FORMER presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (
Ezekwesili, a former minister of education, as well as solid minerals, said this while addressing a press conference in Abuja on Monday, the first since she announced that she was quitting the presidential race.
The ACPN, led by its National Chairman, Abdul-Ganiyu Galadima, who was also Ezekwesili’s running mate, had lambasted her after she announced her withdrawal from the 2019 presidential election. He said that Ezekwesili wanted to use the campaign to lobby for a ministerial position, and also accused her of embezzling the millions of naira that Nigerians had contributed for her during the campaign.
Reacting to the allegations on Monday, Ezekwesili said those were all false and fabricated claims, adding that she could not have been lobbying for a ministerial position when she had rejected several similar offers from the federal government since she decided to leave public office in 2007.
“One of the more laughable moments of the past week was hearing allegations that my presidential candidacy was a scheme to negotiate for a ministerial role. This is the height of political comedy, I must say,” Ezekwesili said.
“As an official of the government of Nigeria, I took a 90 per cent salary cut in order to serve this great country. I left government with my integrity intact and my name untainted. In all my years in the public, private, or development sector, there has never been any allegation of corruption against me. Not one.
“If I remained incorruptible in government, would it not be senseless and cruel for me to suddenly be the kind of person that would divert funds and donations received from well-meaning Nigerians who believed enough in our vision for the country’s future to contribute financially to my campaign?”
Ezekwesili apologised to her supporters for her error of judgement “that made me run on the platform of the quality of people that ACPN turned out to harbour”.
She explained that she only joined politics after her declaration to run for office in October 2018, and having been approached by the ACPN leadership who begged her to contest on the party’s platform, and having been assured that her personal values and vision for Nigeria were in accordance to the party’s objectives and aspirations of the party, she agreed to run as an ACPN member.
“I knew that along the way I will face tests of my values, but I didn’t expect it so soon and not from the party members who had assured me privately and publicly that they were on the same page with me. In truth, our values were poles apart,” she said.
She added that she owes the ACPN nothing as she had returned her membership card, party flag and other paraphernalia “in order to signpost my complete separation”.
Nevertheless, Ezekwesili insisted that her three-month presidential campaign was a serious one to which she committed all her time, energy and resources, but from which she decided to pull out from in the overall interest of the common good.
She also explained that her joining the presidential race in the first place was partly due to the failure of the first attempt by a group of young presidential aspirants to reach an agreement and present a consensus candidate.
Recall that a group known as the Presidential Aspirants Coming Together (PACT) − comprising Kingsley Moghalu of the Young Progressives Congress (YPP), Omoyele Sowore of the African Action Congress (AAC), and Fela Durotoye of the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN) among other − had invited Ezekwesili to monitor the process that was supposed to lead to the adoption of a consensus candidate. However, the attempt failed after the candidates failed to accept Durotoye’s emergence from the mock election they held.
“The sad saga of PACT was most unfortunate and in turn became a contributory factor to my ultimate decision to enter the Presidential race,” Ezekwesili said.
But, going forward, Ezekwesili said she would rechannel her energy in ensuring that there emerges a coalition candidate from amongst the other candidates running for the presidency asides from the two dominant parties in Nigeria namely: the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
“Since the suspension of my campaign, I have taken actions to reach out to six of the key alternative candidates and sought the involvement of one of our most respected elders in getting them to the place of sacrificial leadership required to ensure a workable consensus from among them,” she said.
“Citizens wish to see them make this sacrifice, and my sincere charge to the alternatives is to do all it takes to form a coalition of the willing with one strong candidate that will bear the mandate of those who seek good governance for Nigeria.”