What happens to Section 137(3) of the 1999 Constitution as amended with the 4th alteration 2018 if former President Goodluck Jonathan runs for president in 2023? Ordinarily, such a bonehead idea and terrible mischief to contemplate doesn’t deserve a waste of time and energy, but this is 2020 Nigeria, where anything goes. That Jonathan is being packaged for presidency in 2023 is a rumour that has refused to go away. I heard this for the first time around February 2020 and it’s now assuming a life of its own, trending on the social media as well as being headlined by such mainstream media as; ThisDay Newspaper and Vanguard.
‘No smoke’ they say ‘is without fire’. The story is that President Buhari’s men are plotting to draft former President Jonathan into the 2023 presidential race as a Trojan horse candidate of the North for the reason that they found him a pliable fellow who can be remote controlled. Why are the President’s men plotting to bring Jonathan back at a time morality and the law are stacked against him? Is it that they care less about the letters of the law? Those in the know insist that Nigeria is a lawless society and that the current regime has shown scant regards for the law. Examples abound where the constitution and the rule of law were rubbished by the regime with the judiciary as willing undertakers. In 2013, I published two opinion articles on this page titled ‘GEJ 2015: No, we can’t’ and ‘GEJ, the North and the Presidency’. In both articles I urged former president Jonathan not to run, not because he then does not have the constitutional right to run but because his running will throw up some weighty moral issues. I asked him to go home because ‘if he runs and wins he would have spent Nine years in office as against the constitutional provision of a maximum eight years of two terms. I reminded him that the moral angle to this couldn’t be wished away.
Faced with similar circumstances in 1968, the United States which presidential system we emulate resolved the issue on the side of morality so as to save her democratic institutions and protect the integrity of the presidency. The only difference in the two scenarios were the actors, location and time, otherwise the Lyndon B Johnson/ John F Kennedy situation were very similar to the Goodluck Jonathan/ Yaradua’s case where both Presidents died in office and their deputies had to serve out their tenure and went ahead to contest for another fresh term of office which they won with very high popular votes.
I had urged the then President Jonathan to invoke the spirit of President Lyndon B. Johnson of the United State and forget the presidency in 2015, and also for the sake of our fragile unity. I had hoped that a patriotic and courageous decision by GEJ not to run would help Nigeria’s social recovery process. I had urged him to endeavour to be contented with leaving a legacy of establishing institutions that would enable government run effectively while devoting full efforts unimpeded by politics to the quest for peace, unity and advancement of democracy in Nigeria. He and the powerful hawks around him jettisoned my counsels. They conveniently argued that there is no morality in politics. And that there was no law precluding him from contesting the 2015 presidential election. If Jonathan had not over stretched his good-luck may be PDP will still be the ruling party in Nigeria and Mr. Buhari wouldn’t have been president. Buhari won the 2015 election largely because Jonathan made that unpopular miscalculation which pitted him against the North and all fair-minded Nigerians. The rest of the story is now history.
Fast forward from 2017 to 2020. The rumor mill is agog with the plot to draft GEJ into the race even when he is constitutionally disqualified.v To curb the nuisance caused by Jonathan’s ill-fated decision to run in 2015, the National Assembly in 2017 amended the 1999 constitution with the 4th Alteration, which was signed into law by President Buhari.
The National Assembly amended the 1999 constitution by inserting section 137 (3), which stated inter alia that ‘ a person who was sworn-in. as president 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 of office’. This amendment was directed at Jonathan and the future of any aspiration similar to his hence my surprise by the trending speculation that President Buhari’ men are behind the plot to bring back Jonathan. Is it that they don’t read or are oblivious of the provisions of the constitution amended by the APC controlled National Assembly and signed into law by president Buhari himself in 2018.
Section 137(3) clearly disqualified Jonathan from any future presidential election hence I suppose the rumor about conscripting is without basis. Elections are formed on the basis of the law. The law disqualifies him. He will not run even if he is interested in running. He should be contented in his retirement as an elder statesman. The rumour mongers and plotters should look for a better past time and save Nigeria their shenanigans and needless distraction, which ostensibly is to ambush the South East so as to disrupt their desire to produce the next President of Nigeria. If there is anyone or some person who still believe in One Nigeria, who still think the present darkness can go away and that Nigeria can recover , pick itself up , dust down and stand all over again , that person should tell those opposed to the South East to give the region a chance to try to salvage this country and put it back on track. The North, South West and South- South who had shared power 99% of the time should reach a decision to end the political injustice against the South East. A South Easterner as President will in the usual character of the Igbo cause good governance, spread prosperity and cause development across the country, which are what Nigeria needs in a post Buhari presidency.
Despite being targeted with state sponsored hostilities and organised resentment , ndi Igbo still believe in an indivisible Nigeria where every man is as good as the other. Whatever was and is our fault as ndi Igbo , I believe individually and collectively we have paid our dues and have given enough of our sweat and blood for the unity of Nigeria. Fifty years is long enough for us as a nation to bring to a final closure the sad events of the civil war, a closure to the pains, sufferings and unjustified resentment of the South Eastern Igbo. By hating the Igbo race , holding her down, stopping her growth and excluding her from political leadership due to unfounded fear and conspiracy , Nigeria is unwittingly impeding her survival and progress for no nation achieves greatness when it refuses to reckon with the indomitable spirit , enterprise and resilience of one of her largest population.
Rather than waste time on an agenda that is morally and constitutionally wrong, the North and the President’s men should devote time to search for that South Easterner with the political and business experience that will command the confidence of the people , a national leader with the time , resources, mentality and energy required to manage the delicate process of building Nigeria back to the ideals of our founding fathers.