The Legality of the Substitution of Candidates by Political Parties in Nigeria

by S.T. Afolabi Esq.

Elections is one of the democratic means adopted by Citizens to elect their representatives. Without fear of contradiction, Political parties present the most credible avenue for citizens to express their aspirations and exercise their Civil and political rights as stipulated in Constitution – Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

In Nigeria, there are basically two stages of Elections Viz: Primary election and General Election. While the former is basically the Internal affairs of the Political parties, the later is for the general citizenry to elect those who have emerged as flag bearers of the various political parties. The Primary election conducted by Political parties may either be by way of Direct, Indirect or Consensus primary elections, which are all geared towards having the party’s flag bearer who will be fielded during the general election.

It is not unusual for political parties to substitute or change the names of their respective flag bearers as they deem fit, in fact the law gives them that opportunity.

At this juncture, it is apposite to allude to the provisions of Section 33 of the Electoral Act, 2022.

However, there are only two (2) grounds upon which the wish of a Political party to change/substitute its candidates can be approved by the Electoral Commission (INEC).

Section 33 of the Electoral Act, 2022 provides that,

“A political party shall not be allowed to change or substitute its candidate whose name has been submitted under section 29 of this Act, except in the case of death or withdrawal by the candidate:”

“Provided that in the case of such withdrawal or death of a candidate, the political party affected shall, within 14 days of the occurrence of the event, hold a fresh primary election to produce and submit a fresh candidate to the Commission for the election concerned.”

The two grounds are basically: Death and Withdrawal. This means that, in the event where a candidate who has been validly nominated and whose name has been submitted to INEC dies, the political party shall submit to the Commission within 14 days, the name of the newly nominated candidate after holding a fresh primary election.

While in the event, the candidate withdraws, such withdrawal has to be done by the candidate (usually in writing to the Political party) notifying the party of his intention to withdraw from the race. Upon receiving such notice, the Political party must ensure it notifies the Commission (INEC) within 14 days of such withdrawal.

Flowing from the above therefore, a Political party is legally entitled to substitute or change its candidates whose names has been submitted to the Commission.

In the circumstance, suffice it to say that, the APC(All Progressives Congress) and LP (Labour Party) has the right to still substitute the names of their respective Vice president aspirants submitted to the Commission, provided they comply with the Provisions of Section 33 of the Electoral Act, 2022.


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