President Goodluck Jonathan Is Ineligible To Contest 2015—Dr. Ardo Contends
Dr. Umar Ardo, an academic, a political strategist and a gubernatorial aspirant in Adamawa state under the platform of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, has analyzed sundry issues pertaining President Goodluck Jonathan's candidacy in the 2015 presidential election, including Supreme Court judgment, the president's campaign promises and governing policies, precedents from the USA, the state of the nation, etc. and concluded that President Jonathan is ineligible to contest the 2015 presidential election.
Dr. Ardo disagrees with those calling on the president to contest and instead advices him to subordinate his personal ambition and interest to that of the country and decline contesting in 2015 so as to set a positive precedent for Nigeria in her democratization process. In an interview with journalists in Abuja at the weekend, the Adamawa State-born politician bares his mind on these and many more topical national issues. ..
Q: You were opposed to the imposition of Emergency rule on your state of Adamawa by the President, describing it as unconstitutional. Do you still maintain this position?
A: Yes, I still do. Agreed that Section 305 of the constitution gave the President powers to declare state of emergency in all or parts of the country, but it is ONLY WHEN at least 1 of the 7 conditions listed apply in a state before the president shall assume those powers. It therefore means that when none of these conditions is present, then the President lacks the powers to declare state of emergency, and if he does then it is unconstitutional. I can say categorically that Adamawa State did not meet any of the 7 conditions outlined by the constitution to empower the President to proclaim state of emergency in the state.
My position also was that the country ought not to have arrived at the state of emergency stage in the first place; that we did arrive at it was a clear indication of state failure. A functional state would have resolved the problem efficiently at its incipient stage - or even prevented it from occurring altogether. That is why the constitution made the conditions for emergency rule so extreme. In fact, other than conditions (e) and (f), all other conditions, including, to a certain extent, (a) and (b), can only occur on account of state failure. So it is state failure, i.e. government failure that led to state of emergency. Since it is also the duty of government to solve this failure, it came up with emergency rule as solution.
Q: Since you say emergency rule in Adamawa is unconstitutional, why haven't you gone to court to challenge the action?
A: I have not gone to court because having being in one court or another over the past 4 years on public issues, I have learnt that it is difficult, though not impossible, to get such issues resolved through the courts. First, there is the issue of locus standi, there are also appeals which can run up to the Supreme Court. These take ages. Remember that the emergency rule is for a period of no more than 6 months, though can be renewed. But I have called on the Adamawa state government to go to court. The state government can approach the Supreme Court directly for constitutional interpretation. That way all issues of appeal or locus are avoided. But for reasons best known to the state government it demurred, thereby allowing a dangerous precedent in our democratization process. If I was the governor of Adamawa state under this prevailing situation, I would have sought a judicial interpretation of this action at the Supreme Court. It does not matter whether or not I win, what is important is that there will be clarity on the issue in which all the 3 arms of government are agreed upon. This is the essence of democratic governance.
Q: How would you assess the impact of emergency rule in Adamawa so far?
A: After living for nearly two months under emergency rule, the hardship that it brought to our people is unbearable and clear for everyone to see. It has virtually destroyed the economic, political, social and religious lives of our people. The sick and women-in-labour die as a result of non-availability of Medicare, most especially during the long hours of curfew. The non-availability of communication services has also worsened the already bad situation. Hunger and suffering are prevalent now more than ever before, and likely to get worst if this ugly situation continues. The measures put in place by the operators of emergency rule, and their cumulative effects on the lives of our people, are unreasonable, unjustifiable and counter-productive. Clearly, they are destructive. An issue that I have not heard being discussed is compensation to those people whose means of livelihood has been affected by emergency rule measures. Since any public policy that destroys the legitimate means of livelihood of a citizen that citizen is entitled to compensation, state of emergency is a public policy and therefore the people who are affected have right to compensation. I think it will do well for the government to start compiling lists.
Also, the legal implications of the rights of citizens under state of emergency are unacceptable. Unknown to many, the mere act of proclaiming emergency rule has directly derogated 5 fundamental human rights of citizens. These include:
1. Right to private and family life;
2. Right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion;
3. Right to freedom of expression and the press;
4. Right to peaceful assembly and association; and
5. Right to freedom of movement.
Also indirectly derogated are:
1. Right to life; and
2. Right to personal liberty.
In essence, through the Proclamation, the President has appropriated to himself powers that lawfully derogate these 7 fundamental human rights of citizens under emergency rule. The President needs not to assume these powers to ensure simple public order and safety, and protect the rights and freedom of citizens. These rights are fundamental and inalienable. The President should be protecting these rights and freedom and not to derogate them. State of Emergency derogates these rights. I cannot stay anywhere in the world where I don't have these rights; least of all, in my own country. To protect the lives, property, rights and freedom of innocent citizens, and maintaining peace and order in the society, government must derogate these same rights and freedom of all the people? It is illogical. The bottom line is that any law that derogates the rights and freedom of citizens is a bad law; and any leader that applies it is a bad leader. That is why it is supremely important to establish a standard to its application through a clear and unambiguous judicial interpretation.
