Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Pres. Goodluck Jonathan: After 2011, what next?

I came across a story in yesterday's edition of Thisday newspaper. It was titled "2015 complicates zoning and PDP plans mini convention".

As we know, the issue of whether to zone or not zone the 2011 presidential ticket seems to have taken over the PDP. And according to the newspaper report, some northern elites in the PDP are now looking beyond 2011. It's been reported that the "north" could concede the 2011 presidential to Pres. Goodluck Jonathan if it can be guaranteed that he wouldn't be seeking a "second term" after 2011.

There is a concern within the party that the region that produces the next president will rule for eight years. A "senior northerner" was quoted in the newspaper as saying "If (President Goodluck) Jonathan can openly declare today that he would do only one term and leave in 2015, the North will support him..….we cannot contemplate power being in the South till 2019, which is what will happen if Jonathan does two terms"

If the above statements are true, then it highlights the level of disregard the political elites have for the average voter. It's only in a country like ours, where the votes of long suffering masses don't count, will a political party assume that it will be in power until 2019.  Anyway, that's an issue for another day.

What I find puzzling in the newspaper story however, is the issue of whether Pres. Goodluck Jonathan can actually run for presidency in 2015. I have often asked myself the question if the federal constitution allows him to do so.

Whilst I agree that the focus of our attention should be on the forthcoming 2011 elections, I've just always been curious about possible political permutation post-2011. So newspaper story succeeded in setting my mind thinking on this matter. To inform the discussion I have included the relevant section of the Constitution.  

Section 137 of the 1999 Constitution deals with the issue of election into the office of the president. It states,

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;


(b) he has been elected to such office at any two previous elections;


(c) under the law in any part of Nigeria, he is adjudged to be a  lunatic or otherwise declared to be of unsound mind;


(d) he is under a sentence of death imposed by any competent court of  law or tribunal in Nigeria or a sentence of imprisonment or fine for  any offence involving dishonesty or fraud (by whatever name called) or  for any other offence, imposed on him by any court or tribunal or  substituted by a competent authority for any other sentence imposed on

him by such a court or tribunal;


(e) within a period of less than ten years before the date of the  election to the office of President he has been convicted and  sentenced for an offence involving dishonesty or he has been found  guilty of the contravention of the Code of Conduct; or

(f) he is an undischarged bankrupt, having been adjudged or otherwise  declared bankrupt under any law in force in Nigeria or any other  country;


(g) being a person employed in the civil or public service of the  Federation or of any State, he has not resigned, withdrawn or retired  from the employment at least thirty days before the date of the  election; or

(h) he is a member of any secret society;


(i) he has been indicted for embezzlement or fraud by a Judicial  Commission of Inquiry or an Administrative Panel of Inquiry or a  Tribunal set up under the Tribunals of Inquiry Act, a Tribunals of  Inquiry Law or any other law by the Federal or State Government which  indictment has been accepted by the Federal or State Government,



(j) he has presented a forged certificate to the Independent National  Electoral Commission.

(2) Where in respect of any person who has been -

(a) adjudged to be a lunatic;

(b) declared to be of unsound mind;

(c) sentenced to death or imprisonment;


(d) adjudged or declared bankrupt

(e) any appeal against the decision is pending in any court of law in  accordance with any law in force in Nigeria, subsection (1) of this  section shall not apply during a period beginning from the date when  such appeal is lodged and ending on the date when the appeal is  finally determined or, as the case may be, the appeal lapses or is abandoned, whichever is earlier.

As we can see Section 137(1)(b) does state explicitly that a person cannot be elected as president, if he has been elected into such office at any two previous elections. The operative word here is "elected".

The constitution is however silent on what happens in the sudden demise of the elected president and the V-P is sworn in as president. GEJ was not elected as president, as he only became a president by default. So strictly speaking, is first election into the office of the president will be in 2011.

I have heard people say that GEJ cannot seek re-election in 2015 because the president cannot take the oath of office more than twice.  From my viewpoint, there's nothing in the constitution to support such argument.   

Though I'm not a legal expert, my interpretation is that there's nothing in the Constitution that stops GJ from seeking a second term after 2011. Having said that, I may be wrong.

So what are your thoughts? Do you think GEJ can legally seek a "second term" after 2011?

PS- The above post is based on the assumption that GEJ will be contesting the 2011 presidential elections.