Rights activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike Ozekhome, has faulted the stance of another senior lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, over the widely speculated proposed 2023 candidacy of a former President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan.
It was reported that Femi Falana had noted that section 137(3) of the constitution disqualifies Jonathan from contesting.
Falana said Jonathan would spend a cumulative period of nine years as president, if he contests and wins the 2023 presidential election, adding that a person is constitutionally allowed to spend two terms of eight years as president.
But Ozekhome, in a piece made available to our correspondent, noted that it would be “grossly unfair” to deny Jonathan the right to contest 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 2023, in their strange line of argument, are mainly relying on the above section 137(3),” Ozekhome noted.
“They have probably not adverted 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.
“More revealing is that these antagonists are probably not aware of an extant and subsisting Court of Appeal decision where Jonathan was frontally confronted and challenged before the 2015 presidential election, on the same ground of being ineligible to contest the said 2015 election, having allegedly been elected for two previous terms of office.
“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?
“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.
“I do not view issues from such a narrow ad hominem prism and blurred binoculars. It will be grossly unfair, unconstitutional, unconscionable and inequitable to deny Jonathan of the right to contest the 2023 presidential election when our extant laws and appellate court decisions permit him to.
“The question of whether Jonathan really needs to subject his glittering and internationally acclaimed reputation and credentials to the muddy waters of a fresh competition with persons, some of whom were his personal appointees as president, is another matter altogether.
“Only him, and not the present state of the laws in Nigeria, can answer that question and decide his own fate. But, as regards his eligibility to contest, Dr Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan is pre-eminently, constitutionally, morally and legally qualified to contest the 2023 presidential election,” the SAN explained.