Nigerian Constitution And Politics Of Re-Election


The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria supports a second tenure in office of any executive position such as the President or the governor.

Jonathan, was duly elected in May 29, 2011 as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and it is expected that his tenure will expire in 2015.

However, in case he decides to follow the constitution and if his party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, nominates him for a second term, he may wish to take a shot at the presidency again.

But the big question begging for an answer is whether the President will renege on his vow to serve only one term?

The 1999 Constitution, Section 137 (1) enumerated what can prevent the President from contesting in the 2015 presidential election.

According to the constitution, a person shall not be qualified for election to the office of President if he has been elected to such office at any two previous elections.

Other conditions include: if such one is adjudged to be of unsound mind or lunatic, under death sentence, jailed for fraud or dishonesty, or indicted by a Tribunal, Judicial Commission of Inquiry, an Administrative Panel of Inquiry or declared bankrupt, or under the employ of civil or public service, or a member of a secret cult, or have presented a forged certificate.

Though, President Jonathan was sworn in first as Vice President in 2007 and also as an Acting President and Commander-in-Chief in 2010. He was sworn-in as the President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces only in 2011.

Therefore, President Jonathan, under the law, is qualified for re-election if he so desires. However, Section 131(C) insists that he must be a member of a political party and must be sponsored by that political party.

Less than a year into his four-year adventure, developments have shown that he may have played a fast one on the governors and the political class.

First, he reneged on the agreement with the governors over allowing them unhindered re-election when he truncated the return of his home state governor, Diprieye Sylva.

Former governor Sylva lost after he was prevented by his party from running in the rescheduled governorship election, courtesy of the President.

Before that, Mr. President has warned against clandestine meetings of government officials who are already planning to take over from him, warning that he will deploy the party machinery to block such ambitions.

At the meeting were Vice-President Namadi Sambo, Senate President David Mark and a former Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. It is believed that the trio have presidential ambitions and may have started jostling for the most coveted office in the country.

However, the PDP governors believe that a second term for the President would negate an agreement that the President reached with them before they agreed to support his transition from Acting President to President and his subsequent election last year.

During the tension-filled period that followed the hospitalization of Jonathana’s predecessor, Musa Yar’Adua, in Saudi Arabia, the President had promised the governors that he would only serve a term.

A repeat of it was on 14 December 2010 prior to the national convention. The governors have been meeting over signals that the President may have put to work plans to stage a second bid even without consulting them.

The first hint aside the side comments by his foot soldiers was The Presidency’s plans to whittle the influence of the governors in the National Executive Committee of the party through a constitutional amendment. The governors had threatened to leave the party if such recommendation is approved.

The NEC, the party’s most powerful organ, is dominated by the governors, and the number of appointees they have in the council call the shots but the governors believe that the plan to increase the council’s membership was an attempt to reduce their powers.

It was gathered that some governors opposed the amendment because they felt it was a ploy to bring in the president’s loyalists, preparatory to his suspected 2015 ambition.

While the Presidency plays dumb on Jonathan’s ambition, a section of the country which feels short-changed has refused to sleep until the untold is told.

This development, Political Platform learnt, has triggered anxiety in some quarters as recent political developments have left not a few tinkering with the options of if the President decides to throw his hat into the ring or not.

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Recently, northern political leaders including former military dictator, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (retd); another former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar (retd); a former Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Alhaji Adamu Ciroma, Sen. Wash Pam, Prof. Ango Abdulahi and AVM El-Amin Dagash, among others met in Abuja to discuss some vital national issues.

It was learnt that the attendees felt that the plan to amend the constitution was aimed at denying the region the opportunity to produce the president in 2015. Their position was that the Presidency must not elude them again in 2015.

According to former Military President, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, the North must be allowed to produce the president in 2015 in the interest of justice and in line with the zoning policy of the PDP which began about 12 years ago.

He said if there is fairness, by 2015, power should come back to the North as long as the zoning policy remains in the PDP constitution. He also expressed hope that the zoning clause will remain and that northerners would have room to aspire for the presidency in 2015.

He insists that a northerner has every right to come out in 2015 and vie for the presidency hinging his rights on the provisions of the party.

According to the leader of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Yerima Shettima, the North is prepared for such changes, considering that its leaders are meeting to advance the interest of the region and nominate a consensus candidate that can match the president, should he decide to contest.

“In these meetings, we are trying to solve the problem of insecurity in our region and advance the interest of North. I believe at the end of the day, the North would agree on a consensus candidate who not just represents the interest of the North but someone who clearly understands the problems of Nigeria as a whole. And I believe that such a candidate would be able to match Jonathan even if he eventually decides to contest,” he said.

Shettima added that the PDP agreement would not stop Jonathan from contesting since the Constitution did not bar him.

“I have not in any way believed in any arrangement between the North and the South on who produces the president or not. As far as I’m concerned and according to the 1999 Constitution, Jonathan has the right to contest for a second term in office by 2015. But what matters is whether Nigerians want him as president. The arrangement that said he cannot contest is a gentleman’s agreement of the PDP and that cannot be binding on all Nigerians. PDP cannot speak for the whole country,” he said.

Coalition of Northern Leaders said, “The North will rise to oppose tenure elongation for the president.”

According to the group, the Presidency was using the Justice Alfa Belgore Committee on Constitution Review to pursue a third term agenda for Jonathan.

In a communiqué signed by its Convener, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, it stated: “It has become clear that both the villa and the Chairman are relentlessly pursuing a sinister third term agenda/renewed tenure elongation for the President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.”

The President of the Trade Union Congress, Mr. Peter Esele, who is a member of the Belgore Committee, however, denied the allegation on the third term.

On his part, former Governor of Anambra State, Chukwuemeka Ezeife, a prominent politician in the South-East said the Igbo were not interested in pushing Jonathan out of office, but were only waiting to take their turn after him.

“I don’t know how true that speculation is. But what I know is that we, the Igbo, are not interested in pushing Jonathan out of office. Whether he rules for one term or two terms, all we know is that after Jonathan it should be somebody from the South-East.

“When Aguiyi Ironsi came up, he didn’t last six months, he was killed and not only him, millions of Igbo were killed both in the pogrom and the Civil War that followed. But if you look at how Igbo people are spread all over the country, you will know that electing an Igbo as president is our best chance of having a truly detribalised leader in this country,” he said.

Although the South-West has alleged marginalisation in the appointment of key officers at the federal level, the quest for a president from the region in 2015 seems to be low.

According to the Chairman of the Afenifere Renewal Group, a Yoruba socio-cultural group, Olawale Oshun, it is too early to discuss 2015 presidential election.

He stated that the South-West was more interested in the establishment of true federalism, rather than the presidency.

“As for the South-West, it is too early and too presumptuous to be talking about whether the South-West would be presenting a candidate for the presidential election in 2015. What the South-West is interested in is the political restructuring of the country to give more powers to the federating units and give way for true fiscal federalism And not who is at the helm of affairs in Abuja.

“We had a president from the South-West who to all intents and purposes could have come from the moon, because there is nothing to point to in terms of physical development in the South-West during his tenure,” he said

—Jamiu Yisa

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