INEC Shares Thoughts On Running Mates And Placeholders

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In an attempt to beat the June 17 deadline for submission of presidential and vice-presidential candidates, some parties, last week,  submitted names of vice-presidential candidates who they described as “placeholders”. Both the ruling All progressives Congress (APC) and the Labour Party (LP) are amongst those who allegedly named place-holding running mates. It can be recalled that Kabiru Masari, the APC’s Welfare Secretary was named as the running mate to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. Similarly, Doyin Okupe announced that he would be “standing in as the vice-presidential candidate” for Peter Obi, the Labour party standard-bearer.


What INEC Is Saying 

On its part, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has dismissed the concept of “placeholder” for vice-presidential candidates, adding that it “has no place in Nigeria’s constitutional and legal framework.”

The Commissioner for Information and Voter Education of INEC, Festus Okoye said the concept of a placeholder is a unique Nigerian invention, adding that the electoral umpire could only replace a candidate if the person writes a sworn affidavit stating that he is withdrawing from the race within the time frame provided by the law. A former Director of Voter Education and Publicity, INEC, Oluwole Osaze-Uzi, warned that if a candidate (the supposed surrogate) refuses to withdraw, nothing can be done.

In other words, as far as INEC is concerned, the ‘placeholding’ business is a risky one and no form is submitted by the presidential candidates that allows them to submit a person’s name as a place or space holder. 


What This Means

Based on what INEC has said, the presidential candidates have submitted their associates to run with them in the presidential election and changes may not be accepted later. This means that parties should be cautious, as their candidates’ presidential bids could be at risk if the placeholder refuses to withdraw for the substantive vice-presidential candidates or if a proxy running mate, who was not qualified to be vice-president, refuses to withdraw from the race.

For instance, former Borno State governor, Senator Kashim Shettima; Kano State governor, Umar Ganduje; and Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong, are said to be top among those being considered Tinubu’s running mates. But if INEC is to be believed, then Kabiru Masari could very well remain the candidate for the elections, if due process is not followed. If parties are not able to get suitable candidates or get the placeholders to withdraw within the given timeframe, then it means they have to run with these placeholders on their tickets.

What’s Next

As it stands, Bola Tinubu, the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate has said that he has chosen his running mate and knows nothing about any placeholder. In the meantime, some lawyers have contended that the law permits presidential candidates to present surrogate running mates to INEC and replace them with substantive ones later, insisting that placeholders are constitutional, citing Sections 29, 31 and 33 of the Electoral Act 2021 (as amended).

With the party conventions over, Nigerians now know the flagbearers of the political parties and can prepare for them as well as make their forecast for the 2023 election.  The last hurdle of the process has apparently been scaled with candidates naming their running mates — Kabir Masari and Doyin Okupe are to remain in that capacity on an interim basis, pending final decisions. Balancing the geopolitical and religious demands of Nigeria’s electoral system makes the nomination of running mates both a controversial and tricky matter that requires careful consideration, meetings behind closed doors, and intelligent political chess playing. Although things seem a little unclear at the moment, it will be interesting to see all that transpires in the coming weeks.