Running Mate, Dummy Mate

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By Onikepo Braithwaite

Nomination of Vice Presidential Candidates

Finally, the two major political parties, APC and PDP (and indeed, the others too), have revealed their Vice Presidential candidates (albeit that some may be ‘dummy candidates’), and we see that making the choices of the Vice Presidential Candidates for either party has been unnecessarily dramatic.

Section 142(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended)(the Constitution) clearly provides that the Presidential candidate nominates his running mate from the same political party. Chapter VIII of the PDP Constitution provides for the nomination of candidates for election into public office; Article 20 of the APC Constitution provides for elections into elective positions and appointments.

In a Channels TV interview last Friday, a PDP member, Mr Kassim Afegbua, stated that when the issue of the Vice Presidential candidate was put to a vote in their party, the nominee who scored the highest number of votes was Governor Nyesom Wike – he allegedly scored 13 votes; Governor Ifeanyi Okowa allegedly scored 3 votes, and was still selected as the Vice Presidential candidate. In short, that in this our own home grown democracy, ‘majority no dey carry vote!’. Though Section 50(10)(b) of the PDP Constitution makes the National Executive Committee through the National Working Committee, the deciding authority for most elective offices, including that of the Vice President, this provision in the PDP Constitution is obviously subject to the Constitution which is supreme, and in this case of the nomination of a Vice Presidential candidate, subject to Section 142(1) of the Constitution. Of course, there are arguments for both sides –  on one side, that the Presidential candidate should be the one to choose the person he feels is best suited to him; on the other side, that it is the political party sponsoring the candidates, and therefore, the popular decision of the party should stand, as this is the essence of democracy.

Then we have APC, which seems to be having a huge problem in nominating a Vice Presidential candidate, possibly because of religion. In the case of APC, the public has been hearing that a “dummy” running mate candidate/place holder was put forward, in order to meet the INEC deadline of June 16, 2022 to present the Party candidates for the various elective positions. Ditto for Peter Obi’s Labour Party.

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“Dummy” Candidate/Place Holder 

To be clear, the Constitution and Electoral Act, do not provide for a dummy candidate or place holder. It is unknown to law. However, as we are all aware, most Nigerian politicians are more adept and astute at sharp practices than good governance, and have found a way to be able to have their way by manipulating the law.

Section 31 of the Electoral Act 2022 (EA) allows a candidate to withdraw his/her nomination in writing, and such withdrawal must be communicated to INEC by the political party not later than 90 days to the election. Section 33 of the EA then allows the political party to submit the name of a fresh substitute candidate within 14 days of the withdrawal of the former candidate by conducting fresh primaries, or in the case of a Vice Presidential candidate or Deputy Governor, by selection. By ensuring that the so-called dummy candidate signs an undated letter of withdrawal in advance, when APC and Labour Party then finally decide on their ‘actual’ Vice Presidential candidates, the provisions of Sections 31 & 33 of the EA can be set in motion as late as about November 25, 2022, 90 days to the Presidential election on February 25, 2023. Were Sections 31 & 33 included in the EA for genuine reasons, or was this indecisiveness/internal party wrangling which may occur in the choice of candidates, also envisaged?

APC Yobe North

But, in the case of the Senatorial seat of Yobe North, it hasn’t quite worked out as smoothly. Was the Senate President so confident that he would be successfully foisted on APC as the party’s flag-bearer, that he just failed or neglected to tie up all loose ends properly? Because had he obtained an advance letter of withdrawal from Mr Machina, the APC sole Senatorial candidate from Yobe North (the seat which the Senate President presently occupies) from the beginning of the process, Senator Lawan would not be in the quandary that he now finds himself in. Having lost out on the Presidential ticket, Mr Machina has refused to relinquish the APC Yobe North Senatorial ticket to Senator Lawan! And, it seems that the powers that be in the APC, are trying to wrestle the ticket forcibly from Mr Machina, so much so that a copy of a Senate Primary Election Report, which listed Senator Ahmad Lawan as the APC Yobe North Senatorial Candidate, has been circulating. This is yet another example of majority not carrying the vote, as Mr Machina claimed to have been the sole candidate and scored 289 votes in the primaries, while Senator Lawan did not participate therein. Surely, these facts should be easily verifiable by INEC, since it monitored the primaries.

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 If not, Senator Lawan and Mr Machina’s matter may be a prime case for pre-election litigation, by virtue of Section 285(14)(a) of the Constitution. See A.P.C. v LERE 2020 1 N.W.L.R. Part 1705 Page 254 at 279 per Rhodes-Vivour J.S.C. But, Mr Machina must file his matter within 14 days of the purported substitution of the Senate President’s name to INEC. See also Section 285(9) of the Constitution and GARBA v APC 2020 2 N.W.L.R. Part 1708 Page 345 at 360. 

If truly, APC has sought to replace Mr Machina’s name with that of Senator Lawan, the substitution has been done crudely and clumsily, not even in accordance to Sections 31 & 33 of the EA. Like I mentioned before, the law requires Mr Machina to withdraw his candidature in writing, his withdrawal must then be communicated by APC to INEC, and a new primary election conducted within 14 days of his withdrawal. Senator Lawan’s name cannot simply be written, to replace that of Mr Machina.

Secondly, the question then arises, if Senator Lawan’s name is inserted onto the list of APC Candidates without due process – how did he emerge as APC Senatorial candidate from the Senatorial primaries held before that of the Presidential Primaries of June 8, win the ticket, hold on to the ticket, and subsequently, being the APC Senatorial candidate for Yobe North, then also run as a Party aspirant for the office of the President as well? To the best of my knowledge, the EA does not permit candidates to run for more than one elective position at a time. Section 30 of the EA provides inter alia that a ‘candidate for an election’ shall be nominated in writing by registered voters in the constituency, the operating word here being “election”, not elections. How can someone have been a nominee simultaneously for two different elective positions, that is Senatorial and Presidential? Can the Senate President eat his cake and have it? I think not. This seems like an unlawful attempt by APC to further perpetuate the Senate President as a Senator, by rubbishing and making a complete mockery of our already heavily tainted democratic process. It is even more disheartening and distasteful when the Chief Law Maker of the country, may be turning out to be the chief law breaker!

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Conclusion 

As the race for 2023 continues, Nigerians watch the unfolding dramas and displays of desperate politicians trying to perpetuate themselves in office by hook or by crook. Meanwhile, governance seems to have ground to a complete halt, while the lot of Nigerians is not improving. No one seems to be concerned about the ASUU Strike which has entered its fourth month, with no end in sight, and the fact that thousands of our children are being denied their constitutionally guaranteed right to education (see Section 18 of the Constitution); or how, on June 5, about 32 villagers (and counting) were allegedly killed in what some call a mysterious land and aerial attack in Kaduna State, yet another scary example of the insecurity Nigeria is facing (see Sections 14(2)(b) of the Constitution). Does governance have to wait until the new administration resumes on May 29, 2023?

Culled: Thisday

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