President Goodluck Jonathan’s political future seems to be getting clear. Despite opposition from certain quarters, Jonathan would not shy away from contesting in the 2015 election, as allowed in the Constitution.
According to him, with the political situation of Nigeria, it is better for him to spend nine years in office than to spend less than the eight years stipulated in the 1999 Constitution.
Jonathan spoke through his lawyer, Ade Okeya-Inneh (SAN), in a counter-affidavit filed to a suit by Henry Amadi, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP), who is seeking to stop him from contesting in the election.
In the suit before a Federal High Court, Abuja, Amadi is contending that Jonathan can no longer contest in 2015 because by so doing he would be spending more than the maximum two terms of four years stipulated by the 1999 constitution.
The suit is similar to another one filed by a chieftain of the PDP, Mr Cyriacus Njoku, on March 20 before an Abuja High Court urging the court to state whether Jonathan can run or not.
Judgment in that suit is pending before Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi.
In the present suit, the respondents are Jonathan and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The plaintiff is pleading with the court to direct INEC not to accept Jonathan’s nomination as candidate of the PDP for 2015 because the oath of allegiance and oath of office he would take, if he wins, will violate the two oaths of allegiance and office stipulated by the 1999 Constitution.
But in a prelminary objection to the suit, Jonathan, through his lawyer Okeaya-Inneh (SAN), has asked the court to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction.
According to him, the plaintiff is an ordinary individual who is 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 the plaintiff’s claim is 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 his death. 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 added: ‘’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’’.
‘’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’’.