When Withdrawal Is Too Late

When Withdrawal Is Too Late

The withdrawal of the presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (APCN), Dr. Obiageli  Ezekwesili has raised dust. MBACHU GODWIN, dissects the  issues

The political atmosphere of the country was Thursday morning heightened when the presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (APCN) and former minister of education,  Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili in the February 16th presidential election shocked Nigerian electorates to announce her withdrawal from the race less than a month to the election.

The sudden withdrawal of Ezekwesili from the race, a candidate who many considered as serious contender to the race, came to many Nigerians as a rude shock.  Ezekwesili’s withdrawal has continued to dominate country’s political space as it generated controversies, knocks, mock as well as commendations by political s.

Announcing her withdrawal from the forth coming election through a press release signed by her spokesman, Ozioma  Ihuhube last Thursday morning, Ezekwesili  said she decided to withdraw  after serious consultation with elders and many stake holders across the country.  Ezekwesili noted that she was withdrawing to form a coalition to defeat the presidential candidates of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC)  Muhammadu Buhar and main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in the  February 16th  presidential election.

Ezekwesili, a co-convener of the famous Bring Back our Girls crusade, also stated that she withdrew to present Nigerians with a better alternative.  She equally tried to rationalise her withdrawal with the events at the presidential debate where the two major presidential candidates were absent at the debate. Some pundits believe that Ezekwesili’s withdrawal may not be unconnected with the choked political atmosphere in the country which according to them was unconducive for her to actualise her dream.

Her withdrawal from the race was however, outrightly rejected  by the nation’s electoral body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), saying that it was unacceptable.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had insisted that Ezekwesili’s withdrawal was an act of illegality and not known to law. According to a press statement by the press secretary to the INEC chairman, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi . “ It is impossible for any presidential candidate to withdraw from the race now. According to the time table and schedule of activities for the 2019 general election  , the last day for withdrawal by candidates or replacement  of withdrawn candidates by political parties was 17th Nov  2018 for presidential and National Assembly election . Nov 17 was the last date for Ezekwesili  or any candidate in that category to withdraw or be replaced has passed”

INEC , therefore insisted that Ezekwesili haven passed the deadline of substitution by parties  according to the electoral act,  is  still a candidate despite her purported withdrawal: Oyekanmi  said “ as far as INEC is concerned , Ezekwesili is still a presidential candidate in the Febuauary 16th election even as her space is still vacant and cannot be replaced”

Some legal luminary opined that in the eyes of the law, Ezekwesili remans a candidate for the 2019 election, according to section 35 of the electoral act which stipulates that one cannot withdraw less than 45 days to the election.

Ezekwesili’s withdrawal, however did not go unchallenged by her political party which gave her the platform to vie for the exalted position. National chairman of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) and vice presidential of the party, Alhaji Ganiyu Galadima in a press conference in Abuja described Ezekwesili’s withdrawal from the race as selfish, thus distancing the party from her decision.

Galadima , who apparently feels enraged and disappointed over Ezekwesili’s action accused her of negotiating a ministerial position with a particular presidential candidate ahead of the election. The party chieftain alleged that millions of Naira has been lodged at the party’s account through her and that she needs to account for how the millions were spent. Galadinma berated Ezekwesili for using the party as a platform to enrich herself. The party in,  which a manner many say is a move to spite Ezekwesili, hurriedly adopted President Muhamaddu  Buhari as its presidential candidate for the election.

Speaking on the development, chairman, Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC) and National Chairman of Progressive Peoples Alliance, Chief Peter Ameh said the inability of Ezekwesilili to fund her election campaign may have forced her to quit the race. According to Ameh, “Ezekwesili lacks the capacity to prosecute such election. She remains the candidates of the party. We are not operating American constitution, as far as the Nigeria constitution and the electoral Act is concerned she remains a candidate because the Nov 17 date line for substitution has expired.”

Meanwhile, the Buhari Media Organisation (BMO) applauded the National Executive Committee of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN)  for adopting Buhari as its presidential candidate for the February election even as it mocked Ezekwesili for her decision to quit the race .

Some Political Watchers, however have expressed the opinion that , Ezekwesili may have  lost confidence in the process of the forth coming election, even as she has consistently called for the resignation of Amina Zakari who was alleged to be related to President Nuhammadu Buhari, from the Commission.

As at press time,  Ezekwesili who appears to have gone underground after announcing her withdrawal last Thursday has not reacted to the sundry allegations of financial impropriety levelled against her by the national chairman of her party .

However , investigation by LEADERSHIP indicates that there was an internal crisis that hitherto  hit  the party over  how funds  that accrued to the party will be disbursed, for which its presidential candidate frowned at.  LEADERSHIP reliably gathered that the refusal of Ezekwesili to agree to such proposal triggered the crisis in the party.

As the controversy over her withdrawal from the presidential race rages with the electoral body maintaining its position that the time for withdrawal of candidates has elapsed, it remains to be seen if the embattled Allied Congress Party of Nigerian erstwhile presidential  candidate will launch her new platform and strategy, or whether she would take a break and return to her aluta days of campaigning to free the remaining abducted girls.