2023 Presidency: Amended 1999 Constitution Bars Jonathan from Contesting, Says Igbo Group

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*  To seek legal interpretation of 1999 Constitution

Chuks Okocha in Abuja

The perceived second term presidential ambition of former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, may have run into a hitch as an Igbo group yesterday said the former president is constitutionally barred by from contesting for the position by the 1999 Constitution (Fourth Alternation).

The Vice Chairman and Director of Igbo Leadership Development Foundation and Project Nigerian President of South East Extraction (Project -NIPSEE), Dr. Law Mefor, told THISDAY that the group would seek a court interpretation on the 1999 constitution (fourth alteration) “that barred Jonathan from contesting the presidential election in 2023.”

According to Mefor, “The law in question is the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (fourth Alteration No 16) Act, 2017). It was signed into law in June 4, 2018, by President Muhammadu Buhari.”

Specifically, he said in law, the express mention of one thing is said to be an express exclusion of another. The constitutional amendment assented to by President Buhari on June 4, 2018, does not permit former President Jonathan to contest in the 2023 election unless it is repealed.

“The extant section barring Jonathan from contesting states in its explanatory note…that ‘the act alters the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to disqualify a person who was sworn in as president or governor to complete the term of an elected president or governor from being elected to the same office for more than a single term.”

Mefor said: “To give effect to the disqualification of any person who has been sworn in to complete the term of a president or a governor from contesting more than one term, Sections 137 and 182 of the 1999 Constitution were amended to ensure same.

“This new constitutional amendment may have been contemplated following the rancor occasioned by the same Jonathan contesting the 2015 presidential election.

“Recall that the northern segment of the country believed that Jonathan was not qualified based on rotation of presidential power between the North and South Nigeria, and that power ought to have shifted to the North in that election.

“There was also a gentlemanly agreement, which was reached with him (Jonathan) to go for only one term before he contested the 2011 presidential election. He reneged to inspire a groundswell of the behemoth opposition-the APC-that swept him out of power.”

The Igbo group leader asked: “Is Dr. Goodluck Jonathan qualified to contest the 2023 presidential election? Where does this leave off Jonathan in view of his speculated return in 2023? Going by the expressed provisions of the said amendment on tenure, Jonathan is not qualified unless this extant law, which is now deemed a constitutional provision, is repealed and set aside. In the light of this constitutional provision barring Jonathan from contesting in 2023, those prompting him to throw his hat into the ring are either ignorant of this law or are being mischievous. Yes, mischievous in the sense that they would want to ridicule the statesman and cause bad blood between the South-east and the South-south regions whose relationship has been waxing cozy since the present dispensation.

“In the light of this too, Jonathan should be advised to be guided by the quoted law, and distance himself from the whispering clamour for his return in 2023. As alluring as it may appear, he should know that those who spearheaded that new law are the same vanguard now asking him to contest.

“As a patriot and statesman who handed over power when he had reasons not to, rightly or wrongly, Jonathan should help the rotation of presidential power to the South-east region. He ought to be in the vanguard for Nigerian president of the South-eastern extraction in reciprocation of their unalloyed support for the Jonathan presidency. Even yours sincerely is a Jonathanian and was in the trenches for him in 2015. One good turn, they say, deserves another.”

However, Mefor noted that in the light of these, and Jonathan and his supporters insist on contesting in the election, “the Igbo Leadership Development Foundation and Project Nigerian President of South East Extraction will have no other alternative than to seek a legal interpretation in a court of law.”