In the build to the 2023 election in Nigeria, the country has recorded the death of more than one candidate. This is an incident that often leaves the public confused and leads to more speculation on the electoral process.
For instance, the demise of Audu Abubakar, the APC gubernatorial candidate of Kogi State in 2015 generated mixed reactions until the party decided to substitute the dead candidate for another aspirant, Yahaya Bello.
The party had to submit Yahaya Bello as a replacement because he was in second position during the primary election. The decision generated several conversations as many believe, there was no need for substitution; instead, the deputy, James Faleke, should be sworn in while the party nominates another party member as deputy.
Fast forward to 2023, a similar event unfolds in Kwara state with the death of Olawoyin Mogaji, a member of the state house of assembly representing the Ilorin central constituency. On Wednesday, the media reported the death of Abia PDP Guber Candidate, Uche Ikonne.
CDD Election War Room reviews the recently enacted Electoral Act of 2022 which states what happens next, in case of the demise of a candidate or an elected officeholder.
What happens when a candidate dies before election day?
According to section 34 of the 2022 Electoral Act (1): “If after the time for the delivery of nomination paper and before the commencement of the poll, a nominated candidate dies, the Chief National Electoral Commissioner shall, being satisfied of the fact of the death, countermand the poll in which the deceased candidate was to participate and the Commission shall appoint some other convenient date for the election within 14 days.”
This sub-section 1 implies that should a nominated candidate whose name has been submitted to INEC dies before the date of the election, INEC will have to suspend the poll and fix a new date for a fresh election within 14 days of the death of the candidate.
That is if the days to the election are fast approaching and a nominated candidate dies, other elections will go on except that of the deceased candidate (irrespective of the position they are vying for) and within the next 14 days, another primary election (or selection) will be done by the party to nominate another candidate. INEC will then announce a new date for such an election (only).
What happens if a candidate dies on election day?
According to sub-section (3) of section 34 of the 2022 Electoral Act, “if after the commencement of polls and before the announcement of the final result and declaration of a winner, a candidate dies—
(a) the Commission shall, being satisfied of the fact of the death, suspend the election for a period of not more than 21 days; and
(b) in the case of election into a legislative House, the election shall start afresh and the political party whose candidate died may, if it intends to continue to participate in the election, conduct a fresh primary within 14 days of the death of its candidate and submit the name of a new candidate to the Commission to replace the dead candidate: Provided that in the case of presidential or gubernatorial or Federal Capital Territory Area Council election, the running mate shall continue with the election and nominate a new running mate.”
Sub-section 3a and 3b imply that should a nominated candidate die after the commencement of polls and before the final result and declaration of a winner, the Electoral Act, 2022 empowers INEC to suspend the election for a period not more than 21 days.
In this case, there could be two scenarios. The first one is if a legislative seat candidate (The senate, house of representatives, or house of Assembly) dies on the day of the election before the conclusion of the poll, INEC will suspend such an election, allow the party to conduct another primary election and nominate a new candidate within 14 days. INEC will then announce the date for a fresh election for that seat only.
However, the second scenario is if the death were to occur in case of a presidential, gubernatorial, or federal capital territory area council election, the running mate shall continue with the election and nominate a new running mate within 21 days. That is, there would be no need to suspend the election and the only nomination would be to replace the deputy who now attains the post of the Governor or President (elect) within 21 days.
The implication is that if the new electoral act were to have taken effect in 2015 when Audu Abubakar of Kogi died, his running mate, James Faleke would have continued with the election and be sworn in as the Governor instead of the party nominating Yahaya Bello.
What happens if a candidate dies after winning the election but before inauguration?
If a president-elect or governor-elect dies before being sworn in as president, the deputy will continue as president-elect or governor-elect, while a new deputy will be nominated.
For legislative offices, the 2022 Electoral Act is silent on this matter. However, the provision of the constitution remains that if a legislative seat becomes vacant, an election will be conducted 30 days after the vacancy occurs.
Festus Okoye, INEC commissioner for information and voter education, told CDD that if a candidate for a legislative seat dies, a bye-election will be conducted by INEC to fill the position.