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Former World Bank VP quits race for Nigeria’s Presidency

A man walks past a poster of ACPN (Allied Congress Party of Nigeria ) female presidential candidate Oby Ezekwesili in Kaduna, on January 17, 2019. - Oby Ezekwesili, a former Minister of Education and co-founder of the NGO Transparency International, has become a figure in the #BringBackOurGirls movement, created in support of more than 200 high school girls from Chibok, kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014. (Photo by Sodiq Adelakun / AFP)

A former Vice President of the World Bank and ex-minister of education in Nigeria, Obiageli Ezekwesili has stepped down from the country’s presidential race holding in about three weeks. 

Ezekwesili had been wooing voters for the much-awaited February 16 polls but her supporters were shocked to learn early Thursday via a statement to News Central and other media that she had withdrawn from the race.

Spokesperson for the Obiageli Ezekwesili Presidential Campaign Organisation, Ozioma Ubabukoh, in the release quoted the ex-contestant as saying that her decision to withdraw from the race followed extensive discussions with Nigerians at home and the Diaspora.

Ezekwesili said the action is also prompted by an examination of the country’s electoral environment after the live televised presidential debate held last Saturday where she featured.
“This decision 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,” the statement read.

She said “over the past three months, I have been in private, but extended talks with other candidates to birth a coalition that would allow Nigerians to exercise their choice without feeling helplessly encumbered by the evil twins of #APCPDP.”

But a few hours after her statement, the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria or ACPN on whose platform she had been contesting distanced itself from her decision. 

Ezekwesili’s party chairman and vice presidential candidate, Ganiyu Galadima at a briefing told journalists that it was unaware of her withdrawal while accusing her of trading the party’s ticket for a future ministerial slot.

“I have been put into confidence by one of her aide named lyinoluwa Aboyeji that she only wanted to use the platform of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) to negotiate to be Nigeria’s finance minister.”, Galadima said.

Observers see Ezekwesili’s withdrawal from the presidential election as a slap on many Nigerian women who had found solace in her campaign and messages designed to woo young voters.

Her campaign across major Nigerian cities in recent weeks had been devoid of the usual teeming crowds that populate the rallies of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC and major opposition, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. 

The poor donations to her fundraising efforts may have also contributed to her decision to quit as most of her messages were mostly on social media with critics paying little attention to her as an unserious candidate who could not boast of a campaign headquarters. They add that she was swift to issue a statement announcing her withdrawal ahead of her party’s endorsement of the 76-year old incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari. 

The ACPN later endorsed Buhari at its briefing, announced by her running mate in what looked like a flexing of muscles. The presidential election holds on February 16.

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