2015: Cold war in Aso Rock over Jonathan candidacy
The unvoiced intention of President Goodluck Jonathan to contest the 2015 presidential election has torn the nation’s seat of power, Aso Rock, from top to bottom as political gladiators on both sides of the divide are bent on outsmarting one another. A presidency source told our correspondent that there is growing distrust in the Villa between forces sympathetic to a Jonathan 2015 candidacy and those who would not hear that even as a whisper.
A presidency source said some Northern elements in the Villa are already baying for Mr President’s blood in the event that he serves a formal notice that he would run. “The truth is that some Northerners in the cabinet of President Jonathan are spearheading a surreptitious campaign to undermine the president if he decides to run. They are using every tactic to pull the carpet right under the feet of the president. They feel it is the turn of the North come 2015”, the source said.
Former President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in spite of his open condemnation of Jonathan, is believed to be the arrowhead of the pro-Jonathan campaign. He was said to be enjoying the support of Jonathan’s Chief of Staff, Mike Oghiadomhe who is marshaling a troop in the Villa to ensure that the PDP hierarchy buys into the project.
However, they are up against a stiff wall from a growing army of anti-Jonathan 2015 presidency coalition some of whom are holding key positions in the current cabinet of President Jonathan. “The matter, unfortunately, has been reduced to a North-South affair rather than the merit or otherwise of the Jonathan candidacy. By law, Jonathan has a right to contest in 2015. Although at this time, I cannot elaborate on this since the matter is before the court of law with threats from other persons to approach the court should Jonathan insist on contesting. This is a bridge, when we get there we will surely cross it”, the source said.
It would be recalled that during his electioneering days for the 2011 presidential election, President Jonathan categorically said he would do only one term if elected. However, barely one year into his reign as a democratically elected president, there is a grand move to compel the president to swallow his word. Some hawks in the PDP and henchmen in the Presidency are said to be orchestrating the plot. Our source could not confirm if the scheme to compel him to run has the tacit support of the president but he was emphatic that Mr President was not unaware of the scheme. ”The president’s men are behind the plot so he knows but he has never to the best of my knowledge reprimanded them or urged them to continue”, said the source who is very familiar with the workings of the Presidency.
President Goodluck Jonathan had told an Abuja High Court that he has not declared interest in the 2015 presidency, adding that he is currently running his first term of four years as provided by the 1999 Constitution.
He was responding to a suit seeking to stop him from contesting for the 2015 presidential election by a chieftain of his party, Cyracus Njoku. In his affidavit filed by his lawyer, Mr. Are Okeaya-Ineh (SAN), Jonathan stated that he had not indicated or announced anywhere that he would be contesting for the presidential election in 2015.
In the suit pending before Justice Muddier Onion, the plaintiff is seeking to stop Jonathan from contesting the 2015 presidential race on the grounds that he is already serving his second term. The suit was a fall-out of the declaration by the President last month that he is serving his first term. He also said the President cannot swear to an oath thrice in the light of Section 137(1) (b) of the Constitution.
Other respondents are the PDP (second respondent), and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the third respondent.
However, in a 15-paragraph counter-affidavit deposed to by Mr. Osaka Okeaya-Inneh, a legal practitioner in the law firm of Mr Are Okeaya-Inneh (SAN), Jonathan described the suit as frivolous and vexatious, failing to disclose reasonable cause of action.
Mr. Okeaya-Inneh said: “I am a counsel in the law firm of Are Okeaya-Inneh and Co., counsel to the first defendant in this suit, by virtue of which I am conversant with the facts of this case, I have the consent and authority of the first defendant/respondent to depose to this affidavit
“When my law firm was briefed by the first defendant to represent him in this action, I, together with Mr Matthew Aikhionbare (Senior Special Assistant to the President) and Dr. Reuben Abati (Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President) meticulously went through the 11-paragraph affidavit of the plaintiff in support of his originating summons. “The first defendant is currently doing his first term of four years in office as the president of Nigeria as provided by the 1999 Constitution as amended.
‘The first defendant’s status and position are formidable and backed by the 1999 Constitution.
‘The Constitution of Nigeria only makes provisions for a president to contest for not more than two terms of four years each.
‘The Constitution recognizes the Executive President’s tenure of office to be four years. “I was informed by Dr Reuben Abati on April 4, 2012 at about 5.30 pm in his office and I verily believe that the first defendant has not indicated or announced anywhere whether in words or in writing that he will contest for the presidential election to be conducted in 2015.‘The late President Umaru Yar’Adua contested and won the presidential election conducted in 2007 for a one term of four years. He was the president from May 29, 2007 until sometime in May 2010 when he passed on. Yar’Adua’s four years was to end in 2011”, he said.
Jonathan averred further that on May 6, 2010, he was sworn in as the president after the demise of President Yar’Adua, thereby completing Yar’Adua’s 12 months of the four-year tenure. He declared once more that this is the first time he is coming to power as the president of Nigeria through a conducted election wherein he was voted as the presidential candidate of his party, PDP.
The President told the court that the plaintiff did not attach copies of his recent Tax Clearance Certificate from the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and his PDP membership card as proof of who he claims to be. Consequently, he asked the court to discountenance the suit as it was meant to make the court labour in futility because the suit is purely an academic exercise.
The plaintiff, however, through his counsel, Mr. Oscars Ugochukwu, raised two questions for determination by the court. They are: ‘Whether Section 135(2) of the Constitution which specifies a period of four years in Office for the President is only available or applicable to a person elected on the basis of an actual election or includes one in which a person assumes the position of President by operation of law as in the case of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan; and ‘Whether Section 137(1) (b) of the 1999 Constitution which provides that a person shall not be qualified for election to the Office of President if he had been elected to such office at any two previous elections applies to the first defendant who first took an oath of office as substantive President on May 6, 2010 and took a second oath of office as President on May 29, last year’.