A Federal High Court in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, will on Friday (today) rule on the eligibility of former President Goodluck Jonathan to contest the presidential election even as The PUNCH learnt on Thursday that the Presidency cabal led by the President’s influential nephew, Mamman Daura, had thrown its weight behind Jonathan.
This is coming at a time the All Progressives Congress granted the former President waiver to contest.
Speaking with one of our correspondents on Thursday evening, one of Jonathan’s aides said, “The road is now fully clear, we give God the glory.”
Another source, in a message sent to our reporter noted, “GEJ has finally been given the waiver, he will contest on Sunday.”
In an origination summons filed by Andy Solomon and Idibiye Abraham, the plaintiffs are seeking an order of the court stating that Jonathan is not affected by the fourth alteration to the constitution barring Vice-Presidents who succeed their principals from serving more than one full term.
In the suit marked FHC/YNG/CS/86/2022 which is before Justice Isa Dashen, the All Progressives Congress, Jonathan and the Independent National Electoral Commission are listed as defendants.
Apparently in a haste to ensure that judgment is delivered before the APC primary which is slated for Sunday, the plaintiffs requested an accelerated hearing via a motion ex parte.
The court granted an accelerated hearing of the suit “having regard to the nature of the suit and the reliefs sought therein.”
The court also directed the respondents to be served with the enrolment order alongside the originating summons and the defendants to file their responses.
It was learnt that after affidavits, counter-affidavits and further affidavits had been filed, Justice Dashen fixed May 27 for judgment.
Jonathan, who was elected as Vice-President alongside the late President Umaru Yar’Adua in 2007, was inaugurated as President in 2010 following the death of Yar’Adua. In 2011, he ran for election and was again inaugurated.
In 2015, while running for another term, the courts ruled that Jonathan was eligible to contest as his first inauguration was done to complete Yar’Adua’s tenure.
However, in 2018, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), signed the fourth alteration of the 1999 Constitution which bars Vice-Presidents who succeed their principals from serving more than one full term.
However, some have argued that the new provision ought not to apply to Jonathan as the law ought not to take a retroactive effect unless it was expressly stated.
Meanwhile, it was learnt on Thursday that the Presidency cabal led by Daura, the President’s influential nephew, is supporting Jonathan to succeed Buhari.
Daura had visited Jonathan’s Abuja home on Wednesday and the two were seen shaking hands in a photo posted by Sahara Reporters.
Sources, however, told The PUNCH that Jonathan had given the condition that he would only join the race if he was endorsed by the President supported through a consensus
The PUNCH had quoted sources within the APC saying that the National Chairman of the APC, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, had visited Jonathan twice in the last one week.
A Fulani group had purchased the N100m Presidential form of the APC for the ex-President. Jonathan had expressed his disapproval over the purchase of the form but he had continued to court the APC.
The PUNCH learnt that should the court give Jonathan the go-ahead to contest coupled with the support he is receiving from the President’s men, Jonathan may be taking part in the Presidential primary of the APC slated for May 30.
It remained unclear as of press time if Jonathan was a member of the APC. However, Section 31.3 of the new APC constitution titled ‘waiver’, reads in part, “Subject to the approval of the National Executive Committee, the National Working Committee may, in special circumstances, grant a waiver to a person seeking a national party office, who is otherwise not qualified under this constitution if, in its opinion, such a waiver is in the best interest of the party.”
Should he be allowed to contest, the former President will be expected to go up against 25 other aspirants including APC stalwart, Bola Tinubu; the immediate past Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo; Governor Dave Umahi, Governor Ben Ayade, Senate President Ahmad Lawan; Governor Badaru Abubakar, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, Senator Ajayi Boroffice and several others.
As of Thursday evening it remained unclear if the President had bought into the Jonathan idea as he had failed to reveal his preferred candidate to the governors.
The party had also failed to hold its Presidential screening four days to the primary.
“Right now, only Buhari and the APC chairman (Adamu) really know what is going on. We are all confused,” said one of the APC Presidential aspirants who asked not to be named.
When contacted, the founder, Tinubu Support Group, Mr. James Faleke, said he was confident of Tinubu’s victory provided that the primary is conducted in a free and fair manner.
Faleke said a fair primary would be a condition for people not to defect. He added that those supporting Jonathan and visiting him were free to do so.
“For us we are still very confident of victory in a free and fair election whether Jonathan is brought in or not, we are confident. It is the right of Jonathan to join our party and to contest. As to whether the party will go back and praise Jonathan is another ball game. We are not afraid. We have our capacity. Let the process be free and fair and fair. That is the only thing that can make this party great.
“What we expect is for our party to follow the Electoral Act. It is their personal right of those visiting him to do,” said Faleke.
In a chat with The PUNCH, political analyst and Convener, Deji Adeyanju, said bringing Jonathan on board was a good strategy for the North to quickly return to power since the former President cannot spend more than a term.
Adeyanju, however, said it was morally wrong for the APC to attempt to sell Jonathan to Nigerians after demonising him for many years. He, therefore, advised the former President to ignore those wooing him.
“It is a good strategy by the North to give the South power for one term. It makes sense politically. However, I believe it is the turn of the South-East in the interest of equity. Constitutionally, Jonathan can still contest. No law should have retroactive effect because it is against the ethics of law
“I believe Jonathan should ignore these people. It is not worth it. What has he forgotten at the Villa? These are the people that campaigned against him. How will APC sell Jonathan to Nigerians?” he asked.