Q: How do you think the insecurity problem in the North can be resolved?
A: Insecurity of the nature we have basically has its sociological underpinnings. Boko Haram is not a movement whose ideology or method is shared by a large number of Muslims; it is an organization with ideology shared only by its few adherents. This is an insignificant number whose ideology is plainly harmful to the society and the state failed to protect citizens from this harm.
Members of this organization started conceiving evil, consulting amongst themselves, then reached the stages of plotting, planning and executing their evil deeds and then vanishing into the thin air without being apprehended. The only entity with the primary duty to detect, stop and punish evil act, and with all the powers, personnel and resources for that, is the state. This is the primary duty of the state - for which reason the state exists. The state has all it takes to have prevented the BH insurgency reaching the level for which state of emergency was required. The SSS could have detected its formation, decoded its intentions long enough and facilitated for its lawful neutralization early enough; the SSS could also have traced and blocked the sources of funding of the organization early enough and substantially weaken it; the police could have effected arrests of its transgressing members and leaders making it impossible for them to be cohesively effective to cause harm to the society; the Customs could have made it impossible for them to secure arms into the country to heavily arm themselves to the point that it requires military operation under state of emergency laws to dislodge; the Immigration could have contained the infiltration and cross border cooperation with foreign nationals; the NIA could have prevented the influence, support, collaboration and training of the BH by foreign terror organizations. If the Federal Government will budget about 1 trillion naira for security last year only for insecurity to escalate and end up in a state of emergency in 2013, then it tells the extent of failure of the state on this matter.
The solution of the insecurity is simple - political leadership ensuring that all the apparatuses and agencies of state function as prescribed by law. The government to ensure compliance with Resolution 60/288 of the United Nations Global Counter-terrorism Strategy in which member-states are required as a matter of necessity to take measures aimed at addressing conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism. These include the entrenchment of rule of law in public matters, preventing and punishing of violation of human rights, enhancing the welfare of citizens, reducing of poverty in the society and ensuring that all measures employed to counter terrorism comply with obligations of International Human Rights Law, International Humanitarian Law and International Refugee Law. Anything short of this is counter-productive and therefore undesirable.
Q: Recently, some members of the NWC of the PDP tendered their resignation letters which action was attributed to INEC report, a reason you were quoted as faulting. On what grounds are you faulting the reason given by the party, and what in your opinion is the true reason?
A: I do not believe that the resignation of PDP Members of the NWC is because of INEC's report on their mode of elections. When did INEC's reports ever become a matter of serious concern to both the PDP and INEC itself? If it is really because of INEC's report, then what about the PDP's Ward, LGAs and State Chapters in 9 states of the federation which INEC's report declared as unconstitutional? In three separate letters dated March 5th, 14thand 2ndApril, 2012 signed by the Commission's Secretary and addressed to the PDP National Chairman, INEC rejected the mode of election of the party's Wards and LGA's organs as unconstitutional and advised the party's National Secretariat not to proceed with its staged-congresses until it re-conducted the Wards and LGAs congresses in the states affected. But the party disobeyed this directive and continued its congresses at the states, zonal and even national convention with delegates composited by these Wards and LGAs chapters.
These states include Adamawa, Taraba, Jigawa, Anambra, Nassarawa, Plateau, Lagos, Katsina and Sokoto. To the best of my knowledge, with the exception of Adamawa state because of my tenacity and vigilance, none of these 9 states re-conducted congresses as directed by INEC to legitimize the EXCOs of their organs to date. If its therefore on INEC's Report, then let the Commission insist that its directives as contained in those letters be carried out in the remaining 8 states of the federation.
Q: Following the setting up of a special convention committee headed by Prof. Jerry Gana to conduct elections into the vacant posts and the controversy it generated, do you think the convention can hold?
A: I believe it can hold, but certain things must first be put in place; central of which is the resolution of INEC's report on the 9 states I already mentioned. Without holding these wards, LGAs and state congresses in these states no valid convention can hold. Also, INEC's silence on this aspect of its report while controversies rage is disturbing.
Q: Prior to the last NEC Meeting of the party, there were agitations for the resignation of Bamanga Tukur as party Chairman. Do you think that the calls were justified?
A: It will all depend on a lot of factors whether or not the calls were justified. I have not yet gotten all the facts on this yet to arrive to a conclusion to your question one way or the other.
