A Political Scientist, Prof. Femi Otubanjo says the position of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Dr Oby Ezekwesili’s decision to withdraw from the 2019 presidential race is in order.
Otubanjo told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday in Lagos that INEC’s stance would protect the commission from confusion and danger of litigation that might arise during and after the elections.
Ezekwesili, the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) presidential candidate, had on Thursday announced her withdrawal from the race.
She said she was opting out to help in building a coalition that would be an alternative to both the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the coming elections.
Her announcement came weeks to the presidential election scheduled to hold on Feb. 16.
The decision put her at loggerheads with her party, which claimed she had never shown seriousness to her campaign for presidency and only preempted them by her withdrawal.
National Chairman of the party, Ganiyu Oseni Galadima, also Ezekwesili’s running mate, who addressed a media briefing, said the party had decided to endorse President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term bid.
Meanwhile, the INEC, in reaction to Ezekwesili’s withdrawal, said it was too late for any presidential candidate to withdraw from the race as a candidate could only withdraw or be replaced not later than 45 days before the presidential election.
The Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi, said this when asked for the commission’s reaction to the development.
Otubanjo, commenting on the development, said that altering the ballot papers which should have been ready by now might cause confusion.
”INEC is already dealing with a lot of problems handling over 90 parties which are supposed to be on the ballot, and I am sure that the ballot papers are ready by now.
”To tamper with the ballot papers may cause confusion.
”More importantly, INEC has to protect itself from the danger of litigation in case a candidate says he or she is withdrawing and the party is insisting they are still in the race.
”If you do not make provision for that party, they will face the danger of making their votes void after massive investments and preparations.
”It is safer that INEC already has that policy that a candidate can withdraw or be replaced not later than 45 days before the presidential election, ” he said.
Otubanjo said Ezekwesili’s withdrawal was inconsequential as she belonged to a ‘fringe’ party that would never win the election.
”Her withdrawal is inconsequential or insignificant because she is a member of one of those that we call fringe parties, who come out even when they know that they cannot win in an election.
”They make enough noise, sometimes for publicity reasons or to draw attention to particular issues.
”Ezekwesili has drawn attention to the idea of good governance and effective leadership. And she has done that well.
”Politics is about large following and resources to drive campaigns. Ezekwesili doesn’t have any of that.
”Nigerian politics is not about social media, it is about heavy networking backed by massive financing. And once you do not have it, you cannot penetrate the many thick forests of Nigerian politics,” Otubanjo said.