What Happens When a Nigerian Candidate Dies During Elections?

December 8, 2022

It’s impossible to miss the massive buildup to Nigeria’s 2023 general elections — from presidential rallies and town halls to promising manifestos and even renewed friendships and rivalries

Most Nigerians already have a sense of who they’d love to win the elections. But what if they get unlucky and their favourite candidate just happens to transfer to the great beyond before entering office?

This isn’t a far-fetched scenario and has happened before in Nigeria

The story of Audu Abubakar

On November 22, 2015, an All Progressives’ Congress (APC) candidate, Prince Audu Abubakar, died of peptic ulcer just a day before the 2015 Kogi State governorship election. 

Despite his demise, Abubakar won the first round of the election with 240,867 votes even though it was inconclusive and needed a second round. But INEC was confused about what to do about a dead candidate because the Electoral Act didn’t have any clear provisions for that kind of political logjam. Imagine the confusion that must have caused.

Yahaya Bello, who came second behind Abubakar in the APC’s primary elections, eventually inherited Abubakar’s votes and won the supplementary election, but the episode showed why Nigeria had to address the scenario with clear laws.

The recent amendment in the 2022 Electoral Act showed that Nigeria learned a lesson from Prince Audu Abubakar’s story.

What happens if a candidate dies before an election?

According to the Electoral Act, if a nominated candidate should pass on before an election, INEC has to reschedule it and conduct another within 14 days.

What happens if a candidate dies after an election?

If the candidate dies after the elections have begun but the final results have yet to be announced, INEC has to suspend the election for not more than 21 days.

And if you’re wondering what happens after the 21 days, it depends:

For legislative candidates

If a candidate for a state or federal legislative election dies, the candidate’s political party has 14 days to conduct a fresh round of primaries to nominate another candidate for the rescheduled election.

For governorship and presidential candidates

If a candidate for an executive position dies, their running mate becomes the head of the ticket. They simply step up and appoint their own running mate.

With everything said, we wish all the candidates well and certainly don’t look forward to anyone dying next year.

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