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INEC to Grant Peter Obi, Others Power to Substitute Placeholder Running Mates



The presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi and his All Progressives Congress (APC) counterpart, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu can withdraw the candidates they earlier penciled down as their running mates in order to beat the INEC deadline a fortnight ago.
Reason, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), on Monday gave a green light for substitution of the placeholder by the presidential candidates. But there is a caveat – the withdrawal must be made within the window provided by the INEC for the substitution of candidates by political parties.

Mike Igini, Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Akwa Ibom State, stated this when he appeared as the guest of Arise Television breakfast programme, The Morning show, on Monday.

According to him, even though the expression of placeholder could be new in Nigeria, it was not strange in the US, where the country borrowed its presidential system from.

Hear him: “As part of out continuous efforts to give meaning and purpose to the ballots as the best means to the expression of the will of the people in a democracy – I sit here like all my colleagues across the country, given the statutory power that enjoins all of us to provide civic and voters education, but more importantly to educate Nigerians on sound knowledge and democratic processes.

“We’re just a people that rather than focus on weightier issues that will define the polity, we’re engaged in very sterile debate on placeholding. On the question of the presidential candidate is a matter settled by the constitution. The candidates have met the requirement of the constitution by submitting the names of their running mates on the last day, which is June 17.

“Having done so, perhaps you have questions about the choice you’ve made and want to label it as a placeholder or whatever you might label it that’s entirely a different thing. What is important is that all the candidates have met the requirement.

“All those who said the now, placeholder cannot be found in the constitution or the electoral act are fully correct, because they have done the right thing. But because we’re not in conflict with practices around the world, what people do no realise is that in America, there is the practice of placeholding. A placeholder is a situation where somebody is appointed to occupy a position temporarily, with the understanding that such a person will not contest that office as of right.

“I’m not aware that when the parties uploaded the names of their running mates, they wrote a letter to the commission that we’re uploading it as a placeholder. No such letters was written. So, the labelling is a different thing altogether. That’s why I say, why this argument?”

Igini also dismissed the arguments that the candidates nominated by the parties could go rogue and decide not to give up the position, saying they had no powers to do so since they did not participate in the primaries like the candidates that nominated them, urging Nigerians to study the electoral act properly.

His words: “The fact that under the law, once you have emerged from the primaries, you’re in charge. So, as to the question people are raising is can the presidential candidates make a change? The answer is yes! This is because a running mate does not emerge from the primary process. It is at the discretion of a presidential candidate.

“The constitution is clear on that. Can they make a change? Within the window, section 31 is inapplicable, because a running mate is not the product of a primary. The question is can they make a change? The answer is yes. All we need to do is go back to the oracle – the constitution. The constitution is the uncommanded commander. The constitution says, nominate from your party the person that will run with you. Now, can he change? You can answer that question. Section 31 is not applicable.

“The law says a person who has the power to appoint also has the power to withdraw. Except there are conditions attached to the exercise of the power to appoint, under the interpretation act of appointment, it’s there that once you have the powers to appoint, inherent to that power, is that you have the power, within the INEC framework to withdraw and that is the 15th of July.

“So, for today, I think that the debate is unnecessary. To close on that is the example I gave about the US – when Ted Kennedy died, when John Kerry resigned to take appointment as Secretary of State, when McCain died, all the governors of the respective states appointed a placeholder.

“That was the practice in America. As for what the presidential candidates did, they’ve acted within the letters and spirit of the constitution and within the time allowable under INEC regulation, they have powers to withdraw.”

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