THE Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it is impossible for any candidate to withdraw from contesting any position in the coming general elections.
The chief press secretary to the INEC chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, said this on Thursday in reaction to the withdrawal of Oby Ezekwesili as the presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN).
Ezekwesili who declared her withdrawal a few hours earlier said she backed off so as to help form a coalition against the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party.
But INEC said it is too late for her to withdraw from the presidential race as indicated in the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2019 general elections.
According to INEC, November 17, 2018, was the last date for withdrawal. “It is impossible for any presidential candidate to withdraw from the race now,” Oyekanmi said.
“The last day for withdrawal by candidates or replacement of withdrawn candidates by political parties was 17th November 2018 for Presidential and National Assembly Elections.”
He said the deadline for Ezekwesili or any candidate in that category to withdraw or be replaced has passed.
Ezekwesili was disowned by her party ACPN, few hours after she announced her withdrawal. The party has pledged its full support for the second term bid of President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress.
But INEC said Ezekwesili’s withdrawal changes nothing as her party and name would still appear on the ballot.
“Her party will appear, her passport will appear and her name will appear. So it doesn’t change anything as far as we are concerned,” INEC chief press secretary said.
INEC supported its stance, quoting Section 35 of the electoral act, which states: “A candidate may withdraw his candidature by notice in writing signed by him and delivered by himself to the political party that nominated him for the election and the political party shall convey such withdrawal to the Commission not later than 45 days to the election.”
When The ICIR contacted Rotimi, the INEC spokesperson to know the penalty against the late withdrawal, 22 days to the election, he reiterated his earlier statement, saying it is impossible for Ezekwesili to withdraw at this time.
Checking through the electoral act of 2010, there is no part that specifies penalty to any presidential candidate that withdraws less than 45 days to the election.