In Nigeria, the death of one of the presidential candidates in the upcoming April 21 elections died Thursday, raising the possibility the elections could be postponed. State-run Radio Nigeria announced the death of 76-year-old Adebayo Adefarati of the Alliance for Democracy party without details. Adefarati was the former governor of Ondo State in southwestern Nigeria.
Omar Shittien is director of legal services for Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s campaign. He said Adefarati’s death has thrown Nigeria into a state shock and mourning.
“I reaction is that of shock and an amazement because until few days ago, we heard he was slightly ill and might be hospitalized in Europe. But suddenly this afternoon we got news of his death which has thrown the country into shock and mourning,” he said.
Shittien said Nigerians were awaiting the reaction of the Electoral Commission in terms of the impact of Adefarati’s death on the upcoming April presidential election. But he said the Nigeria’s electoral laws spell out what to do in the event of a candidate’s death.
“From the reading of the Electoral Act, particularly Section 37 of the act, where at the close of nomination and before poll a presidential candidate dies, the electoral commission is compelled to stop the election. But the commission has to confirm the death of the presidential candidate before they proceed to considering another date,” Shittien said.
Late Thursday, the Nigerian Electoral Commission announced there would be no delay in the April election in spite of Adefarati’s death.
Shittien said Vice President Atiku Abubakar, whose campaign has been bogged down by lawsuits, would also like for the April election to take place without delay.
“I do not think the vice president would call for the postponement of the election because by Monday next week, that is the second of April, we expect a decision from the court about whether or not he’s going to contest the election. The court of appeals, that is the court next to the Supreme Court in this country, is going to decide on whether or not the electoral commission was right in disqualifying the vice president from contesting the elections,” Shittien said.
He said according to Nigeria’s elections laws, the commission does not have the power to disqualify a candidate. He said the vice president’s campaign is eagerly awaiting the decision of the court.
Shittien said Adefarati’s Alliance for Democracy party is not as popular as it used to be. But he said the candidate that would most likely benefit from Adefarati’s death would be the one with a strong following from Adefarit’s stronghold in southwestern Nigeria.