Renowned lawyer Mike Ozekhome has pushed back claims by colleague Femi Falana that former President Goodluck Jonathan is not qualified to run for the office he lost to President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015.
Mr Ozekhome, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said Mr Jonathan is “constitutionally” qualified to contest the presidency in 2023.
This comes amidst rife speculation that Mr Jonathan may defect to the All Progressives Congress (APC) to contest in the 2023 presidential election.
In a legal opinion released on Friday, Mr Ozekhome said it would be “grossly unfair” to deny Jonathan the right to contest for the 2023 presidency when the county’s extant laws and court decisions permit him.
“The truth of the matter is that the antagonists of Jonathan running in 2022, in their strange line of argument, are mainly relying on the above section 137(3),” Mr Ozekhome said.
“They have probably not averted their minds to sections 141 of the Electoral Act, 2010, as amended, and section 285(13) of the same fourth alteration to the 1999 Constitution, as amended, which they are relying on.”
Mr Ozekhome further noted that ‘these antagonists” did not take cognisance of a subsisting Court of Appeal decision in favour of Mr Jonathan when was similarly challenged for supposed ineligibility before the 2015 presidential election.
“The section 137(3) being relied upon by the antagonists was signed into law in 2018, three years after Jonathan had left office. Can he be caught in its web retrospectively?” Mr Ozekhome queried.
“It is clear that those deliberately misinterpreting the clear position of the law may be baying for Jonathan’s blood, possibly as a potential candidate who may subvert the chances of their preferred candidates.”
Despite calls from different quarters for Mr Jonathan to run, Mr Falana said section 137(3) of the Constitution disqualifies the immediate past president from contesting.
Mr Falana argued that if Mr Jonathan wins the election in 2023, he would spend a cumulative period of nine years as president, contravening the Constitution.
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”.
Elected vice president in 2007 alongside late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Mr Jonathan became the president in May 2010 following the death of his principal, completing the latter’s tenure.
He won the 2011 presidential election, but lost his attempt to secure a second term in office in 2015 to Mr Buhari who is now said to favour him as his successor.
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