Q: Can you give us an update on the situation within PDP in Adamawa state?
A: Adamawa PDP has no problem; we complied with INEC's report and re-conducted our congresses from Wards, LGAs to State levels. We have a fully, legitimately functioning party EXCOs throughout the state under the leadership of Chief Joel Madaki.
Q: The crisis in the NGF has polarized the governors into two factions. What does that portend for the polity?
A: It portends danger for the country. It means that losers won't accept defeat, and that is dangerous especially if the loser is the incumbent.
Q: There have been calls from some persons for President Jonathan to re-contest in 2015. Do you support such calls?
A: No, I don't support such calls because of many reasons. Firstly, because I distrust the motives of those leading these calls, Chiefs Edwin Clark and Tony Aneni, among many others. As a historian, it is easy for me to see familiar disturbing trends in the calls for the President's re-election in 2015. I believe it is significant to bring this to light for us to draw object lessons from.
In 1974/75, as a Federal Commissioner for Information under the General Yakubu Gowon regime, Chief Edwin Clark was actively involved in similar campaign aimed at scuttling the transition to democratic rule programme of that regime. Then Chief Edwin Clark campaigned that General Yakubu Gowon must remain in office for Nigeria to exist as a united country. He used to reel out the major achievements of Gowon which Nigerians were told by Chief Clark needed Gowon's continuous leadership to consolidate. On the occasion of the 1974 National Day, a London newspaper carried an 80,000 pounds advertisement paid by Chief Clark's Ministry of Information describing Gowon as 'the Lincoln of Nigeria.'
On many public occasions like Independent Day celebrations, University Graduation ceremonies, etc., Chief Clark would rent crowds to carry banners chanting 'Gowon forever' or 'no alternative to General Gowon', all in the campaign to dissuade the Head of State from fulfilling his promise of handing over power to a democratically elected civilian regime in 1976. But for the fact that the dominant flow of national politics then heavily tilted towards democratization and against the continuous stay of military in government, such antics of Chief Clark would have dominated the polity and ultimately plunged the country into destructive national crises.
Chief Aneni is remembered for having compromised the victory of the SDP in the June 12, 1993 Presidential election, a party that he was its national chairman, in favour of the then incumbent military leadership. He partnered with Generals Babangida and Abacha against Chief Abiola's victory - in other words he partnered with incumbency against democracy. He is also remembered to have championed the cause of 3rd Term for President Obasanjo in 2006.
Today, the two elder chiefs are championing President Jonathan's re-election bid - advocating for automatic PDP ticket for the president. The question is if Gowon had remained forever, as Chief Clark had advocated, or Babangida had dribbled and extended his transition programme further, or Abacha had transmuted into a civilian president, or Obasanjo had gotten his 3rd Term bid, as campaigned for by Chief Aneni, would Chiefs Clark and Aneni be canvassing for GEJ's re-election in 2015? Of course not, and we all know it. As the campaigns of these two made no impact then, now too they won't because we do not trust their motives knowing that this is what they say of incumbents long before nearly half of today's Nigerians were born.
Secondly, there is a moral angle to it. The president himself promised not to contest in 2015 during his 2011 electioneering campaigns. Now a leader's word must be his bond. All through history, the most essential ingredient for leadership has always been character. Although other ingredients such as capacity, empathy, humility, toughness and intelligence are often mentioned, these traits are all too often really subordinate aspects of character. Without character, no man is fit to lead others. Because leaders hold not just the lives of the people but even determine the destiny of society, it is extremely important that people trust those who lead them. Unless the President comes out and tells why he said he was not contesting during his campaign and why he will now want to shift position to contest he will likely fall under this category.
There is also the legal angle. It is my contention that based on the implication of the Supreme Court judgment of INEC versus the 5 PDP Governors (Nyako, Sylva, Imoke, Wamako and Idris) the president is unarguably ineligible to contest; and any judgment of a High Court Judge is to me clearly directly in contrast with the logic and conclusions of that Supreme Court judgment, where the apex court adopted two basic principles in its interpretation of the constitution in calculating the 4-year tenure system. Firstly, that Governors - and the President - are elected for four years and eligible to re-election for another four years and no more. On the basis of that the Supreme Court declared: "The 1999 Constitution has no room for self -succession for A COMMULATIVE TENURE EXCEEDING EIGHT YEARS. . It is very clear from the relevant provisions that NO PERSON elected under the 1999 constitution can remain in office A DAY LONGER than provided, otherwise the intention of the framers of the constitution would be defeated'. It added that 'the constitution does not support an interpretation of unbroken term of four years or a term in perpetuity'. Impliedly, this means in computing President Jonathan's maximum of 8 years tenure, the 1 year 23 days he held as president between May 6, 2010 and May 29, 2011 will be counted. Secondly, the Supreme Court adopts the principle that so long as 'the acts performed during the period in office remain valid and subsisting', then the oath taken empowering them to take those valid and subsisting acts also remains valid and becomes the starting point in calculating their four years tenure of office.
