The presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, Mrs Obiageli Ezekwesili, on Thursday announced her withdrawal from the presidential race.
But no sooner had Ezekwesili made the announcement than the Independent National Election Commission declared its rejection of her withdrawal.
The ACPN presidential candidate had through a statement issued on Thursday morning by the spokesperson for the Obiageli Ezekwesili Presidential Campaign Organisation, Ozioma Ubabukoh, said she took the decision to withdraw after “extensive discussion with Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora.”
The statement quotes her as saying, “This decision followed extensive consultations with leaders from various walks of life across the country over the past few days. I deem it necessary for me to focus on helping to build a veritable coalition to ensure a viable alternative to the #APCPDP in the forthcoming elections.
“It is my ardent belief that this broad coalition for a viable alternative has now become more than ever before, an urgent mission for and on behalf of Nigerian citizens. I have therefore chosen to lead the way in demonstrating the much-needed patriotic sacrifice for our national revival and redirection.
“I wish to state that over the past three months, I have been in private, but extended talks with other candidates to birth a coalition that would allow Nigerians to exercise their choice without feeling helplessly encumbered by the evil twins of #APCPDP.”
She adds, “While the deliberations continued, I never hesitated for a moment in my willingness and determination to sacrifice my candidacy in order to facilitate the emergence of the envisaged strong and viable alternative that Nigerians could identify with in our collective search for a new beginning.
“My commitment to this promising political recalibration has been consistent and in consonance with my agreement, at the request of candidates under the Presidential Aspirants Coming Together arrangement in 2018, when I consented to supervise the internal selection process as an outside observer passionate about building an alternative force.
“However, despite resistance from the ACPN on these and other issues, I have decided that it is now necessary to show by action and example my determination on this issue by stepping down my candidacy so as to focus squarely on building the coalition to a logical conclusion.”
She underscored the need for change, saying, “From last year, when I joined the presidential race, I made it clear to Nigerians that the country has always had a 20-year cycle of change – 1958, 1979, and 1999. As such, 2019 begins another 20-year cycle, and together with all Nigerians of goodwill, I stand ready to play my part to ensure that we do not miss this golden opportunity to sing a new song. There is no more time to waste. Let’s get to work!”
But the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, said on Thursday that Ezekwesili’s withdrawal from the presidential race violated Section 35 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), which states that a candidate can only be allowed to withdraw not later than 45 days to the election.
He said, “It is impossible for any presidential candidate to withdraw from the race now. According to the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2019 General Elections, the last day for withdrawal by candidates or replacement of withdrawn candidates by political parties was November 17, 2018 for presidential and National Assembly elections.
“Therefore, the deadline for Ezekwesili or any candidate in that category to withdraw or be replaced has passed. Section 35 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) states that a candidate can only be allowed to withdraw not later than 45 days to the election.”
Meanwhile, barely three hours after the withdrawal of Ezekwesili from the presidential race, the National Chairman of the party, who is also her running mate, Alhaji Gani Galadima, on Thursday endorsed the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Galadima had in a statement reportedly issued by the party accused Ezekwesili of using the party’s platform “to negotiate to be Nigeria’s finance minister.”
He had also accused her of running a campaign “without any tangible thing on ground”.
But Mr Ozioma Ubabukoh, a media aide to Ezekwesili, described the allegations against her as unfounded.
Ubabukoh stated, “Those things (allegations) are not true. These are just comments you expect from an angry man; the man (Galadima) is just angry because as a running mate to a personality like that (Ezekwesili), he was actually getting a lot of benefits.
“When he realised that she had gone to build a coalition, what it simply meant was that he could no longer be referred to as a running mate. So, the privileges he enjoyed, he could no longer enjoy them.
“Now, he wants to continue to enjoy them, he has now gone on to endorse Buhari, so that the APC would bring him in. He is a food-is-ready politician.”
On Galadima’s allegation that Ezekwesili intended to use the party’s platform to get a ministerial appointment, the aide said, “When you have been minister of education and minister of solid minerals, what will you be looking for? This woman (Ezekwesili) was a minister 12 years ago.
“So, it will be crazy for someone to say that she was looking for a ministerial position. That is not true.”
I’m ready to sacrifice my ambition too – Fela Durotoye
Meanwhile, the presidential candidate of the Alliance for New Nigeria, Fela Durotoye, has said he is ready to sacrifice his ambition to ensure a coalition emerges in the presidential election.
