Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: 2015 - Furore Over Jonathan's Eligibility to Run

Governor Babangida Aliyu's recent revelation that President Goodluck Jonathan signed an agreement with PDP and state governors to serve only a single 4-year term was like opening pandora's box - now creating unexpected confusion and problems over the incumbent's eligibility to run in 2015 for second term.

Based on this agreement, (yet to be seen and substantiated), Aliyu insisted that the purported bid of President Jonathan to contest in 2015 should be seen as mere speculation.

He recalled, during a radio programme, that at the time Jonathan was about to declare for 2011 presidential election, all the PDP governors were brought together to ensure that they were all in the same frame of mind.

That given the circumstances of the death of President Umaru Yar'Adua and the zoning arrangement of the PDP, it was expected that the North was to produce the president for a given number of years. It was then agreed that Goodluck Jonathan will serve only one term of four years and so the governors signed the agreement.

Aliu stated that since President Jonathan has not declared a second term ambition, "so it's all speculation based on those who are benefitting from the campaign."

Apparently hitting back at the Niger state governor who had foreclosed Jonathan's hidden intention to contest 2015, Alhaji Ahmed Gulak, Special Adviser on Political Matters to the president, cautioned that it would amount to violation of the constitution as President Goodluck Jonathan's tenure began in May 2011 to end in 2015 and so eligible for re-election in 2015.

Gulak argued that it's only the president himself who can decide whether to run or not to run in 2015 and therefore can not be intimidated.

A cursory look at the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Chapter VI The Executive.

As regards Tenure of Office of President, it was stipulated under 135 (2) subject to the provisions of subsection (1) of this section, the president shall vacate his office at the expiration of a period of four years commencing from the date, when - (a) in the case of a person first elected as president under this constitution, he took the oath of Allegiance and the Oath of Office; and (b)in any other case, the person last elected to that office under this constitution took the oath of Allegiance and Oath of office or would, but for his death, have taken such oaths.

(3)If the federation is at war in which the territory of Nigeria is physically involved and the president considers that it is not practicable to hold elections, the National Assembly may by resolution extend the period of four years mentioned in subsection (2) of this section from time to time, but no such extension shall exceed a period of six months at any one time.

As regards Disqualification - 137 (1)A person shall not be qualified for election to the office of president if -

(a)Subject to the provisions of section 28 of this constitution, he has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a country other than Nigeria or, except in such cases as may be prescribed by the National Assembly, he has made a declaration of allegiance to such other country; or

(b)he has been elected to such office at any two previous elections, or......

However, the PDP seemed to have thrown its weight behind perceived President Jonathan's re-nomination to run on the ticket of the ruling party in the 2015 race.

Yet, Governor Aliyu's claim of an agreement limiting Jonathan to a single term can not be substantiated for now as no one, even the other governors, have not come out to acknowledge existence of the pact. Either Aliyu is keeping it tightly to his chest waiting for the most appropriate time for release or could be mere consultation or discussion of understanding between two parties, a moral code, without legal force or identity.

Political analysts who spoke with Saturday Vanguard argued that the governors have not debunked the claim nor affirmed so as not to overheat an already heated polity. "You can see that most of the governors are not fully loyal or supportive of the president. They have one or two grievances with Jonathan over funds not adequately coming from the federal government.

The governors are not happy but cannot come out in the open to show their grudge," a political science teacher in one of the universities submitted.

According to a former legislator of northern stock, Junaid Mohammed in an interview with Vanguard in Abuja recently, he said the controversy over the one-term pact signed by Jonathan was unnecessary as the president was not qualified to seek re-election in 2015, advising him and his advisers to seek judicial interpretation of his tenure rather than engage in banal war over 2015 which he was yet to make up his mind.

He frowned at people who made promises and cannot abide by such promises.

For President Jonathan himself, it seemed as if he has made a u-turn, considering that during the 2011 electioneering campaigns, he reportedly told the electorate that he intended to run for a term. Even former Presidnet Olusegun Obasanjo supported him based on single tenure. But today, things have dramatically changed. Jonathan had contended that he was capable of seeking re-election in 2015. Many ordinary Nigerians who spoke on the matter with Saturday Vanguard want him to stick to his one-term promise to ensure a peaceful democratic change of leadership in 2015.

A secondary school teacher, Patience Omawunmi said 2015 must not be crisis-torn if this nation is anxious to successfully tackle the insecurity situation that has gripped our nation since the Jonathan presidency.

"Nigerians will decide come 2015. PDP is not the only political party in this country. There are other parties who can field their own candidates and run in the presidential election. If PDP still wants Jonathan to contest, it is left for the party to decide. The electorate will make the final choice", Omawunmi affirmed.

An engineer, Stephen Amedu wondered why our leaders are only interested in the next election and not achieving developmental goals.

"They are always thinking about who becomes the next president or Governor. They are not thinking about how jobs can be provided for unemployed masses, what number of roads have been constructed, housing units built, good hospitals and standard educational institutions provided, water and electricity not interrupted, availability of food, peace, justice and security assured.

"Our leaders should be contesting among themselves who can best provide welfare and development for the nation, reduce poverty, hunger and disease. Not just about who becomes president without delivering dividends of democracy to the people."

Saturday Vanguard investigation showed that the people only desire a credible, free and fair election in which their votes won't be compromised, and be allowed to take their destiny in their hands, ensuring sovereignty of citizens and accountability of elected leaders for good governance.

In a belated reaction to the one-term pact, the presidency said President Goodluck Jonathan will not be distracted from his commitment to transform Nigeria by premature comments concerning whether or not he will seek re-election in 2015.

According to presidential spokesman, Dr. Doyin Okupe, this is neither the time nor the season to begin electioneering or related discourse for the 2015 presidential election and so President Jonathan will not jump the gun.

"He will therefore stoutly resist any disguised or open attempt to drag him into any debates, arguments or political discussions relating to the presidential election in 2015."

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