1999 Constitution And The Handover Date For Office Of The President.

The erstwhile President Goodluck Jonathan voluntarily offered to relinquish power to the President-Elect as he then was, Gen. M. Buhari of All Progressive Congress on May 28, 2015 in view of sportsmanship, unfortunately inconsistent with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The APC on the other hand strenuously rejected such a great benevolence sticking to the formal date of May 29, 2015 as specified by the enabling Act and the Constitution.

To the officious bystanders out there, the President and PDP were manifestly inclined to peace having lost out in an election, and prior to the formal announcement of the winner voluntarily conceded defeat to APC and recently too, allegedly offered to hasten inauguration.
On the other hand, APC could, without mincing words, be viewed as a group of ingrates who strategically use any given opportunity to seek relevance under the guise of ‘change’. Of course, it sounds unreasonable for the President-elect and APC to have wilfully discarded such a golden offer of hand-over of power which it ardently put in its best to acquire just a day to the inauguration date. Its rejection of the juicy offer was simply on ground of inconsistency with the Constitution. Impliedly, it portrays a full grasp of governance that power (sovereignty) doesn’t belong to a person and hence cannot be assigned arbitrarily without due process.
Ordinarily, such a rejection is no doubt, deficient of common sense, but in a democracy, amazingly, a desideratum as the offer itself is imperatively an aberration, baseless and unfounded. But why?
Democracy connotes constitutionalism; a government strictly based on the provisions of a written constitution in which deviation of any kind is impermissible. This therefore implies that a constitutional government doesnt usually give cognizance to common sense approach or sentiments except where discretions are permissible.
In the light of this, Section 1 (2)(ibid) explicitly laid down the base upon which government of the country will be formed. It provides that the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall not be governed, nor shall any person or group of persons take control of the Government of Nigeria or any part thereof, except in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.
The Constitution in this vein, established the office of the President with a four-year tenure at first instance subject to renewal if re-elected. Presently, the person occupying the office is to emerge from a political party and paired with a running mate who on inauguration becomes the Vice-President, and exclusivelysucceeds the President within the years of the administration where a necessity arises except where the office of the Vice-President is already vacant or both are removed from office simultaneously in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.
Section 135 (1)(ibid) provides… a person shall hold the office of President until:-
(a)  when his successor in office takes the oath of that office;
(b)  he dies whilst holding such office; or
(c)  the date when his resignation from office takes effect; or
(d) he otherwise ceases to hold office in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.
In view of this, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, the Vice-President as he then was, took Oath of Allegiance and Oath of office as President/Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation succeeding President Umaru Musa Yardua who passed on in office on Thursday May 6, 2010 in completion of his administration billed to end May 29, 2011.
Section 135 (2)(a)(b)(ibid.) provides that the President shall vacate his office at the expiration of a period of four years commencing from the date when he took the Oath of Allegiance and Oath of office.
Jonathan upon completing the tenure of Late President Umaru Yarardua contested the 2011 presidential election as the candidate of PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) along with other political parties, and was overwhelmingly elected, and accordingly took Oath of Allegiance and Oath of office on 29thMay, 2011 as the President/Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation. By implication, President Jonathan could voluntarily or otherwise only legally cease to hold office as the President/Commander-in-chief within the ambit of Section 135(1) above, and hand over power to a successor.
However, the crux of the matter here centres on whom the hammer of successorship will legally fall on in a situation wherethe President by mission or omission decides to throw in the towelprior to May 29, 2015. This is however relative as two options apply. First, as noted in Section 135(2) above, a President can only vacate his office at the completion of four years or secondly, in a situation any of the factors envisaged under subsection (1) of Section 135 (ibid.)
Interestingly, the above two options albeit of the same status and effect, however, explicitly differ in procedure. A salient distinction is that in the former, a President-elect cannot be sworn-in without the Vice-President-elect unlike the later. The former is also analogous to the present situation in Nigeria with a four-year lifespanin which power is transferred based on the outcome of electionwhich usually signifies the inception of a new republic, and therefore only transfers power to the President-elect as declared by the electoral body in the presidential election. Inevitably,the handover takes effect on the last day of the incumbent government in accordance to the Constitution, and not any other day, otherwise, a defective title is assigned.
On the later, Section 146(1)(ibid) succinctly and exclusively empowers the Vice-President to succeed the President within the life of the administration/tenure, thus: the Vice-President shall hold the office of the President if the office becomes vacant by reason of death or resignation, impeachment, permanent incapacity or the removal of the President from office for any other reason in accordance with section 143 of this Constitutionexcept where the office of the Vice-President is also vacant.
In such circumstance, Section 146(2) provides the President of the Senate shall hold the office of the President for a period of not more than three months, during which there shall be election of a new President, who shall hold office for the unexpired terms of office of the last holder of the office. Suffice to say that until the expiration of this administration which terminates on May 29, 2015, no person outside the officials of the incumbent government mentioned above, impliedly of the same political party, PDP can successfully be sworn-in as successor of President Goodluck Jonathan. Anything outside this is tantamount to coup d’état against the 1999 Constitution.
No doubt, Jonathan had the constitutional right to voluntarily give up the sovereignty domiciled in him prior to May 29, 2015 by either resignation or impeachment but strictly to his Vice-President as a successor, and absolutely not to the President-elect from another party based on the newly conducted election.
The APC-governments contract by virtue of the popular mandate in the presidential election on March 28, 2015 could only kick-start on May 29. Its a sacred mandate from the great people of Nigeria as laid down by the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act, and cannot therefore be reduced to a presidential gift from outgoing to the incoming President for any reason whatsoever.
Consequently, the May 29, handover date signalling the expiration of the presidential administration and inauguration of a new government is, at the moment, sacrosanct, and therefore doesnt come under the discretion of anyone, be it political or magnanimously.
May Friday 29, 2015 was epoch-making particularly in Nigeria and Africa in general. A day our nascent democracy takes a new dimension progressively as it is among the developed nations. Indeed, gone are the days a leader sits insensitively tight in office with no sense of accountability but absolute confidence on the power of incumbency. The date is special to the majority of Nigerians as a day set apart by statute for Nigeria to sign-up with the realities of dividends of democracy.

Published By: EDITOR

CARL UMEGBORO is a prolific writer, public affairs analyst and an Associate, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (United Kingdom). He holds a Bachelor of Laws degree (LLB Hons) and a renowned columnist in all national newspapers in Nigeria, Africa Press Reviews, TheWorldNEWS and numerous foreign media including Park Chester Times, New York, USA. Umegboro is a regular guest-analyst to many TV and radio programme on crucial national issues. To send your opinions, articles and reports to the Admin, contact: +234 (0) 802 318 4542, +234 (0) 705 710 1974, +234 (0) 817 318 4542. Email: carl@carlumegboro.com, umegborocarl@gmail.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *