The Centre for Reforms and Public Advocacy (CRPA) says the new Electoral Act 2022 prevents political parties from withdrawing running mates.
The CRPA stated this following the submission by some of the political parties of the names of surrogates to the Independent National Electoral Commission while shopping for sellable candidates.
While the All Progressives Congress opted for Masari as a placeholder for Tinubu, Labour Party settles for former presidential spokesperson, Dr Doyin Okupe, for its flagbearer, Peter Obi.
The New Nigeria Peoples Party, on the other hand, settled for the choice of a legal luminary, Ladipo Johnson.
But CRPA in a statement in Abuja on Saturday by its Executive Director, Ifeanyi Okechukwu, noted that political parties fielding placeholders had failed to study the amended Electoral Act 2022.
He said the Electoral Act was clear on provisions for withdrawal and substitution of candidates, warning that Sections 28 and 84 relate to only the candidate – presidential and governorship– and not their running mates.
The CRPA boss stated that substitution of candidates by political parties can only become possible in the case of withdrawal or death of candidates a presidential, governorship, Senatorial, House of Representatives and State Assemblies candidates nominated by parties through valid primaries in accordance with Section 29 and 84.
According to Okechukwu, “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 candidates the party proposes to sponsor at the elections, who must have emerged from valid primaries conducted by the political party.”
The CRPA executive director added that it’s no longer business as usual for parties and their candidates as the current electoral law is stringent in many areas, especially on methods of political parties’ primaries, delegates, how withdrawal is done, how substitution is done and transmission of results, among others.
He said, “The current and subsisting electoral law does not capture a scenario that makes possible 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 governorship 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.
“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 governorship candidates.”
Okechukwu also commended INEC for the latest activity to ensure that the 2023 elections meet the requirements of the law as established by the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act 2022.