Is Goodluck Jonathan Constitutionally Qualified To Run For The Office Of The President Under The 1999 Constitution? Rejoinder – To Chief Mike Ozekhome San


There is no doubt that by the provisions of the 1999 constitution as amended, the Nigerian President can only spend a maximum of eight years in office. This is why section 137(1) (b) of the 1999 constitution provides that “a person elected to the office of the president at any time for two previous elections shall not be qualified for subsequent election as president”.

Over the years Nigerians have fought Obasanjo to ensure that no person gets a third term. In fact, nobody should be allowed to be president for more than 8 years, and if the likes of Jonathan were to be elected again, they would have ruled the country for more than 8 years, a situation that will go against the clear provisions of the constitution. The intention of the makers of our constitution is that we should not have any person however outstandingly qualified to serve in the office of the President or Governor for more than two terms of 8 years.

In the case of SENATOR RASHIDI LADOJA VS INEC (2007) 12 NWLR (Pt 1047) 119 SC The Supreme Court held that:

   ‘’Neither it nor any other court has the power to extend the period of four years                   prescribed for a governor of a state beyond the terminal date of either 4 years or cumulative period of 8 years.”

This is also in congruence with the case of MARWA VS NYAKO (2012) 6 NWLR (Pt 1296) 199 SC which I hold in high esteem where the Supreme Court described the time fixed by the constitution for doing anything as

 “immutable, fixed, as the rock of Gibraltar which cannot be extended, elongated, expanded, or stretched beyond what it states”

The constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria is the grundnorm, by the provision of section 137(3) of the 1999 constitution as amended the former president is disqualified from contesting the election, the section provides that..

                “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”

The learned silk contended that the amendment of section 137 (3) of the constitution is not retrospective and therefore it does not apply to Jonathan, in my opinion even if the amendment is said not to be retrospective it set forth that under the 1999 constitution a President or Governor cannot spend more than 2 terms of 8 years in office and the supreme court reiterated this in the case of MARWA V NYAKO (supra) that “section 180 (1) and (2) (a) of the 1999 constitution has prescribed a single term of 4 years and if a second term another period of 4 years and not a day longer”. President Jonathan having spent 5 years in office as president is disqualified from contesting the 2023 presidential election. The reason is that if he wins the election he will spend an additional term of 4 years. It means that he would spend a cumulative period of 9 years as president of Nigeria which will be a great violation of section 137 of the constitution which provides a maximum two terms of 8 years.

Similarly, Retrospective laws are affected in some circumstances; these circumstances are laid down as follows.

  • Where the express provisions of the law are to apply retrospectively or where the intention of the draftsmen can be inferred to allow such.
  • In matters of court proceedings as to when, where, or how a matter should go, it will apply. See the case of KUSAMOTU VS APC SC 2019

From the careful looking at section 137(3) CFRN and how it was worded, it appears to one that a retrospective application is intended. The beginning of the said section states “a person who was sworn in” clearly the intention of the draftsmen by employing the plain, clear and unambiguous use of the word “was” rather than “is” has no other connotation than to give said section a retrospective effect.

In the case of OLOFU VS ITODO (2010) 8 NWLR (pt 1225) 545The supreme court held that:

In the interpretation of any statute or instrument, the objective is to ascertain the intention of the legislature that had drawn it”

Beyond the foregoing, it’s a settled principle of law that the cardinal principle for interpreting the provisions of the constitution is that wherein their ordinary meaning, the provisions are clear and unambiguous; effect should be given to them without resorting to any external aid.

In the case of SHOLA VS AJIBOYE (1994) 6 NWLR (pt 252 page 506 per Bello CJN held that:

A broad and liberal spirit should prevail in interpreting the provisions of the constitution”

In BRONIK MOTORS VS WEMA BANK (1983) 14 NSCC 206 at page 240 The supreme court held that:

Any narrow interpretation of the provisions of the constitution will do violence to it and will fail to achieve the goal set by the constitution”

Similarly, In the case of AG OF ONDO STATE VS AG OF THE FEDERATION (2002) 6 S.C PAGE 28  per Uwais CJN (as he then was) said:

Where the words of the legislature are clear, there is no room for applying any of the principles of interpretation which are merely presumptions in cases of ambiguity in the statute”

Lastly, the case of NATIONAL BANK VS WEIDO & ORS (1996) 8 NWLR (pt 465) page 150 Per Ogwuegbu JSC stated that:

A judicial interpretation must avoid judicial legislation by putting words or meanings that are clearly not there”

In conclusion, it’s a cardinal principle of law that the true intention of the draftsmen is only known by the court, we can only argue or predict on what the court would do based on the principles of law.  While it’s the duty of lawyers to predict what the court would do, it’s not a prophesy of what the court will do, but it’s what the courts eventually does that will become the LAW.


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