I am yet to see the argument proffered by a Learned High Court Judge who ruled that President Jonathan can contest in 2015, but given the logic and conclusions of the Supreme Court Judgment I cannot see how that is possible. If the President can contest in 2015 for another four-year term, and if he wins, by the end of that term he would have self-succeeded himself in office as president for a cumulative period of 9 years 23 days. The Supreme Court says that the framers of the constitution did not contemplate for a governor - and a president - to remain in office A DAY LONGER than 8 years. Those who argue that President Jonathan's tenure of office as President between May 6, 2010 and May 29, 2011 was 'completing the tenure of late President Yar'adua', are mistaken as there is nowhere in the constitution where such provision is made. Also, all the acts President Jonathan took between May 6, 2010 and May 29, 2011 before his 2nd Oath of Office are valid and subsisting. Therefore, to calculate the tenure of office of President Jonathan, from May 29, 2011 when he was sworn-in as duly elected President and ignore the period from May 6, 2010 when he was first sworn-in as President, is to close our eyes to what is real and tangible thereby extending for President Jonathan a period in office beyond the maximum 8 years tenure constitutionally granted him as President; this would be unconstitutional and inappropriate.
If this is allowed to happen, then a very dangerous precedent is being set that can be used by unscrupulous politicians in the future to perpetuate their parties in office and elongate beyond 8 years the tenure of their cronies as President. What could happen is that an incumbent president would resign from office in say the 3rd year of his 2nd term in office to allow for his Vice President to take over in accordance to the provision of the constitution. The new President now would contest two consecutive terms in office and would also do same for his running mate to take over the baton. This can continue in finitum. Some may see such a scenario as far-fetched, but it is a possibility. In fact, even if it happens once or twice, or it remains an expedient option, it would remain a portend danger to our democratization process and could ultimately subvert it. Therefore, given that our laws have yet to provide for fractional term in office, President Jonathan is definitely not qualified to contest for president in 2015 for another 4-year term without an amendment of the constitution.
Thirdly, as we claim to apply international best practices, it is important the President draws some lessons from examples in America. None of the nine Vice Presidents of the USA (John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Chester Arthur, Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson or Gerald Ford) who, like President Jonathan, became president on account of the death or resignation of a president, ever submitted himself for election, and none was ever elected, twice in office as president. They all became statesmen and stepped down their personal interests for the higher interest of their country. I advise President Jonathan, who shares the same political circumstance with these former US Presidents, to do same and set a positive precedent for the country, and print his name in gold in the annals of Nigeria's national politics.
Besides, from my observation, the general opinion among Nigerians of good standing across the country is that President Jonathan's candidacy in the 2015 presidential election, in the way, manner and form it is, will be injurious to Nigeria's national interest. We may individually or as groups build our self-interests or emotions around his re-election bid, but deep down in all of us, this is the naked truth. The facts on the ground speak volumes of this assertion. At the national level, we are getting more and more divided on sectional, ethnic and religious bases during Jonathan's regime than at any other time in our national history. The Nigerian Governors' Forum is fractured; further bringing out the divisive tendencies in the polity. The governing party itself is fissured, wobbling towards collapsing. The president has had to assume emergency powers, the most extreme of presidential powers, to give citizens mere security - with the entire effort of government devoted to providing security alone, but failing even at that. The most basic of governance - passing national budget - cannot be achieved. Critical issues like fight against corruption, provision of good governance, basic infrastructures as power, roads, water, health care, education, credible election, etc. have all taken back seats in our governmental drive.
History has shown that a leader whose policies divide society is not a visionary leader but a self-serving person, with the interests of a narrow support group, while what the country needs is visionary leadership to transform the state into a nation, built not just on shared interests but on shared identity. Shared identity does not grow out of the soil, but is willfully constructed. It is the task of a visionary political leadership to forge it. But the president, having by his politics and policies accentuated and nurtured national divisive tendencies instead, thereby destroying whatever that was built of the Nigerian identity, is in no position to provide the needed leadership. One cannot on his account get things destroyed so that by his same account get them re-built.
Q: Finally, do you have political ambition in 2015?
A: I have since 2011 declared my intention to contest the governorship of my state, Adamawa. I am still at it as the issue of the last gubernatorial election is not yet determined. We are currently at the Supreme Court for the determination of the gubernatorial candidacy of the PDP in the state. So I am not waiting for 2015 - I am waiting for the Supreme Court.
Dr. Umar Ardo