Saturday, October 18, 2014 6:40 pm
Like a recurring decimal, fresh suit to truncate President Goodluck Jonathan’s 2015 presidential ambition crops up again before a federal high court in Abuja.
NNAMDI FELIX /Abuja
Since mid last year, some members of President Goodluck Jonathan’s party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, have been taking legal steps to railroad the President’s suspected 2015 political ambition. However such legal steps have yet to bear fruits as one after the other, these cases are being thrown out by the courts on various reasons. These failures have however not dampened the hopes of an eventual success by these elements who desperately want to see the back of the President at the expiration of his current term of office.
One of such cases was last week heard by Justice Ahmed Ramat Mohammed where, for the first time, a chieftain of the President’s party in collaboration with a member of the opposition All Progressive Congress, APC, found a common purpose in their quest to halt the President’s 2015 presidential dreams. The duo, Mr. Adejumo Mansouru of the Lagos state chapter of the PDP and Mr. Olatoye Wahab of the Osun state chapter of the APC, seek to stop Jonathan from contesting the forthcoming presidential election.
They argued that by the provisions of the nation’s Constitution, that the President, having contested the presidential election twice, won and taken the oath of office and allegiance twice in respect that office, could no longer present himself for election to that office the third time. They relied on the provisions of sections 132(1), 135(2)(a) and (b), 137(1)(b), 142(1) and (2) and the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Marwa and Nyako (2012) 6 NWLR (Part 1296) 199 at 306. These sections all relate to tenure of office for elected political office holders.
They contend that by the provision of the Constitution, that the President and Vice President, who were elected in the same election and sworn into office on the same date and at the same ceremony are, in law, taken to have been elected for one single term of four years notwithstanding the death or even impeachment of the President. They want the court to restrain the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC, and the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, from allowing President Jonathan to participate in the forthcoming presidential election
Their lawyer, Mr. Abiodun Oworikoko, a senior advocate of Nigeria, who led two other senior advocates; Mr. Okon Efut and Mahmud Magaji, requested the court to order an accelerated hearing into the matter in view of the fast approaching 2015 general election and pointed out that despite the fact that INEC and the Attorney General had been served with the court papers along with hearing notices, that they failed to show up in court. He noted that the order for an accelerated hearing will enable the court to speedily dispose of the matter in view of the general elections scheduled to commence in February, 2015. Earlier in March, another federal high court in Kaduna had struck out a similar suit challenging the eligibility of
President Jonathan to contest the 2015 presidential election. The suit, instituted by one Shuaibu Lili who claimed to be an aspirant on the platform of the PDP, and another member of the party in the state, had sought a declaration of the court barring the president from contesting the 2015 presidential election. They argued that Jonathan having been sworn in twice into office as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, has no constitutional right to contest for the post again and cited Sections 145, 142 and 146 of the Constitution which limits the tenure of the president and governors to a maximum of eight years.
They also urged the court to make an order restraining their party, the Peoples Democratic Party, which they joined as defendants in the matter, from fielding Jonathan as its presidential candidate in 2015 but the trial judge, Justice Evlyn Enya-Dike, held that they failed to convince the court to grant their reliefs and struck out the case. She observed that the President, at that time, was yet to formally declare his intention to contest the election in question and held that the suit was at best hypothetical, preemptive, speculative and a mere conjecture.
Similarly, days before the ruling party’s endorsement and adoption of the President as its sole candidate for the 2015 presidential election, another chieftain of the party and former governorship aspirant in Adamawa State, Dr. Umar Ardo, had raised questions in a newspaper advertorial, on the eligibility of President Jonathan to contest the 2015 presidential election.
He thereafter approached a Court of Appeal in the Abuja division and sought to join in an appeal instituted by yet another chieftain of the party, Mr. Cyriacus Njoku over another similar suit against the President’s 2015 ambitions which he lost at an Abuja high court in March, 2013. Dr. Ardo applied to be joined as an interested party in the appeal which has Njoku as appellant and President Jonathan, PDP and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, as respondents.
Ardo claimed that he is a presidential aspirant of the PDP from Adamawa State and averred that his fundamental human right as a Nigerian and as a financial member of the PDP had been breached as a result of the endorsement of Jonathan by the PDP, NEC and other organs of the party. He stated that his desire to contest the 2015 presidential election is mainly built on his conviction that the president would not be eligible to contest the said election which would have cleared the way for a free and fair level playing ground contest for the party primaries but lamented that his presidential aspiration has been jeopardised because of the aspiration of the President who has been nominated as the sole candidate of the party, which he is a financial member.
In the latest case, the plaintiffs raised five questions for the court’s determination and asked for seven reliefs, which include an order of perpetual injunction, restraining the AGF and INEC from accepting as candidate in the 2015 presidential election any body caught by “two previous election limit and eight year term limit.”
These questions for the Court’s determination include whether by the provisions of Section 135(1)(2) and (2a) of the Constitution, any person holding the office of the President can continue to act in that capacity after eight years from the date he/she first took or deemed in law, to have first taken the oath of allegiance, safe as provided in Section 135(3).
Whether a general election could be held into the office of the President when the incumbent President will only have spent a cumulative period of six years in office so that his re-election will be for no more than two additional years having regard to the time expressly specified for holding of general election to the office of President under Section 132(2) of the Constitution and the maximum term allowed any person under Section 135 of the Constitution.
Whether for the purpose of counting the maximum eight year term limit for a person elected into the office of the President under Section 1(2), 135,136 and 137(1)(b of the Constitution, the election and period served by a deceased elected President (who did not exhaust his term on account of death) and the reminder served to complete the unexhausted term by the Vice President (successor) is attributable to the successor for determining the two previous election limit and the maximum term of eight to which the successor is entitled as President under the Constitution.
Whether by an affirmative answer to question three, the 1st defendant (AGF) can validly advise the 2nd defendant (INEC) to accept as candidate for election to the office of the President, an aspirant who is caught by two previous elections limit and the eight-year term limit in 2015 elections or any subsequent presidential election.
Whether in view of the provision of Section 137(1)(b) of the Constitution, any person can present himself for the purpose of being elected as President, having participated as candidate and emerged winner at two previous presidential elections on account of which the person would have spent a period of eight years in office by the time the winner of the 2015 presidential election will be sworn into office.
Proceedings into the matter is scheduled to resume on 12th November when the matter is slated for further mention.