Nigerians shocked, worried about Jonathan’s 2023 moves

By Edward Adamidenyo

How can Dr. G o o d l u c k Jonathan, a self-effacing g e n t l e m a n and Africa peace ambassador allow himself to fall into a trap meant to humiliate, disgrace him because of power which is ephemeral?”

The words above were used to sum up an observer’s concern over thickening and snowballing speculations that former President Jonathan is on the verge of joining the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in order to throw his hat into the 2023 presidential ring.

Before and after his former spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, confirmed his planned APC membership, the rumours had been rife although he was noncommittal. However, he seems to have become interested from the signal that he gave while receiving a group that visited and urged him to contest next year’s presidential election. He did not reject their call but said they should “watch out.”

Many people and groups have expressed support for or against Jonathan’s bid to return to power. Both sides are mounting pressure on him. Those who want him to run give various reasons.

One is that things were relatively better under him in terms of the economy and security. Another group says that he should return to prove that he is not “clueless” as ruling party propaganda had dubbed him as a sitting president. Some of the same ruling party chiefs are said to be wanting to field him as a consensus candidate in a field of heavyweights not willing to step down for each other or one another.

However, some party chiefs from the north are said to be pushing Jonathan’s 2023 candidature for a selfish reason. They are said to be plotting to field him to do one term to “complete” his tenure (four years) and for power to quickly to the north, an idea rejected in the south that wants to do two terms.

As aforementioned, those worried about his return bid also believe that he does not have the structure to win the APC’s primaries if he comes up against the party’s traditional and entrenched power blocs run by some chieftains like Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu unless he gets the ticket as a consensus candidate.

Jonathan is also up against the moral argument that justice and fair play require that Nigeria’s next president should be an Igbo whose southeast has not occupied the office under a democratic dispensation. He is being seen as greedy for power without consideration for equity and good conscience.

The Otuoke-born taciturn former president also faces an eligibility question. Sceptics are pointing to a law that stops a vice president who completes a President’s tenure from contesting twice. “President Muhammadu Buhari signed a constitutional amendment that stops a Vice President who completes the term of a President from contesting for the office of the President more than one more time,” a newspaper noted. It added:”The same is applicable to a deputy governor who completes the term of a state governor.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Ita Enang, disclosed this to State House correspondents at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Friday.

The term of a President or a governor can be aborted by virtue of death, resignation or removal, thereby paving the way for the Vice President or deputy governor to take over.

According to Enang, the effect of the new law, Act 16, is that having taken the oath of President or governor once, the affected person can only contest one more time and no more.

If the law had been in place, former President Goodluck Jonathan who completed the tenure of late President Umaru Yar’Adua after his death would not have qualified to contest the 2015 presidential elections having contested and won in 2011.

It is not clear yet if the law has foreclosed Jonathan’s possible re-election bid as it (the law) may be said not to have retrospective effect. Enang said the President also signed an amendment to the constitution that grants autonomy to state judiciary and state Houses of Assembly.

The presidential aide said the implication of the new law was that funds meant for state judiciary and state Houses of Assembly would now be going directly to them and not through state governors again.

According to Enang, the President also signed an amendment that reduced the duration for determining preelection matters in courts to ensure that such matters do not get into the time of the elections and do not linger thereafter. He noted that another amendment increased the time the Independent National Electoral Commission has to conduct by-election in case of vacancy from the present seven days to 21 days.

Enang said, “I just want to inform you that His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari today (Friday) assented to the Constitution Fourth Alteration Bill which grants financial autonomy and independence to the Houses of Assembly of the respective states and to the Judiciary of the respective states.

“Therefore, upon this signature, the amounts standing to the credit of the judiciary are to now be paid directly to the judiciary of those states and no more through the governors and from the governors.

“And then the amounts standing to the credit of the Houses of Assembly of the respective states are now to be paid directly to the Houses of Assembly of that state for the benefit of the legislators and the management of the state Houses of Assembly of that state.

This grants full autonomy now to the Houses of Assembly and judiciary of states. “Another Act which has come into force today is Constitution Amendment 21 which relates to the determination of preelections matters. It has reduced the date and time of determining pre-election matters to ensure that the pre-election matters in court do not get into the time of the elections and do not linger thereafter, The Trumpet gathered.

The relevant section of the Constitution has also been amended by this Act, therefore amending the constitution.

“The other one is Bill 16 which is now an Act.

The intent of that Act is to ensure that where a Vice President succeeds the President and where a deputy governor succeeds a governor, he can no more contest for that office more than one more time.

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“The effect is that having taken the oath of President once, he can only contest one more time and no more. That is the intent of this amendment. “The other amendment is Bill 9 now an Act which gives the Independent National Electoral Commission sufficient time to conduct by-election.

It has increased the time from seven to 21 days and generally widens the latitude of the INEC to handle election matters upon vacancy. “These four bills, added to the Not-Too-Young-To-Run Act, have now been assented to by the President and have now become laws.

The Constitution of Nigeria 1999 as amended is hereby further amended by the assent of the President to these bills today.

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