By Inibehe Effiong
The concept of a “place holder” that some presidential candidates are resorting to is unknown to the Constitution and the Electoral Act. When a name is submitted to INEC, the name’s bearer automatically and legally becomes the vice-presidential candidate of the party simpliciter.
However, Section 31 of the Electoral Act, 2022 allows for withdrawal of candidacy. Unlike the position under the repealed 2010 Electoral Act where parties were allowed to substitute for “cogent and verifiable” reason, the new Act prohibits substitution; subject to two exceptions.
By Section 33 of the Act, a political party shall not be allowed to change or substitute its candidate except by reason of death or withdrawal. Section 31 requires a candidate seeking to withdraw to do so in writing, and must deliver the withdrawal letter personally to the party.
Where a candidate has properly withdrawn in accordance with the law, the political party is required to inform INEC within 14 days and also conduct fresh primary to produce a fresh candidate and submit the name to INEC.
What is the fate of Tinubu and Peter Obi and their parties?
It is reported in the media that the presidential candidates of the APC and the Labour Party, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Mr. Peter Obi, respectively, have nominated persons as “place holders” to stand-in pending when they’ll nominate“substantive” vice presidential candidates.
This is a risky political arrangement. It is not rooted in law. The individuals so nominated are the vice presidential candidates of the APC and the Labour Party. However, Tinubu and Obi and their parties can substitute them if the above conditions are met by the “place holders”.
The risk with this arrangement is that if the “place holders” subsequently fail or refuse to withdraw as expected or agreed in writing after they’ve been validly nominated, the parties and the presidential candidates will have no choice but to stick with them till the election.
The suggestion that a vice presidential candidate can be substituted at will is erroneous. The position of Vice President is elective, not appointive. As the Supreme Court correctly stated in AGF V. Atiku Abubakar, a VP is the Vice President of the country; not of the party.
It should also be noted that by Section 142 of the 1999 Constitution, a person cannot be validly elected as President except he nominates another candidate as his associate from the same political party to run with him to occupy the office of Vice President if they’re elected.
In summary, a vice presidential candidate is a candidate. See the case of James Faleke V. INEC & Anor (2016). Thus, the conditions for valid withdrawal of candidacy under Sections 31 and 33 of the Electoral Act, 2022 are equally applicable to a vice presidential candidate.
The difference is that the process of substituting a vice presidential candidate upon valid withdrawal does not involve the conduct of a primary election. The reason is that vice presidential candidacy is birthed by and incidental to the nomination of a presidential candidate.
Presidential candidates, political parties, the media and the public shouldn’t trivialize the process of nominating a vice presidential candidate. I understand that parties resorted to this ‘aberration’ to beat the deadline of INEC. As earlier explained, this is not without risk.