BY IFEANYI MADUAKO
Lagos Lawyer, Mr Femi Falana SAN recently argued that former President Goodluck Jonathan is not eligible to contest for the presidency of Nigeria again having spent five years as president between 2010 and 2015. Falana premised his argument on a 2018 constitutional amendment which purportedly bars Jonathan from contesting because if he (Jonathan) becomes the president of Nigeria in 2023, he will spend a cumulative nine years as president whereas the amended constitutional provision on which Falana relied on limits the occupant of the position to two terms of eight years. I am not conversant with the amended constitutional provision that Falana relied on but I dare say that Falana got his interpretation of that provision wrong.
A law does not take a retroactive effect and the 2018 constitutional amendment does not affect Jonathan. It can only affect a fresh president from the date it was signed into law. What if Jonathan had won the 2015 presidential election, didn’t Falana know that he would have been in office for nine years by 2019? The immediate past Governor of Yobe State, Senator Ibrahim Geidam was a governor for 11 years. He was a deputy governor in 2007 when he was elected into office with his then boss, late Governor Mamman Bello Ali. When his boss died in early 2008, Alhaji Geidam became the governor of the state and completed the remaining three years left by his late boss. He contested twice for his own term in 2011 and 2015 which he won.
By the time he left office in 2019, he had accumulated a cumulative 11 years as Governor of Yobe State against eight years which the constitution stipulates for a governor to be in office.Therefore, against the foregoing background, Jonathan is constitutionally qualified for another four years in office as president of Nigeria. But, should Jonathan run again for the position?
I do not think so for some of these reasons adduced below.Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has had his palm kernel cracked for him by the benevolent spirit as far as politics is concerned. President Jonathan is the only Nigerian who had tasted the four positions in the executive arm of government; the deputy governor, governor, vice president, and president. President Jonathan is the first man among the class of deputy governors of 1999 to become a governor in 2005.
President Jonathan had wanted to retain his position as the governor of Bayelsa State in 2007 when divine providence catapulted him to the position of the vice president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. From the class of deputy governors of 1999, only three people ever reached the position of a governor. They are; Mahmud Shinkafi, Ibrahim Ganduje and Alliyu Wammako of Zamfara, Kano and Sokoto States respectively.Dr. Jonathan is the first and only democratically elected Vice President to become the president as a result of the death of his then boss, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
Dr. Jonathan is the first and the only sitting civilian president to concede defeat and handed over to his opponent after a presidential contest. Dr. Jonathan demonstrated the true virtues of a God-fearing man by calling then General Muhammadu Buhari to congratulate him. Perhaps that singular action saved thousands and millions of Nigerians from being killed as a result of bloodshed which the then opposition had purportedly promised to unleash across the length and breadth of the land of Nigeria if they had lost the election.
Those who today derisively call President Jonathan a coward are ignorant of the fact that nobody knew who would have survived the stampede and catastrophe that would have been ensued across the land of Nigeria had Jonathan behaved like other African leaders who usually refuse to concede defeat. Former President of the United States of America, Barack Obama also contributed to Jonathan’s loss of the presidency. Obama showed undue interest in the 2015 presidential election and surreptitiously worked for the then opposition against President Jonathan. Who knows if Jonathan would have been given the Laurent-Gbagbo treatment if he had refused to vacate power? Since Jonathan left office he has been traversing Africa and the world on peace keeping mission.
The world, especially Africa leaders have been venerating him for the peaceful role he played in 2015. One still wonders why those in charge of Nobel Award have not deemed it fit to confer the Nobel Peace laureate on Jonathan because he truly deserves it.
However, the rumour of Dr. Jonathan scheming to return to power is not advisable. What is he coming back to do or what did he forget in Aso rock? One mistake Jonathan made while as president was that he failed to utilize the position very well especially for the southern part of Nigeria. Perhaps he was hoping to do that on his second term which never came. Jonathan forgot that the presidency of Nigeria with over 300 tribes is not a walk in the park.
Jonathan should thank his creator for making him a greatman and a member of the minute elite club that had ruled Nigeria since independence. The Presidency of Nigeria position which Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief MKO Abiola, et al couldn’t attain after repeated attempts in their lifetime was what Jonathan achieved on a platter of Gold.Jonathan’s comeback as the president of Nigeria means that power will quickly return to the North in 2027 even after Buhari’s eight years on the seat.
Jonathan has the right to his personal ambition and fulfilment but he should place a higher premium on the ambition of the southern part of Nigeria who would want to retain the presidency for eight years from 2023. Only a man like General Buhari with his cult-like followership could have defeated President Jonathan in 2015 and since God allowed that to happen, Jonathan shouldn’t overstretch the good luck in his life because it may result in anticlimax.
Maduako, writes from Owerri (08061562735)