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PDP seeks court order to disqualify Tinubu, Obi for replacing their running mates

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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is asking the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to reject All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu; and Labour Party (LP) candidate, Peter Obi, from replacing their running mates with Kashim Shettima and Datti Baba-Ahmed respectively.

In a suit filed at the Federal High Court in Abuja, the main opposition PDP is seeking the order of the court to bar the electoral body to disqualify both Tinubu and Obi from contesting the forthcoming presidential election unless they contest alongside their previous running mates – Kabiru Masari and Doyin Okupe respectively.

The originating summons with suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1016/2022 is seeking an order barring the INEC from replacing the running mates of Tinubu and Obi.

Those listed as first to seventh respondents in the case are INEC, APC, Tinubu, Masari, Labour Party, Obi and Okupe.

Recall that Tinubu had nominated Masari as a surrogate running mate or placeholder in order to beat the June 17 INEC deadline. Obi had also nominated his campaign manager, Okupe, as an interim running mate. However, INEC gave a grace period of about one month to substitute their names.

After weeks of consultations, Tinubu and Obi nominated Shettima and Baba-Ahmed respectively while Masari and Okupe resigned.

However, the PDP asked 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.

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“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 stated in the suit.

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, 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.

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