Just a few weeks to the upcoming presidential election in Nigeria, the main female candidate in the race has withdrawn her candidacy to help build a coalition to defeat the two main parties – the governing All Progressive Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party.
Oby Ezekwesili of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) announced her decision in a series of posts on Twitter on Thursday morning.
“I have decided to step down from the presidential race and focus on helping to build a Coalition for a viable alternative to the #APCPDP in the 2019 general elections.”
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“This coalition for a viable alternative has now more than ever before become an urgent mission for and on behalf of the citizenry,” she said.
Previously the country’s education minister and vice-president of the World Bank, Ezekwesili is the co-founder of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign which is fighting for the freedom of over 200 girls in Boko Haram captivity since the kidnap of girls from Chibok, northern Nigeria, in 2014.
She declared her intention to run for the office of the president last October, and even though she was not the only woman eyeing the seat, she was believed to be the most outstanding one to give the two male veterans in the race a hard time in February 2019.
When she picked up the presidential ticket of her party, she expressed disappointment at what she described as a retrogression of the country under the current administration.
Calling the politicians leading the country a part of an “evil ruling class”, Ezekwesili’s party believed she will emancipate Nigerians “from the hands of bourgeoisie and hawks masquerading as Messiahs.”
With more than 50 per cent of Nigerians under the age of 30, the 55-year-old’s aim was to appeal to the youth of the country, adding that the people leading the state do not understand the ongoing technological changes in the system.
Analysts said that she was likely to get huge support from women largely due to her role in the #BringBackOurGirls campaign that began after more than 270 girls were kidnapped by the Islamist militant group, Boko Haram from a school in the town of Chibok in 2014.
As many Nigerians are living in poverty, there are fears that the two leading parties may convince people to vote for them with the promise of money and other goodies, as such, Ezekwesili’s party reportedly launched a funding campaign to solicit resources ahead of the vote.
Her withdrawal from the race means incumbent leader, Muhammadu Buhari and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar are the main contenders for the election, scheduled for February 16.
Buhari who is seeking a second term was nominated by his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) while Abubakar, 72, beat a host of others to lead the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The two parties, which have become well-established in the country, have been providing Nigeria with all its presidents since the end of military rule in 1999.
Meanwhile, the spokesperson for Ezekwesili’s Presidential Campaign Organisation, Ozioma Ubabukoh, has expressed gratitude to Nigerians for their support, saying that “every money donated to the campaign and funds spent will be accounted for in the coming days.”
Shockingly, her party has said that it will support Buhari’s re-election bid, according to reports by The Cable.
Nigerians have since expressed mixed reactions to Ezekwesili’s decision to step down from the race. Here are some of the reactions: