PDP Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur
Tobi Soniyi in Abujaâ€¨
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday defended its right to field President Goodluck Jonathan as its presidential candidate in 2015, if it so chooses.
The party, in an application it filed at the Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja, seeking to join a suit filed by a Port Harcourt-based lawyer who is a member of the party, Henry Amadi, said it had unfettered right to sponsor Jonathan as its presidential candidate.
Amadi, in the original suit, is asking the court to issue an order stopping Jonathan from seeking a second term in office at the end of his tenure in 2015.
Amadi named Jonathan and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the first and second defendants respectively in the suit.
The plaintiff contended that Jonathan was no longer qualified to contest in 2015 because by so doing, he would be spending more than the maximum period of two terms of four years envisaged by the 1999 Constitution.
In its application, the PDP asked the court to make an order joining it as a defendant in the suit.
The joinder application, which was filed by the PDP National Legal Adviser, Mr. Kwon Victor, also asked the court to make a consequential order directing the plaintiff to amend his originating processes to reflect PDP as a defendant and cause same to be served on the party.
In a four-paragraph affidavit in support of its application, PDP argued that from the reliefs being sought by the plaintiff, PDP’s right to sponsor Jonathan for the office of the president in the 2015 presidential election was being challenged.
The party contended further that it would be directly affected by the outcome of the suit, taking into account the reliefs being sought by the plaintiff.
“This action cannot effectually and completely be determined without joining the applicant herein.
“By the very tenor of the reliefs sought by the plaintiff, this suit questions the right of the applicant to sponsor one of its members (Jonathan) for the 2015 presidential election.
“The applicant herein seeks to protect its interest in the present action by this application.
“Having being sponsored by the applicant (PDP) for the 2011 election and Jonathan being a member of the PDP who is capable of being sponsored for the 2015 presidential election, the PDP will directly be affected by the outcome of the decision of this court one way or the other,” the party argued.
Justice Adamu Bello has fixed February 26 to hear the PDP's application as the plaintiff's lawyer, C.N. Eke, opposed the application for joinder.
Eke told the court that he would like to file his preliminary objection to PDP's application for the joinder before the next adjourned date.
Jonathan had earlier responded to the suit, saying that contrary to the provision of the 1999 Constitution, an incumbent president’s tenure of office could extend beyond four or eight years.
Amadi also asked the court to direct INEC not to accept Jonathan’s nomination as candidate of the PDP by 2015 because by so doing, Jonathan would foist illegality on the polity, since the oath of allegiance and office he would take if he won would violate the two oaths of allegiance and office stipulated by the 1999 Constitution.
But in the counter-affidavit filed on his behalf by Mr. Ade Okeaya-Inneh (SAN), Jonathan asked the court to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction.
The president said the plaintiff was an ordinary individual who was not qualified to request the court to stop him from contesting 2015 presidential election.
Jonathan said Amadi failed to disclose reasonable cause of action and that his claim was hypothetical and academic.
The president said he took the first oath of office on May 6, 2010 following the death of erstwhile President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
He said: “The question that arises for determination is whether, having regard to the facts of this case, he is in his first or second term. In other words, given that the constitution prescribes a maximum of two terms of four years each, totalling a maximum of eight years as president, is he eligible to run for re-election in 2015?
“If yes, that would mean that, if he wins, he would be in office for a period of more than eight years. On the other hand, if the answer is no, that would mean that he, for no fault of his, he would be constrained to serve for a period of less than eight years.
“Given that between May 6, 2010 and May 28, 2011 he held office for the unexpired term of office of Yar’Adua following the death of the latter. Does the constitution contemplate that the period of about one year and three weeks would constitute his first term, a period of less than half of the constitutionally prescribed period of four years?”
He asked the court to decide whether the period between May 6, 2010 to May 28, 2011 wherein Jonathan occupied the office of the president could in law be regarded as one term of office and the relevance of the oath of office Jonathan took on May 6, 2010 in computing the tenure of office of Jonathan in line with sections 135 (1) and (2), 137 (1)(b), 140 (1) and (2) and 146(1) of the 1999 Constitution.
He argued that it was better with the political situation in Nigeria for Jonathan to spend nine years in office than to spend less than eight years.
“This approach is also consistent with the time honoured canon of interpretation to the effect that if confronted with two interpretations, one of which would abridge a person’s right and another which would maintain or enhance a person’s rights, the former constitution yields to the later,” he averred.