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Why I Can Contest In 2015, By Jonathan

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Barely three days after he parried a question on whether he would contest the 2015 presidential election, indications emerged Wednesday that President Goodluck Jonathan’s mind is clear on the matter.

He thinks that he is eligible to contest contrary to what some people may say. This emerged Wednesday as he told the Federal High Court, Abuja Division that contrary to the provision of the 1999 Constitution, an incumbent president’s tenure of office can extend beyond four or eight years.

Jonathan made this declaration in a response to a suit filed by a Port Harcourt-based lawyer and card-carrying member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Henry Amadi, whereas he contends that Jonathan is no longer viable to contest in 2015 on the grounds that by so doing he would be spending more than the maximum period of two terms of four years envisaged by the 1999 Constitution.

The suit is akin to another one filed by a chieftain of the PDP, Cyriacus Njoku on March 20, 2012 before an Abuja High Court asking it to stop President Jonathan from contesting presidential elections in 2015 on the grounds that he is already in his second term in office.

Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi had earlier fixed November 13, 2012 to deliver judgment in Njoku’s suit but subsequently adjourned indefinitely following his alleged medical trip abroad.

But in the present suit, Amadi had named Jonathan and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as co-defendants.

The plaintiff prayed the court to restrain Jonathan from putting himself forward or participating as candidate for election to the office of the President at the end of his current term of office in 2O15.

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 impose illegality on the polity since the oath of allegiance and office he would take if he wins would violate the two oaths of allegiance and office stipulated by the 1999 Constitution.

But in the counter-affidavit filed on his behalf by Ade Okeaya-Inneh (SAN), Jonathan said that the court should dismiss itself of jurisdiction to entertain Amadi’s suit, saying the plaintiff is an ordinary individual who is not qualified to request court to stop him from contesting the 2015 presidential election.

Jonathan said Amadi failed to disclose reasonable cause of action and that the plaintiff’s claim was hypothetical and academic.

Jonathan averred that he took the first oath of office on May 6, 2010 following the death of erstwhile President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.

“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, 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?’’

Okeaya-Inneh went further to say that, “in resolving this issue, the court is invited to make a determination whether the period of May 6, 2010 to May 28, 2011 wherein Jonathan occupied the office of the president can in law be regarded as one term of office and 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 of 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 latter,” he said.