The Independent National Electoral Commission has rejected the declaration by Dr Obiageli Ezekwesili, the Presidential Candidate of Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, that she is withdrawing from the February 16 presidential election.
The Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, on Thursday in Abuja said in reaction to Ezekwesili’s declaration that it was late for any candidate to withdraw from the race.
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and Schedule of Activities for the 2019 General Elections, the last day for withdrawal by candidates or replacement of withdrawn candidates by political parties was November 17, 2018 for Presidential and National Assembly Elections.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.”
Ezekwesili on Thursday morning announced her withdrawal from the race.
In a statement issued by the spokesman of her Hope “19 Campaign Organisation, Ozioma Ubabukoh, the candidate explained that she stepped down after due consultations with well-meaning Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora.
Ezekwesili added that she decided to withdraw in order to help to build a coalition to defeat the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party in the election.
According to her, the action is also prompted by an examination of the country’s electoral environment sequel to the 2019 Presidential debate of Saturday, January 19.
Meanwhile, ACPN in a swift reaction accused Ezekwesili of double dealing.
The ACPN National Chairman, Abdulganiyu Galadima, who doubles as the Vice Presidential candidate for the February 16 election at a news conference on Thursday in Abuja, said the party was withdrawing support for Ezekwesili and endorsing President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term bid.
Galadima said: “The reason for calling this news conference is to let the world know about the presidential aspiration of Dr Oby Ezekwesili which in actual fact is not true.
“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.”
Galadima noted that Ezekwesili had no campaign secretariat, billboards or commitment on ground to indicate her seriousness.
He alleged that rather than show commitment, Ezekwesili had been going round the world collecting money on behalf of the party and opening several accounts in the party’s name.
Galadima said the candidate took such action without the consent of the party leadership.
He said Ezekwesili must return whatever money she collected from people on behalf of the party, because whatever was given to her belonged to the party..
Ezekwesili a chartered accountant from Anambra, is a former Minister of Education and a human right activist.
Before now she had been engaged in the Bring Back Our Girls campaign geared toward safe return of kidnapped Chibok school girls.