The candidates of political parties outside the two main ones – the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) – have said they are ready to engage in discussions that may result in the emergence of a consensus candidate, but such arrangement must be based on merit and transparent.
The talk of forming a coalition candidate bubbled to the top of political discussion on Thursday following the withdrawal of the presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Oby Ezekwesili.
Mrs Ezekwesili, a former World Bank vice president, in a statement announcing her withdrawal from the race said she was stepping down to help build a coalition to defeat the APC and the PDP in the election.
“My commitment to this promising political recalibration has been consistent and in consonance with my agreement, at the request of candidates under the Presidential Aspirants Coming Together (PACT) arrangement in 2018, when I consented to supervise the internal selection process as an outside observer passionate about building an alternative force,” she said.
“However, despite resistance from the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria on these and other issues, I have decided that it is now necessary to show by action and example my determination on this issue by stepping down my candidacy so as to focus squarely on building the coalition to a logical conclusion.”
‘A transparent process’
Reacting to the announcement of her withdrawal and call for the formation of a coalition, Fela Durotoye, the presidential candidate of the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN) said he was open to talks on the formation of a coalition ”as long as the process was transparent.”
“I have always believed that leadership is about service and sacrifice and today, I would like to commend Dr. (Mrs) Oby Ezekwesili @obyezeks for leading the charge to form a viable coalition to presenting a Consensus Candidate for the 2019 Presidential elections,” Mr Durotoye wrote on his Instagram page.
“To ensure that an alliance is formed and we present a united front, I AM READY to come into any coalition talks with my brothers, Omoyele Sowore @yelesho and Prof. Kingsley Moghalu @moghalukingsley and to submit myself to any transparent process that will help us arrive at a selection of a Consensus Candidate from amongst us.
“To be clear, if the process produces any other candidate apart from myself, I AM READY to support whoever the Consensus Candidate is and to do all I can to support the coalition to win the 2019 Presidential elections for our generation.
“Once again, I implore the frontline candidates in our generation. Let us come together and seize this historic window of opportunity for our generation to select one of us to go ahead of us … so that ALL OF US can come together and speak with one voice at the 2019 General Elections. Together, we can do the perceived impossible. Our generation is depending on us. We must not let them down,” he said.
Mr Durotoye, a leadership trainer, was the preferred candidate of PACT before other members of the arrangement pulled out after complaining that the process was not transparent.
Though Kingsley Moghalu, the presidential candidate of the Young Progressives Party (YPP), said he had not been contacted by anyone wanting to discuss the possibility of forming a coalition, he said was ready for such a discussion ”if he was contacted.”
“I became aware this morning of Mrs Ezekwesili’s decision from newspaper reports,” he told PREMIUM TIMES during a telephone interview.
“I commend her for her statesmanship and her leadership in taking this decision. I am of the view that it would be ideal for the alternatives to present one candidate for the presidential elections should that be possible, and I am prepared to play my own part in arriving at such outcome. In fact, I am already doing that.”
When asked if the party was open to talks of form a coalition, Peju Onamusi, the campaign spokesperson of the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress, Omoyele Sowore, told PREMIUM TIMES, that Mr Sowore was not averse to talks of a coalition.
She, however, added that the party would only participate if such discussions were merit-based stating that they will not take part in a process that involves “picking a name from a hat”.
“The AAC presidential candidate has always made it clear that he is open for other candidates and parties to join us in talks for coalitions and doing whatever we can. We have always been open to conversations to form a coalition of sorts,” she said.
“We are open to a coalition but we are open to coalition based on hard merit and hard work. We don’t think Nigeria should be ruled by picking a name out of the hat. That is certainly not how we carried out our campaign and that is not how we would do this going forward.”
She explained that Mr Sowore dropped out of PACT because he felt the arrangement was prematurely conceived.
“All we have said when we opted out of PACT the first time, was that we thought the time was somewhat premature. There had not been primaries, many of the people who were at that table either were not the candidates for their parties or indeed did not have parties at the time.
“We also felt that it made sense for candidates to work. To put their feet on the ground to do whatever they could. It is all very well shouting PACT but you also have to hit the grassroots, you also have to make sure that the people you are talking to actually know your name so that when you sit around the table you will be able to make informed decisions to who will make a more credible leader to emerge for PACT basically,” she explained
Problem with PACT
Meanwhile, Tope Fasua, the presidential candidate of the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP) and a participant of PACT before the arrangement crumbled, said he was going ahead with his campaign despite the call by Mrs Ezekwesili to form a coalition.
Mr Fasua, who was still clearly annoyed by the manner the PACT election was conducted, suggested that Mrs Ezekwesili’s call may be an attempt to ”achieve a certain predetermined goal.”
“I think that there is a lot of chicanery going on and one has to be extremely careful and we have to keep our eyes open,” he told PREMIUM TIMES on Thursday.
He accused Mrs Ezekwesili of not being a fair umpire during the PACT election she moderated and wondered why she decided to run for president ”after supervising a vexed arrangement to form a coalition.”
“She has not contacted me and as far I am concerned, there is no PACT anymore. The people who stayed in PACT till the end, they can as well be discussing with her. But I know the way PACT ended. I left PACT two weeks before they took their decision because they decided not to be transparent about it.
“I was surprised to read on Instagram that Fela was talking about transparency. I hope he admits that PACT was not transparent. Basically, there is no contact, there is no PACT and my issue with her is that I wonder why she is running because, as an umpire in PACT, she was brought into that PACT by Fela himself and they tried to use (her) that to knock off Kingsley who for some reasons stood with that thing till the end when it was obvious it was not transparent.
”They did not want it open to the public. I said we should have a public debate and even at the end, the public should be the one voting for who they wanted out of the lot. They said no and I left,” Mr Fasua, an economist, said.
He added that Mrs Ezekwesili campaign team contacted him just before the deadline for submission of presidential candidate names and tried to get him to relinquish his ambition ”in a derogatory manner.”
He added that ‘alternative candidates’ should hit the streets and campaign like he is doing ”and stop feeling like superstars while doing nothing to elected”.
“She (Mrs.Ezekwesili) got her people to call me, Aisha and Florence and put me under pressure that I should set down for her and in fact, they went about it in a very derogatory manner telling me they have seen my declaration on Twitter and that only five people ‘liked the thing’. I said I am not particularly a Twitter person, I’m more on Facebook.
“It was a kind of a Buccaneer way of doing things. Two days before the deadline and you want people to step down for you. And only for you to now say you are not going to run again. If she wants a coalition, why not stay and be building up the Fela that she offered a coalition for?
”Why was she going around knocking people off and even in some of the open events that we had, she was trying to run me down as well. I have no respect for her at this moment. I think that there is a lot of chicanery going on and one has to be extremely careful and we have to keep our eyes open.
“If they don’t contact me, no problem. I’m in the race and I am in touch with the Nigerian people. I think that is what matters most. These guys are feeling like superstars worshipping themselves. But they, none of them, are in touch with the Nigerian people. They are not even bothering to travel around the country,” he said.