Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, last night, cleared the air about the status of his choice running mate, a former National Welfare Secretary of the APC, Kabiru Ibrahim Masari, whom he insisted was duly nominated, but could choose to step down within stipulated time, and would not have breached any known laws, rules or regulations.
Tinubu, who maintained that Masari remained his choice as running mate and also denied sending his name in as a place holder, however, said consultations with President Muhammadu Buhari and other stakeholders of the ruling APC were still ongoing.
This is as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), yesterday, fired warning shots at politicians, saying their new invention – the use of place holder – to sidestep its deadline was not only unknown to law, but alien to democratic practice.
It warned that there were no forms or space in its forms for Place Holders, stating categorically that as far as it was concerned, the parties fielding candidates for next year’s presidential election, have submitted the names of their running mates as at the July 17 deadline as contained in the schedule of activities by the commission.
Responding to comments by INEC’s National Commissioner of Information and Chairman, Voter Education, Festus Okoye, while on ARISE TV, Tinubu’s Media Aide, Tunde Rahman, maintained that Masari was his principal’s choice of vice-presidential candidate for 2023 general election and the situation remained so, despite ongoing consultations.
He said: “Without taking issues with the INEC National Commissioner, I just like to state the situation as it relates to the presidential candidate of the APC, Asíwájú Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
“And it is that Asíwájú Tinubu has duly completed his nomination forms, including giving the particulars of his running mate. He has returned the completed nomination forms to INEC. He even returned the forms two days ahead of schedule.
“I don’t know about a placeholder. This is the coinage of the media. I know he has picked a running mate.”
He, however, reiterated that consultations were still ongoing between President Muhammadu Buhari, Tinubu, his running mate, Masari and the APC national leadership.
Conversely, Rahman hinted that, if Masari, on his own volition, decides to step down as vice presidential candidate within the stipulated time frame given by INEC, no provisions of the constitution and the electoral laws could be viewed to have been observed in the breach.
He said, “I must add, however, that there are ongoing consultations involving President Buhari, the party’s governors and the APC leadership with Asíwájú Tinubu and his running mate. If following these consultations, the running mate decides, for instance, that he wants to stand down in the interest of the party and the country, I think it’s only fair and appropriate to allow him deal with that as long as it is done within the spheres of the electoral law and the timeframe for that, given by INEC.
“I think it’s within the prerogative of the running mate to take his own decision and to say, for instance, that he would like to stand down because he feels doing so will serve the candidate and the party better than he remaining on the ticket. And that this is done in line with the provision of the law and INEC guidelines and timetable. This is the way it is.”
INEC had yesterday said the idea of ‘Place Holder’ was a Nigerian invention, which had no place in the constitution or any legal foothold, adding also that there was no provision for such option in the forms submitted by the parties.
This nonetheless, INEC has commenced a five-day musical concert from yesterday, June 20 to Saturday, June 25, with the sole objective of enhancing and mobilising more registration of voters in the ongoing exercise.
Speaking on the ARISE Television Morning Show, Okoye, hinted at how political parties could substitute its vice-presidential candidates, a process not as easy as it was originally made it seem by the parties.
Some of the presidential candidates had submitted to INEC, what they referred to as space or place holders.
Deadline for all the 18 political parties to submit the names of their presidential candidates and running mates had elapsed on June 17 2022.
Thus, with the use of place holder, it presupposes that such vice-presidential candidates would be substituted later as they were only put in to beat the deadline provided by the Electoral Act.
But, while the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, beat the deadline and submitted the name of Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, as his running mate, the likes of Labour Party (LP) and the APC are yet to pick their running mates.
In a desperate bid to beat deadline, therefore, Tinubu, submitted the name of Masari, while Peter Obi gave INEC the name of his Campaign Director-General, Doyin Okupe.
Okoye, who stated the running mates could only be substituted by writing to the commission, and attaching a sworn affidavit, said, “The law says that as a presidential candidate, you must nominate an associate to run with you and as far as the Independent National Electoral Commission is concerned, the presidential candidates have submitted their associates to run with them in the presidential election.
“As far as we are concerned, there’s no form submitted by the presidential candidates, where they said, ‘we’re submitting this person’s name as a place or space holder’. The issue of space or place holder is a unique Nigerian invention, that has no place in our constitutional and legal framework.
“Politically, parties’ candidates have submitted names of associates to run with them and that is the position of the law as at today and nothing has changed. For there to be a substitution of candidate, the vice-presidential candidate must write to INEC, with a sworn affidavit, stating that he is withdrawing from the race within the time frame provided by the law. That’s the only way there can be a substitution of candidates.”
Okoye also told THISDAY that though the commission was not aware of any court order on extension for registration, INEC would do everything within the law to mobilise more voter registration within the period under the view, adding that the musical mobilisation was to enhance more Nigerians to register between June 25 and June 25 .
“The commission will, towards the end of June, meet to review the voter registration exercise and determine the way forward. As the INEC chairman said during the musical concert in Lagos, the Abuja musical concert is aimed at mobilising all prospective Nigerians, who have come of age to go and register.”
The musical mobilisation concert, Okoye, added, was expected to last five working days.
Daily News Reporters