From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja and Gloria Ikegbule
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has rejected the withdrawal of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) presidential candidate, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, from the February 16 presidential race.
INEC said the 45 days to election deadline for candidates to pull out of the race, as enshrined in the 2015 Electoral Act, has elapsed.
The Commission also said withdrawal of a candidate from election has been spelt out in Part 4, section 35 of the Electoral Act, as amended.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, noted that Ezekwesili should have withdrawn from the race in November.
“It is impossible for any presidential candidate to withdraw from the race now…The deadline for Ezekwesili, or any candidate in that category, to withdraw, or be replaced, has passed,” he said, through his Chief Press Secretary, Rotimi Oyekanmi.
Regardless, the ACPN has endorsed President Muhammadu Buhari as its presidential candidate for the February 16 presidential poll.
Addressing newsmen at a media parley in Abuja, yesterday, the party leadership, comprising national, zonal and states executives, accused Ezekwesili of using the party’s platform and position to negotiate for appointment as Finance minister.
Reading from a statement signed by the four highest ranking national officers, ACPN National Chairman, Gani Galadima, challenged Ezekwesili to render account of the funds she generated during her campaign and warned that the party would not hesitate to take legal action against her if she fails to render account to the party.
They further revealed that when she could not raise the N10 million Expression of Interest and Nomination Form, they party granted her waiver to pay only N100,000.
“…I have been put into confidence by one of her aide, name Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, that, she only wanted to use the ACPN platform to negotiate to be Nigeria’s Finance minister. This, she did not deem fit to inform the party.
“If you would observe, Ezekwesili is the only presidential candidate who was so militant in her campaign without any tangible thing on ground to indicate any seriousness in the prosecution of the campaign. There was no campaign secretariat, billboard or posters or great commitment on the ground to indicate any seriousness.
“It is on this ground that the ACPN is withdrawing support for her presidential candidate and endorsing the second term bid of President Muhammadu Buhari to take Nigeria to the next level,” the party noted.
However, presidential candidate of the Alliance for New Nigeria, Fela Durotoye, has commended Ezekwesili for stirring a coalition movement for the presidential race with her withdrawal.
Said Durotoye: “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 Professor Kingsley Moghalu and, to submit myself to any transparent that will help us arrive at a selection of a consensus candidate from amongst us.
“I have always believed that leadership is service and sacrifice and today (yesterday), I would like to commend Ezekwesili for leading the charge to forming a viable coalition to presenting a consensus candidate for the 2019 presidential election.”
But, Ezekwesili, has described Galadima’s allegation as baseless.
Her media aide, Mr. Uzoma Ubabukoh, said Galadima’s claim, that she was contesting to negotiate to be minister of Finance was “figment of his imagination.
“All these allegations are baseless. The decision to withdraw from the race is in the interest of the nation. It should be the nation first before anything.”
He said it was curious that Galadima, less than three hours after Ezekwesili’s withdrawal, endorsed Buhari and added that the action showed the ACPN chairman had long had a personal agenda and never believed in the idea to disrupt the statusquo in country. Ubabukoh said Ezekwesili would soon address a news conference where she would provide details about her withdrawal from the presidential race.