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Agbakoba: Jonathan is eligible to run for president

Agbakoba: Jonathan is eligible to run for president
May 11
11:28 2022

Olisa Agbakoba, senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), says former President Goodluck Jonathan is eligible to contest for president in 2023.

Recently, there have been varied legal arguments on the eligibility of Jonathan to contest in the 2023 presidential election.

Jonathan was Nigeria’s vice-president between 2007 and 2010. He became the president in May 2010 following the death of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and completed the latter’s tenure.

He won the 2011 presidential election, but lost his attempt to secure a second term in office in 2015.

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Some groups procured the presidential form of the All Progressives Congress for the former president, which he rejected.

In April, Femi Falana, human rights advocate, argued that section 137(3) of the constitution disqualifies Jonathan from contesting, adding that the former president would spend a cumulative period of nine years as president if wins the 2023 presidential election,

Mike Ozekhome, senior advocate of Nigeria, countered Falana, saying Jonathan is “constitutionally” qualified to contest for president in 2023.

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Joining the fray, Agbakoba, in a legal opinion, said the amended section 137(3) of the 1999 constitution does not apply to Jonathan since the clause was not in existence when he was a president.

“The eligibility of Former President Goodluck Jonathan to run for the office of President has become a vexed issue. In reviewing whether he is eligible to run, I will consider strictly the legal issues. The moral and ethical questions are not for me to consider,” Agbakoba said.

“The question of Jonathan’s eligibility is determined by section 137 (3) of the 1999 constitution (as amended). The purpose of Section 137(3) of the constitution is to resolve the dilemma of a vice-president who completes the tenure of a president who dies in office.

“Such a vice-president if he decides to run for the Office of President will be eligible for one term of 4 years only. Even though ordinarily he will be entitled to two terms of 8 years.

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“The logic behind it is that if the vice-president fills the president’s void and runs for two terms, he is most likely to exceed the constitutionally prescribed maximum tenure of 8 years.

“But the question is whether Section 137 (3) of the constitution applies to Former President Goodluck Jonathan.

“I don’t think it applies to him because at the time Former President Goodluck Jonathan was president, section 137 (3) of the constitution was not in existence and there is a rule that you cannot backdate laws. Former President Goodluck Jonathan is eligible to run for the office of President.”

Section 137(3) of the fourth alteration to the 1999 constitution reads: “A person who was sworn in to complete the term for which another person was elected as president shall not be elected to such office for more than a single term.”

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