Ahead of the 2023 general elections, the Center for Reforms and Public Advocacy (CRPA), has said that under the new Electoral Act 2022, running mates nominated by presidential and governorship candidates of various political parties are not subject to withdrawal or substitution.
Both presidential candidates of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, submitted placeholders with the hope to substitute their running mates later.
But in a statement released Saturday in Abuja by the Executive Director of the Centre, Ifeanyi Okechukwu, he said the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the Electoral Act, 2022 make clear provisions on the yardstick for withdrawal and substitution of candidates, adding that the provisions as contained in Sections 28 and 84 of the amended Electoral Act 2022, relate to only the candidate – presidential and gubernatorial – and not their running mates.
According to the statement, substitution of candidates by political parties becomes possible in cases of withdrawal or death of candidates and these are presidential, gubernatorial, Senate, House of Representatives and State Assembly candidates, who were nominated by political parties through valid primaries in accordance with Section 29 and 84.
“Section 33 of the Electoral Act says “A political party shall not be allowed to change or substitute its candidate whose name has been submitted under section 29 of this Act, except in the case of death or withdrawal by the candidate: ‘Provided that in the case of such withdrawal or death of a candidate, the political party affected shall, within 14 days of the occurrence of the event, hold a fresh primary election to produce and submit a fresh candidate to the Commission for the election concerned’; and to conform with section 33, section 29 must be adhered to, to ascertain categories of candidates captured.
“Section 29 in subsection (1) says ‘every political party shall, not later than 180 days before the date appointed for a general election under this Act, submit to the Commission, in the prescribed Forms, the list of the candidates the party proposes to sponsor at the elections, who must have emerged from valid primaries conducted by the political party.’
“So, it is no more business as usual, the current electoral law is very stringent in many areas especially methods of political parties’ primaries, who are delegates, how withdrawal is done, how substitution is done and transmission of results, among others.
“The current and subsisting electoral law does not capture a scenario that makes possible a substitution of associate candidates or running mates either by account of voluntary withdrawal or death. Subsequently, any substitution of running mates nominated by presidential and gubernatorial candidates comes flat in the face of the law.
“While this might not have been a deliberate oversight, it must be accepted that the law is sacrosanct and nothing can be added or removed from it unless through amendment of sections 31 and 33 to make provision for that in the future.
“Until then, in accordance with section 31 which says “A candidate may withdraw his or her candidature by notice in writing signed by him and delivered personally by the candidate to the political party that nominated him for the election and the political party shall convey such withdrawal to the Commission not later than 90 days to the election” and section 33, only candidates who were nominated through valid primaries by political parties and whose names were submitted in accordance with section 29 can withdraw and be substituted under the law, not running mates that were not nominated through any primaries but by presidential and gubernatorial candidates.”
While commending the electoral umpire for the latest of the activity by the commission in ensuring that the 2023 elections meet with the requirements of the law as established by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Electoral Act 2022, as amended, the group, however, expressed “concern about the likelihood of infractions that are already being cooked by some political parties as it relates to the issue of replacement of their associate candidates or running mates in the presidential election.
“Many lawyers, legislative experts and even INEC have made it clear that what we are having are presidential running mates, which the Constitution and Electoral Act refer to as “associate candidate” and “running mate” and not placeholders.”
The statement urged cautioned the INEC on “the catch-word of placeholders as being bandied by some political parties is not known to the law and that the law does not give a room for a substitution of running mates in the 2023 election guidelines.
“We also wish to impress upon political parties that they must familiarize themselves with the relevant aspects of the new electoral law and avoid actions that are capable of causing infractions.”