The Peoples Democratic Party has dragged the issue of substitution of vice-presidential candidates by the All Progressives Congress and Labour Party to court.
In the originating summons with suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1016/2022, the PDP prayed the court to compel the Independent National Electoral Commission to prevent presidential candidates of the APC, Bola Tinubu; and LP, Peter Obi, from replacing the running mates the initially submitted to the Commission with Senator Kashim Shettima and Senator Datti Baba-Ahmed respectively.
The party is equally asking the court to declare that Tinubu and Obi be disqualified unless they contest alongside their previous running mates – Kabiru Masari and Doyin Okupe respectively.
Those listed as first to seventh respondents in the case are INEC, APC, Tinubu, Masari, Labour Party, Obi and Okupe.
Tinubu had initially nominated Masari as a placeholder in order to beat the June 17 INEC deadline, while Obi nominated his campaign manager, Okupe as his placeholder.
They were given a grace period of about one month by INEC to substitute the placeholders. Within the time given to them, Tinubu subtitled Masari with Shettima, while Obi substituted Okupe with Baba-Ahmed.
The substitution came after Masari and Okupe resigned.
However, the PDP wants the court to determine if by the combined interpretation of Section 142(1) of the constitution, Section 29(1), 31 and 33 of the Electoral Act 2022, and INEC’s timetable, Tinubu and Obi are bound by the submission of Masari and Okupe respectively as their running mates.
The party also asked the court to determine if “by the combined interpretation of Section 142(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Sections 29(1), 31, 33 of the Electoral Act 2022, the first defendant (INEC) can validly accept any change or substitution of the 4th (Masari) and 7th (Okupe) defendants as running mates of the 3rd (APC) and 6th (Labour Party) defendants.”
The PDP is also seeking five reliefs including a declaration that by the combined interpretation of Section 142(1) of the constitution, Section 29(1), 31 and 33 of the Electoral Act 2022 and INEC’s timetable, both Tinubu and Obi must be bound by their submission.
The party asked the court to rule that both Tinubu and Obi will be disqualified the moment they substitute the names of their running mates.
One of the reliefs reads, “A declaration that by the combined interpretation of Section 142(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), Sections 29(1), 31, 33 of the Electoral Act 2022, the 1st defendant’s (INEC’s) election timetable, the 3rd (Tinubu) and 6th (Obi) cannot validly contest the 2023 Presidential election without the 4th (Masari) and 7th (Obi) respondents as their respective running mates.”
The PDP also based its argument on the fact that the term ‘placeholder’ is unknown to Nigerian law.
“The Electoral Act makes no provisions whatsoever for placeholder or temporary running mates. The acts of the 2nd (APC), 3rd (Tinubu), 5th (Labour Party ) and 6th (Obi) defendants in nominating and forwarding the names of the 4th (Masari) and 7th (Okupe) defendants as running mates for the 2023 Presidential elections is valid and subsisting,” the party added.
In a supporting affidavit sworn to by Evelyn Oroh, a litigation secretary in the law firm of Gordy Uche (SAN), it was stated that some of the defendants had stated openly that they were mere placeholders.
“I know that the 3rd (Tinubu) and 6th (Obi) defendants have stated in media interviews and publications that the 4th (Masari) and 7th (Okupe) defendants are not their real running mates but merely holding the place as placeholders for the real running mates,” it stated.