Senior lawyers, yesterday, weighed in on the concept of ‘placeholder’ for vice presidential candidates and backed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in insisting that there is no place in the regulations for an interim holder.
In the last few days, the new phenomenon of proxy or interim running mate crept into the electoral process, when the All Progressives Congress (APC), Labour Party (LP) and the New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP) forwarded the names of their presidential candidates, listed their running mates as ‘placeholder’.
INEC had set June 17 as the deadline for the nomination of vice-presidential candidates following the completion of presidential primaries of political parties. To beat the deadline, some parties submitted names of vice-presidential candidates whom they described as placeholders.
In a chat with The Guardian, yesterday, Femi Falana (SAN) reiterated INEC’s position, stating: “There is nothing like a placeholder in our laws. They have submitted names and that is it. All they can say is that those people may withdraw later, but there is no provision for placeholders in our laws.
“The constitution recognises the fact that when you are submitting the name of your running mate, there is no primary for it. There is no primary for the office of the vice president or the deputy governor. So, the person nominated by the presidential candidate can withdraw at any time. Even a presidential candidate himself can withdraw. There is no fixation about it. Some of the things being said by some lawyers are rubbish.”
Another senior lawyer, professor of Comparative Constitutional Law and Governance at the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies, Abuja, Edoba Omoregie (SAN), said: “There’s no portion of the Electoral Act 2022 that clearly provides for the use of a placeholder, proxy or interim running mate in the nomination process or in submitting the name of the candidate of a political party in presidential or gubernatorial elections.
“However, as a general rule, what the law does not prohibit is permissible. The Electoral Act doesn’t prohibit the interim arrangement of placeholder. It’s noteworthy that by the said interim arrangement, the individual whose name is put forward is expected to ‘step aside’ in due course.
“By section 31 of the Electoral Act, a candidate may withdraw his nomination by a written communication under his own hands. The withdrawal must be communicated to INEC not later than 90 days to the election. The Electoral Act appears not to specifically provide opportunity for withdrawal by a running mate, and invariably for substitution of a running mate after submission of the name.
“Nonetheless, my view is that since the candidate and running mate are running on the same ticket by virtue of the constitutional provisions that require both a presidential and governorship nominee to submit running mates along with their nomination forms, whatever applies to a candidate must be interpreted as applicable to the running mate. Consequently, I believe a running mate may actually be able to withdraw his nomination as a running mate by communicating to the sponsoring political party, which shall in turn communicate to INEC of the withdrawal.
“Section 33 of the Electoral Act permits a political party to substitute its candidate if the candidate withdraws or upon the death of the candidate. However, if the substitution is based on withdrawal by the candidate, the party is required to conduct a fresh primary for nomination of another candidate within 14 days of the withdrawal. There’s no similar provision in the Electoral Act with regard to substitution of a running mate who withdraws. No primary is required to be conducted to pick a running mate. There lies the dilemma!