Nigeria operates a presidential system of government where the supreme power of a state is held by the people to be exercised by an elected representative called the President. In a democratic state like Nigeria, the essential mechanism needed for orderliness in the process of leadership change and succession is Election.
Thus, Election constitutes an imperative principle for expressing the will of the people and vesting in them the political right to choose who should lead them in a free and fair conduct. However, for there to be a free and fair election in a country, it is of utmost importance to establish a competent, non-partisan and independent electoral body whose responsibility will be to conduct electoral processes. The body saddled with this duty in Nigeria is know as Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Nigeria constitutional requirements for presidential candidates
By virtue of S131 of the Nigeria Constitution, person shall be qualified for election to the office of the President if;
1. He is a citizen of Nigeria by birth;
2. He has attained the age of forty years;
3. He is a member of a political party and is sponsored by that political party; and
4. He has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent.
The Constitutional Provision of Presidential Electoral Process in Nigeria
Election in Nigeria relies on two major legal documents which are the 1999 Constitution as Amended and the Electoral Act 2010. The Nigerian Constitution which is the supreme law of the land has enshrined the conduct of Presidential Election in Nigeria has stated below;
Registration of Voters:
The registration of voters, updating and revision of the register of voters is quite Paramount before the commencement of any election in Nigeria. However, these activities stops not later than 60 days before election. The only person qualified to be registered as a voter is a citizen of Nigeria; one who has attained the age of 18 years; one who is ordinarily resident, works in, originates from the Local Government Area Council or Ward covered by the registration centre etc.
Registration of Political Parties:
A political association that complies with the provisions of the Constitution and the Electoral Act shall be registered as a political party. Provided that such application for registration as a political party is duly submitted to the Commission not later than 6 months before a general election .
Establishment of polling units, ballot boxes and ballot formats:
The electoral commissionhas the duty to establish sufficient number of polling units in each registration area and allot voters to such polling units.Also, the format of the ballot papers must include the symbol adopted by the political party of the presidential candidate and some other important information.
Appointment of Election Date:
An election to the office of President is always held on a date appointed by the Independent National Electoral Commission but this date must not be earlier than sixty days and not later than thirty days before the expiration of the term of office of the last holder of that office.
However, the Constitution went further to state that where in an election to the office of President one of the two or more candidates nominated for the election is the only candidate after the close of nomination, by reason of the disqualification, withdrawal,incapacitation, disappearance or death of the other candidates, the Independent National Electoral Commission shall extend the time for nomination. Also, for the purpose of an election to the office of President, the whole of the Federation shall be regarded as one constituency and every person who is registered to vote at an election of a member of a legislative house shall be entitled to vote at an election to the office of President.
Announcement of Election Result:
In an election to the office of the President, the result is ascertained by counting the votes cast for each candidate and subject to the provisions of sections 133, 134 and 179 of the Constitution, the candidate that receives the highest number of votes shall be declared elected by the appropriate Returning Officer. The returning officer responsible for announcing the result of the presidential election is usually the Chief Electoral Commissionerat the National Collation Centre.
The president in office is expected to vacate the seat for an incumbent president at the expiration of a period of four years commencing from the date, when he took he took the Oath of Allegiance and the oath of office; or when his successor takes the oath of that office, or he dies whilst holding such office; or the date when his resignation from office takes effect; or maybe he otherwise ceases to hold office in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.
Disqualification for Election to the office of the President
A person shall not be qualified for election to the office of President if –
1. Subject to the provisions of section 28 of the Constitution, he has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a country other than Nigeria or, except in such cases as may be prescribed by the National Assembly, he has made a declaration of allegiance to such other country; or
2. He has been elected to such office at any two previous elections; or
3. He is adjudged to be a lunatic or otherwise declared to be of unsound mind;
4. He is under a sentence of death imposed by any competent court of law or tribunal in Nigeria or a sentence of imprisonment or fine for any offence involving dishonesty or fraud (by whatever name called) or for any other offence.
5. Within a period of less than ten years before the date of the election to the office of President he has been convicted and sentenced for an offence involving dishonesty or he has been found guilty of the contravention of the Code of Conduct; or
6. He is an undischarged bankrupt, having been adjudged or otherwise declared bankrupt under any law in force in Nigeria or any other country.
In Nigeria, an election can only be questioned by a petition complaining of an undue election which is to be presented to the competent tribunal or court (Court of Appeal) in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution or of the Electoral Act. However an election petition must be filed within 21 days after the date of the declaration of election result.