2019 Election: “Accusation that I raised and looted campaign donations laughable” – Oby Ezekwesili

Oby Ezekwesili has spoken on allegations that she used her campaign to siphon donations from the public.

It has been an interesting one week since I made the tough but necessary decision to suspend my campaign for the presidency. I have been truly overwhelmed by the reactions to my announcement from Nigerians.

Even in airports outside the country as I travelled last week, Nigerians walked up to me with questions, concerns, encouragement, and motivation.

I also saw disappointment by some who had poured their hearts and hopes into actualising our mission to #Fight4Naija, bring back hope to our land and lift 80 million fellow citizens out of extreme poverty.

I ask for the forgiveness and understanding of all who are hurt by my withdrawal from the race even as I take comfort in the fact that they would agree with my choosing to stand with my values rather than compromise.

Thank you to the young people who accepted and owned our campaign, to the women – my sisters and comrades – who worked and walked with me, to every believer and supporter from different tribes, states, religions and walks of life.

You all are champions. Your sacrifices continue to humble and inspire me and I will never ever forget.

Millions of our citizens who followed our campaign on multiple platforms across the country can attest that we ran a promising campaign uniquely designed to be disruptive.

We adopted a decentralized messaging strategy for maximum reach and impact. Our campaign was also appreciated by citizens for being empowering of the voters in contrast to the traditional campaigns that rob the largely poor electorate of their dignity.

I have never been one to go into a new venture without first measuring the odds, counting the cost or taking stock. My candidacy was no different.

Even though I was the latest to throw my hat in the ring, the campaign was not slack because we believed in the power of Nigerians to take their destiny in their own hands.

It was a testament to our hard work in such a short time that whenever top candidates in the race were mentioned, my candidacy was always highlighted after those of the two-in-one dominant parties which make up the old political class in the country.

We took our hopeful message to at least 15 states and created a unique retail driven campaign that resonated with Nigerians.

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.

In their mischief and desperation, they sought to blemish one of the finest and dearest of young people who gave his talent, time and treasure for my candidacy – the prodigiously talented Iyin Aboyeji.

I am eternally indebted to Iyin for his brilliance and for the deep commitment that he brought to my presidential campaign.

Here are the facts that speak for themselves. Since I resigned as a cabinet minister in 2007, it is known that I have declined offers by different governments to serve as a minister again.

Why would I then go through the pains of launching a presidential campaign to negotiate for a role I last occupied twelve years ago and have thrice rejected since after?

Such mud-raking tactics is the reason why our best minds abstain from offering themselves up for political office thus leaving the worst of us to lead the rest.

It won’t and can never stop me. It must not stop anyone of you who have watched the saga of the last week seeking to blemish me.

It is in fact precisely why we must double down on disrupting this decadent “old order politics as usual” in Nigeria.

More hilarious was the accusation that I raised and looted campaign donations. It is only morally bankrupt politics that can make anyone even imagine such accusation against me.

I am not saying that I am above public scrutiny – no one is, but surely reasonable persons can see through the baselessness of these allegations.

My absolute dedication to public accountability is widely known and no matter how much we had hoped to raise as campaign support from the public we designed an accounting system to go beyond the basic minimum of accountability required by the Electoral Act.

As an official of 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.

I have stayed true and consistent to my values – in private and public. 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?

Some of our supporters gave us as little as N500 and etched themselves for eternal gratitude in my heart. Do not believe those vicious lies.

Your support was part of why our campaign forced issues-based discussions in the presidential contest. Please be proud of what you helped us accomplish.

Those who supported my candidacy are most likely those who share my dreams and vision for a new Nigeria. Those dreams and vision are valid as a famous daughter of Africa once said.

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Our mission to uproot the decadent #APCPDP political class and their upcoming wannabes and replace them with new order leadership is worth fighting for.

The ultimate trigger for my launching a presidential bid was the consternation that once again our citizens were locked in with two candidates of those two dominant parties and were ruefully preparing themselves to “vote for the lesser of the two evils” in the 2019 elections.

Such expressed helplessness by Nigerians that our country must resign itself to inability to produce a credible alternative to these candidates fueled my zeal to challenge the failed status quo politics and candidates.

Although I have now had to suspend my campaign for the presidency, I will never suspend the fight for our out-of-school children (whose number actually once reduced during my time in the education sector) or for our young people who have no jobs.

I will never suspend the fight for our fellow citizens terrorized and abducted by Boko Haram or senselessly killed by herdsmen the millions who are one sickness or one poor harvest away from falling into poverty or the 87 million who are already stuck in extreme poverty and because of whom our country is now the world capital of poverty.

I ran for office because of the poorest amongst us, whose plight were not getting the urgent policy response that could lift them out of poverty to live dignified and prosperous lives.

I ran because whereas handouts can be gap-fillers, the more lasting way to lift people out of poverty is to take difficult and bold economic policy decisions that get to the roots of a country’s structure and enables shared and inclusive broad based growth.

Consider that more than 1500 of our fellow citizens were estimated to have been senselessly killed last year by herders and terrorists with no justice for them and no consequence to their killers.

Consider the mass exodus of our citizens to other lands, with countless young people dying daily on dangerous routes to Europe.

Faced between the option of staying alive in Nigeria and taking a chance in the desert or high seas at the risk of death, our young ones are choosing to take the risk.

Our trained professionals are migrating in droves to Canada such that a bank executive told me that he lost 25 of his best staff within a month.

Consider the deep budgetary and debt crisis best revealed by the published 2017 budget performance of the Federal Government which shows that our total oil revenue is no longer sufficient to meet the salaries and wages of public servants.

Do you see how dire the situation is? Those are the issues that motivated me to throw my hat in the ring.

I contested for the presidency because of my belief that there is a better way; because I am convinced that all Nigerians deserve equal opportunities to be the best they could possibly be, no matter their background.

I contested because I understood the urgency of a surgical rescue of our beloved country from further descent into economic, social and political failure.

It is why the core philosophy of my presidential race was to place our citizens at the center of our Economic Development agenda. Until that vision is achieved, Oby Ezekwesili will not rest.

I will continue to make my voice heard, and I will help amplify the voices of those being suppressed by the failures of our political class. My sleeves are rolled up and this #Fight4Naija is not about to stop now.

I acknowledge INEC’s position on the withdrawal of my candidacy. Based on the Electoral Act, time has elapsed for withdrawal so the law still sees me as a presidential candidate. However, I have suspended my campaign and INEC’s position on my candidacy will have little effect.

I will work hard to ensure that those who would have voted for me, cast their votes instead for the consensus candidate who will hopefully emerge from the coalition of willing credible alternatives in the coming days.

My lawyers have officially written to INEC in a symbolic gesture to make them aware of my separation from ACPN.

This entire process has been a great learning experience for me. I have confirmed some of the theoretical beliefs I held about the political process in Nigeria, and in some cases I have emerged with a newer, fuller understanding.

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