However, those who disputed the new Act argued that the existing law took effect from the day it was signed and could not affect Jonathan because anyone who succeeds the principle under it is bound by it. In 2003, the Supreme Court had ruled that former governors  Olusegun Osoba (Ogun State), Jolly Nyame (Taraba), Abubakar Audu (Kogi) and Bukar Ibrahim (Yobe) could seek  second term under the 1999 Constitution because it was not the same law under which they were first elected in 1992.’

Front-line lawyers and activists Femi Falana and Mike Ozekhome had publicly disagreed on whether Jonathan should have the constitutional right to run for Presidency again in the light the new Act signed by Buhari in June 2018.

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While Falana has insisted that Jonathan is effectively shut out of future presidential elections, Ozekhome argues that the 2023 Supreme Court verdict on Osoba,, Nyame , Audu and Bukar were strong enough  to  discourage future litigants.

”Some people say that Jonathan cannot contest again having served as Vice President and President already but it is the court that should have the final say,” Lagos-based lawyer, Monday Ubani, told Prime Business Africa Tuesday morning

‘To me, it’s the court that should have the final say on whether  the amended part of the law (the 1018 Act) should take retroactive effect.  We should all wait until for the litigation and when final announcement is made by the court,” Ubani said, stressing that ”somebody can under the previous  decision of the (Supreme) Court argue in favour of Jonathan’s future [participation if he wished.

Though a northern (Fulani)  group claimed to have paid for Jonathan’s N100 million APC nomination form to participate in the May 30 APC primaries, the former president who is yet to renounce his membership of the  opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)  has dissociated himself from the process. ”Don’t mind them; they are on their own,” Jonathan’s aide Ikechukwu Eze who spoke to Prime Business Africa shortly after the news broke said.

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Mr Eze subsequently issued an official  statement signed rejecting the ‘gesture.’ The statement reads thus: ”It has come to our notice that a group has purportedly purchased Presidential  Nomination and Expression of Interest forms, of the All Progressives Congress APC, in the name of former President Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.

”We wish to categorically state that Dr. Jonathan was not aware of this bid and did not authorize it.

”We want to state that if the former President wanted to contest an election, he would make his intentions clear to the public and will not enter through the back door.

”While we appreciate the overwhelming request by a cross-section of Nigerians, for Dr. Jonathan to make himself available for the 2023 Presidential election, we wish to state, that he has not in anyway, committed himself to this request. Buying a presidential aspiration form in the name Dr. Jonathan without his consent, knowing the position he had held in this country, is considered an insult to his person. The general public is therefore advised to disregard it.”

Uduegbunam Chukwujama
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