- INEC rejects Ezekwesili’s withdrawal from race
Onyebuchi Ezigbo, Alex Enumah and Adebayo Akinwale in Abuja
The Court of Appeal in Abuja Thursday returned former Cross River State Governor, Donald Duke, as the presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
This came as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) rejected the withdrawal of the presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, from the February 16 election.
The three-man panel of the appellate court in a judgment delivered on the appeal filed by Duke reversed the judgment of an Abuja High Court, which had declared Prof. Jerry Gana as the party’s candidate.
Duke had emerged the winner at the SDP presidential primaries held on October 6, 2018, where he secured 812 votes to Gana’s 611 votes.
But, Gana, citing breach of the SDP constitution, had approached the trial court seeking to void the election of Duke.
In his ruling, the trial judge, Justice Baba Hussein-Yusuf of the FCT High Court had held that the emergence of the former Cross River State governor, as SDP’s presidential candidate violated the zoning and rotation formula provided in section 15(3) of the party’s constitution.
He subsequently recognised Gana as the authentic candidate of the SDP and accordingly, ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to replace the name of Duke with Gana as the SDP flagbearer in the February 16, presidential election.
Not satisfied with the judgment of the trial court, Duke, had approached the Court of Appeal, seeking to upturn the judgment of the trial court.
But the three-man panel of the appellate court, led by Justice Abdul Aboki, in a unanimous judgment, held that the amended constitution of the party which Gana relied on was not ratified as at the time the primaries that produced Duke was conducted.
He also held that any party constitution that allows for rotation and zoning is against the Nigerian constitution, and will disenfranchise citizens who have the right to vote and be voted for.
The court thereby held that the appeal has merit and it was allowed.
The court in the judgment ordered INEC to immediately recognise Duke as the authentic candidate of the SDP in the February 16 presidential election.
It also awarded a cost of N500,000 against Gana in favour of Duke, the SDP and the National Chairman of the party.
INEC Rejects Ezekwesili’s Withdrawal from Presidential Race
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has rejected the withdrawal of the presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, from the February 16, 2019 presidential election.
Ezekwesili, Thursday revealed that she was stepping aside from the presidential race to help build a coalition to defeat the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
But ACPN reacted swiftly yesterday, saying it no longer recognises the former minister as its candidate or shares the same aspiration with Ezekwesili, and urged her to account for donations towards the party’s aborted presidential race.
In a statement issued by the spokesperson of her Presidential Campaign Organisation, Mr. Ozioma Ubabukoh, Ezekwesili was quoted as saying that her decision to withdraw from the race followed extensive discussions with Nigerians at home and the Diaspora.
According to her, the action was also prompted by an examination of the country’s electoral environment sequel to the 2019 presidential debate of Saturday, January 19, 2019.
Meanwhile, the Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, said that it was impossible for any presidential candidate to withdraw now.
“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,’’ INEC stated.
“Therefore, the deadline for Ezekwesili or any candidate in that category to withdraw or be replaced has passed.”
Having parted ways with the party’s presidential candidate, the National Chairman of ACPN, Abdulganiyu Galadima, said it had resolved to endorse the APC presidential candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari.
While addressing a press conference Thursday, Galadima accused Ezekwesili of mismanaging the presidential ticket to achieve her selfish interests.
He said the party was informed by an aide to the former presidential candidate that Ezekwesili withdrew from the race to lobby for the position of Minister of Finance in the incoming government.
Galadima asked Ezekwesili to return all the properties of the party, especially money she had received as donations on behalf of the party, threatening that the party may drag her to court if she fails to render account on the party’s funds in her custody.
“Every fund that was generated during her brief stay in the party is properties of the ACPN, and she should understand that as a political party, ACPN will expect her to render account to the INEC.
“She must return whatever money she collected from people on behalf of the party, because whatever is given to her belongs to the party,’’ Galadima further stated.
On why he and other members of the party decided to endorse President Buhari, Galadima said the administration has not only impacted on the lives of Nigerians through agricultural development but has operated a more transparent contracting system.
The ACPN national chairman described the move by Ezekwesili to withdraw from the presidential race as a pre-emptive one, aimed at evading her imminent suspension by the party.
According to Galadima, who also doubles as the ACPN’s National Chairman, the leadership of the party had already reached a decision to withdraw support for her before she pulled out from the race.
He described Ezekwesili as an unserious candidate, who did not have a campaign secretariat nor posters and bill boards.
“If you observe, Ezekwesili is the only presidential candidate who is so militant in her campaign, without any tangible thing on the ground to indicate any seriousness in the prosecution of her campaign. No campaign secretariat, billboards or great commitment on the ground to indicate any seriousness,” he said.
At the press conference yesterday with Galadima, were members of the national executive of ACPN, including the Deputy National Chairman (North) who doubles as the Director General of Ezekwesili Presidential Campaigns, Alhaji Ibrahim Maikasu Goronyo.
Meanwhile, Ezekwesili has described the allegation by Galadima as baseless.
Her media aide, Ubabukoh, said Galadima’s claim that she was contesting to negotiate to be Minister of Finance was a figment of his imagination.
He said the candidate’s decision to withdraw from the race was taken to sacrifice her personal interests for the country’s interest.
“All these allegations are a figment of his imagination. They are baseless. The decision to withdraw from the race is in the interest of the nation. It should be the nation first before anything,” Ubabukoh said.
He added that 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 status quo in the country.
Ubabukoh said Ezekwesili would soon address a news conference where she would provide details about her withdrawal from the presidential race.