Durotoye, in a statement on Thursday, commended the sacrifice of former a minister, Oby Ezekwesili, who had earlier announced her withdrawal from the race.
He urged other candidates not to let the opportunity of working together to create history slip by.
He said, “I have always believed that leadership is about service and sacrifice and today, I would like to commend Mrs Oby Ezekwesili for leading the charge to forming a viable coalition to presenting a consensus candidate for the 2019 presidential elections.
“To ensure that an alliance is formed and we present a united front, I am ready to come into any coalition talks with my brothers, Omoyele Sowore and Prof. Kingsley Moghalu, and to submit myself to any transparent process that will help us to arrive at a selection of a consensus candidate from amongst us.
“To be clear, if the process produces any other candidate apart from myself, I am ready to support whoever the consensus candidate is and to do all I can to support the coalition to win the 2019 presidential elections for our generation.”
He added, “Once again, I implore the frontline candidates in our generation; let us come together and seize this historic window of opportunity for our generation to select one of us to go ahead of us so that all of us can come together and speak with one voice at the 2019 General Elections.”
Ezekwesili, Durotoye, Sowore unserious –Fani-Kayode
A former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, has derided the presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, Dr Oby Ezekwesili, over her decision to withdraw from the race.
Fani-Kayode, in a Facebook post on Thursday questioned the seriousness of the presidential contenders.
But the former minister commended the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, for dropping out of a presidential debate that held on Saturday, in which Ezekwesili, Durotoye, and the Young Progressives Party candidate, Prof. Kingsley Moghalu, participated.
He said, “Oby Ezekwesil has finally opted out of a presidential race in which she had little chance of winning even one per cent of the votes.
“It would have been easier for a pregnant Somalian chimpanzee or a four-eyed Zambian frog to be invited to Buckingham Palace for lunch with the Queen than for this so-called presidential aspirant to win one polling booth, let alone one ward or one local government area in the race.”
According to him, the endorsement of the All Progressives Congress’ President Muhammadu Buhari by Ezekwesili’s running mate, Ganiyu Galadima, and her political party three hours after she opted out of the race speaks volumes.
Fani-Kayode added, “She, Fela Durotoye and Omoyele Sowore were clearly spoiler candidates, who were on a malevolent errand of mischief, who were never to be taken seriously and whose hearts secretly lay with the tyrant all along.
“I have no doubt that those who claim that Oby and the other “not too young to run” presidential aspirants, with the possible exception of Moghalu, were just a front for Buhari and a futile attempt to take votes away from Atiku Abubakar and the PDP.
“The wisdom of Atiku refusing to participate in a debate with these unconscionable jokers and desperate pretenders cannot be faulted or questioned. They did not deserve the attention that they so desperately sought and their motives for participating in the presidential race are, to say the least, questionable.”
The former minister lauded Moghalu as the only one of the younger candidates who had anything meaningful to say, but urged him to opt out of the race and throw his weight behind Atiku.
“This is not Moghalu’s time but something tells me that sometime in the distant future he has a date with destiny,” Fani-Kayode added.
BMO mocks Ezekwe-sili’s failed presidential bid
In its reaction, the Buhari Media Organisation has said Ezekwesili owes Nigerians an apology and serious explanation on her real intention for joining a presidential race that she knew she had no capacity and intention to see through.
But it commended her party, the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria for endorsing President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term in office after her withdrawal from the race.
BMO in a statement signed by its Chairman, Niyi Akinsiju, and Secretary, Cassidy Madueke, said, “We are not surprised that she has opted out of the race because it was clearly out of her depth as a pseudo-activist and opportunist without real political clout and pedigree. Just like her former party acknowledged, the short-lived stint she had as a presidential candidate showed she had nothing substantial to offer or contribute to political discourse beyond online rants and thoughtless invectives
“And because some of these invectives are often re-tweeted or liked by some of her 836,000 twitter followers, she began to delude herself as an alternative to a President that has a track record of integrity, consistency in patriotism, honesty and performance to prove his status as a true statesman and leader.”
On ACPN’s decision to adopt President Buhari as a presidential candidate, BMO described it as a realisation of the values represented by the President and his efforts at putting the country firmly on the path to greatness.