Internal wrangling occurred yesterday in the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (APCN) leading to the withdrawal of the party’s presidential candidate, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, from the race. But the party leadership accused her of using the platform to negotiate for ministerial position, threatening to drag her to court if she refused to return campaign donations made to her as its presidential candidate. Ezekwesili became the ACPN presidential candidate last year and had been campaigning since then, including participating in last week’s presidential debate. She announced her withdrawal from the race in a statement yesterday by the spokesperson of her presidential campaign organisation, Ozioma Ubabukoh. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), however, said the withdrawal came late as the period allowed for substitution of candidates had elapsed. Ezekwesili, however, promised that “every money donated to the campaign and funds spent will be accounted for in the coming days.”
The former Education Minister said she was stepping aside from the presidential race to help build a coalition to defeat the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the February 16 election. Ezekwesili said the decision to withdraw from the race followed extensive discussions with Nigerians at home and the Diaspora. This decision, she said, 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,” she said. Although Ezekwesili said she had been in private talks with other candidates over the past three months, to birth a coalition that would allow “Nigerians to exercise their choice without feeling helplessly encumbered by the evil twins of #APCPDP,” she failed to disclose the coalition. According to her, while the deliberations continued,she was determined to sacrifice her candidacy in order to facilitate the emergence of the envisaged strong and viable alternative that Nigerians could identify with in the 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 (PACT) 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. “We have no right to allow citizens give in to despair.
We will #Fight4Naija together and prove to all that the mess, which the political class has now become, should not be allowed to destroy our spirits and nation. “We are also determined to ensure that the message keeps resonating that our beloved country deserves better, and that we will get the best that we deserve.” “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 – 1959, 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!” she demanded. But, APCN said that Ezekwesili only wanted to use the party’s platform to negotiate to be Finance Minister. “I have been put to confidence by one of her aides, Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, that she only wanted to use the ACPN platform to negotiate for appointment as Nigeria’s Minister of Finance.
“Unfortunately, she does not deem it fit to inform the party, whose mandate she is holding. “If you observe, Ezekwesili is the only presidential candidate who has been so militant without tangible thing on ground to indicate seriousness in the prosecution of her campaign,” ACPN National Chairman, Gani Galadima, said. , at a press conference, stated that the party has withdrawn support to Ezekwesili and has adopted the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), President Muhammadu Buhari. The ACPN chairman, who incidentally was vice presidential candidate, alleged that Ezekwesili opened several accounts in the name of the party and her campaign without his knowledge and urged her to return all properties and donation received. ACPN noted that Eze-kwesili had no campaign secretariat, billboards or commitment on ground to indicate her seriousness. Galadima alleged that rather than show commitment, Ezekwesili had been going round the world collecting money on behalf of the party. According to him, “She must return whatever money she collected from people on behalf of the party, because whatever was given to her, belongs to the party.
“And don’t forget that at the end of the day, as a party, we must render account to INEC as this is mandatory and it is in the Electoral Act. “We want to use this medium to tell her that we were aware of what was given to her and that we are not unaware of the various accounts that herself and her personal aide has opened to generate funds. “We are aware that monies were coming to her in droves, but we didn’t know the sources of these funds. “She should please come and render account to us and to come and give back to the party all that belongs to it, because without the party, nobody will give her any fund or donate anything to her.”
Galadima said Ezekwesili admitted that she received about $5,000 and N35 million from local donations. Galadima added that the party may take Ezekwesili to court if she failed to return the monies she collected in its name and all properties in her procession. He, however, said that Ezekwesili’s withdrawal from the presidential race was not a surprise, adding that she did it to save her face.
This, he said, was especially so because she knew the ACPN leadership had resolved to withdraw its support for her presidential aspiration. He added that Ezekwesili only pre-empted the party’s leadership through the withdrawal. He further said that the party’s decision to endorse Buhari’s re-election bid was its plan “B”, haven been disappointed by Ezekwesili. Galadima said the ACPN was especially supporting Buhari because of his agricultural revolution, transparency and accountability in projects implementation. He noted that every fund appropriated for projects by the Buhari-led administration had been judiciously used. Chief Press Secretary to the INEC chairman, Rotimi Oyakanmi, noted that Ezekwesili’s withdrawal from the race has no meaning. “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 17th November, 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.”