‘Only Supreme Court Can Determine Jonathan’s Eligibility For 2015 Elections’

PHOTO CREDIT: VANGUARD
PHOTO CREDIT: VANGUARD

Dr Umar Ardo, a political scientist and PDP governorship aspirant in Adamawa State, has examined the ongoing debate over President Goodluck Jonathan’s eligibility for the 2015 presidential elections and declared that although it is unconstitutional, only the Supreme Court can determine otherwise.

In this interview culled from Daily Trust, Ardo speaks on the issue, the agitation for return of power to the North and the effect of the ongoing consultations embarked upon by the five aggrieved northern governors on the chances of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2015.

Excerpts:

The political atmosphere is already charged especially with regard to presidency for which northern groups are divided on whether 2015 should be their turn. Do you think this agitation is okay?
As far as I am concerned there is no big deal about the agitations. This is politics, the game of numbers! Let those who champion the cause of power to return to the North work hard towards it; and let those who want power retained in the South in the hands of President Jonathan work for that cause. At the end of the day those who are in the majority will have their way and those who are in the minority would have had their say. It is as simple as that. So all these agitations for or against are part and parcel of politics – they come very much with the territory. But let each group do less of talking and engage more on working.
What’s your view on the position of some ‘Middle Belt’ agitators in the north like General Lawrence Onoja and the others who insist that Jonathan must have a second term while the north waits till 2019?

Middle Belt within the matrix of Nigeria’s national politics is a political, rather than a geographical expression. It is political term used to distinguish the two distinctively different components of Northern Nigeria: Caliphate-North (including the Sultanate of Borno and others) and Non-caliphate North; in other words, the Muslim-North and the Non-Muslim North respectively. What is usually referred to as the “Core North” represents the Caliphate-North, while the Middle Belt represents the Non-caliphate North.

Since the Non-caliphate North wants President Jonathan to continue in office beyond 2015 on the ground that he is a minority like the ethnic and religious groups of the Middle Belt, it is within their right under the constitution to mobilize and vote for him. Likewise, if the Caliphate-North wants its own to take over from Jonathan in 2015, it is within their right to do same.

But I am surprised that Lawrence Onoja is talking this way.

I remember in the meeting of the Area Unity Forum last year in Yar’adua Centre, Gen. Onoja spoke very passionately for power to return to the North in 2015 and so strongly against Jonathan’s regime. The video clip is still available for all Nigerians to see. For him to now change position so dramatically shows that something is fundamentally wrong with the Nigerian elites. If Onoja typifies our elders and leaders, then may God Almighty help our people.

Those who talk in terms of ethnicity or religion as the basis of their support for President Jonathan are not doing him any good. It has the tendency of alienating other ethnic and religious groups against the President. How then does that help the cause of the PDP and the President, seeing that the alienated groups are by far in the majority?  The President needs the majority, and not the minority, to win his elections. With all due apologies to the Governors Forum, let it be always remembered that elections are won with higher votes, and not with lower votes.

But I want to emphasize one thing here though – ultimately only the Supreme Court can determine whether or not President Jonathan can even contest the 2015 Presidential elections.

You see, as I said some time ago, if the President contests for another term of 4 years in 2015 he would have self-succeeded himself in office as president for a cumulative period of 9 years 23 days. This is beyond the 8 years maximum period prescribed by the constitution and vicariously interpreted by the Supreme Court. Neither the President’s supporters or his opponents, nor even the President himself can determine this matter. Only the Supreme Court can do so; certainly not the pronouncement of a High Court. So, whosoever wants the President to contest that election should do first thing first, i.e. get this matter conclusively resolved by the Supreme Court. And the earlier this is done the better for the President, for the PDP and for his supporters. I am sure all that Nigerians are waiting for is for the President to indicate his intention to re-contest in 2015 and the matter will be taken way up to the Supreme Court for determination. Therefore, it is better done by the President himself or his party in good time than by the opposition. This way, things will be certain and clear, and strategic plans can be drawn. But as of now, it is uncertain where things are headed; and not even the best planner can plan on uncertainty. To know clearly where one is headed is always more important than how fast one is going.

Do you see the activities of the G-5 PDP governors as posing any threat to the PDP in 2015?
No, I don’t. The 5 governors are those of Adamawa, Jigawa, Niger, Kano and Sokoto states. With the exception of Adamawa all these states did not vote PDP in the 2011 general elections.

Even in Adamawa it was not because of Governor Nyako that President Jonathan won with the slight margin that he did. So if the same scenario plays out again in 2015, the same results would be counted. Aside from the primaries in the nomination of the PDP’s presidential candidate, the governors have no much electoral value for the PDP in the general presidential election because they have very limited influence over the electoral behavior of the electorate in their states.

However, the party needs to win other seats than the presidency alone, and here some of the governors can be of serious threat to the party’s electoral fortune.  To this extent the party needs them – but certainly not on the presidential election.

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