1st March, 2013
A Nigerian court in Abuja has ruled that President Goodluck Jonathan is eligible to contest the forthcoming 2015 Presidential election if he so desires.
Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi, on Friday held that Jonathan’s assumption of the office of the President after the demise of the late former President Umaru Yar’Adua was in line with what the National Assembly aptly described as doctrine of necessity and not as a result of emerging winner in any bye election conducted after the death of the late former President.
“After the death of Umaru Yar’Adua, there was no election or bye election. President Jonathan was merely asked to assume the office of the President in line with Doctrine of necessity. He was not elected as the President but was made to assume office by virtue of Yar’Adua’s death. Having exhausted the late President’s tenure, he sought for his party’s ticket and ran for the office of the President successfully in 2011 general election. He is therefore currently serving his first tenure of office and if he so wishes, he is eligible to further seek his party’s ticket through the party’s primary election and to run for office in 2015” the judge declared.
Justice Oniyangi clearly re-affirmed that his judgment does not in any way make President Jonathan an automatic candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and warned that his decision should not be misconstrued to mean that Jonathan has become an automatic candidate of the party for the 2015 Presidential election.
The court further held that the President’s tenure of office begins to count from 29th May, 2011 when he was sworn into office as the elected President of Nigeria and not 6 May, 2010 when he assumed office following Yar’Adua’s death.
The court also held that the suit as presently constituted does not disclose any cause of action and that the plaintiff, Mr. Cyriacus Njoku, lacks locus standi in instituting the case.
President Jonathan, through his lawyer, Mr. Ade Okeanya- Inneh, a senior advocate of Nigeria, in the course of hearing the matter, insisted that he is currently doing his first term of 4 years in office as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as provided by the constitution and that the same constitution makes provisions for a President to contest for not more than two terms of 4 years each.
Okenaya- Inneh had also argued that Jonathan has not indicated or announced anywhere, whether in words or writing, that he will contest the Presidential election to be conducted in 2015 and therefore urged the court to dismiss the suit in the interest of justice.
Justice Oniyangi also held that Mr. Njoku’s suit is premature at this time since the President had not obtained any form from his party for the 2015 election neither had the PDP commenced its primary elections for the purpose of selecting its flag bearer for the 2015 Presidential election.
It noted that Njoku ought to have waited for the PDP to have commenced primary election and then complain if their process is breached since nomination and sponsorship of candidates for any election is an internal affair of the party.
The court declined to restrain the Peolples Democratic Party, PDP, and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, from submitting and accepting President Goodluck Jonathan’s name as a candidate for the 2015 Presidential election.
Cyriacus Njoku had approached the court seeking for an order to restrain President Jonathan from running for office in 2015 as, according to him, it will amount to breaching a constitutional provision which prescribed a period of not more than eight years for occupants of the office of the President.
He contended that President Jonathan first took oath of office and oath of allegience on 6 May, 2010, following the death of his predecessor in office, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua with whom he (Jonathan) was first elected in 2007 and later took another oath of office and allegiance on 29 May, 2011 for the purpose of executing the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.