Plot to extend Jonathan's tenure emerges

THE SUN Newspaper- Ola Agbaje

As the debate over whether or not President Goodluck Jonathan should contest 2011 presidential election rages, groups spearheading a possible tenure elongation have emerged.

Daily Sun’s impeccable source close to the newly emerged strategists contended that the new move for tenure elongation was informed by the inadequate time to complete the ongoing fundamental reforms in the polity.

However, notable lawyers who spoke on the matter, described such moves as absolutely impossible, while noting that nothing stops the president from seeking fresh mandate from the electorate.
According to investigations, the latest move for a possible tenure elongation between six months to two years akin to 2006 attempt by ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo to elongate his tenure was being pushed by groups that might be working without the knowledge of the president.

Specifically, the proposed agenda, if successful, would benefit all elected public office holders in the country. The agenda has both Plan A and B with the first option guaranteeing a three-year-tenure for the president in view of the unspent one year left in the late President Umaru Yar’Adua tenure.

The source disclosed that the move was being predicated on the need to enable them time to amend provisions of the constitution to bring them in line with the proposed electoral reforms and to give the National Assembly enough time to fashion out a new electoral law, which would accommodate the reconstitution of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The Plan B would be in form of six months lifeline for the president beyond 2011. This would be anchored on constitutional provisions which permits such extension of time during emergency situations and war.

However, renowned constitutional lawyer, Fred Agbaje, faulted such arrangement, describing it as amounting to constitutional heresy.
“In spite of the elaborate nature of the ongoing programmes on reform, it is impossible to extend the tenure of the president and all the elected public office holders because that is constitutionally heretical.

“The constitution has stipulated a four-year tenure for both the present president and late president which would terminate in 2011. Therefore, there is nothing anybody can do to change this. All he can do is to take one or two critical policies of the Federal Government and execute them to the letter so that Nigerians can call on him to get a fresh mandate,” he said.
Law lecturer and expert on constitutionalism, Dr. Joel Anwo, of the Lagos State University (LASU) pointedly described any such attempt as an exercise in futility.
“It is not possible to extend their tenure under the constitution. Even if the National Assembly eventually passes the amendment of the constitution for a longer tenure of office, the present elected public office holders cannot benefit because the law cannot be made to apply retroactively. It is impossible.

“Their contract with the electorate is for four years and that is constitutionally sacrosanct. However, President Goodluck Jonathan has every right to contest in 2011 and the purported zoning arrangement in Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) cannot and should not be an impediment because it is not our Constitution.

“It is even in the best interest of the country for somebody from South-South geopolitical zone to rule since it is on record that for the past 50 years, nobody from that region has ever ruled the nation in spite of the fact that that is where the wealth of the nation is coming from,” he stated.


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