Withdrawal Letter: APC’s Clever Zero Aspirant/Consensus Option

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The presidential ticket of the All Progressives Congress for the 2023 general elections, has no doubt become the most sought after commodity in the country.

Despite its somewhat prohibitive price tag of N100 million, just like any other luxury items seen as status symbols in Nigeria, politicians of different shades have continued to fall on each other to pick up the APC nomination and expression of interest forms.

The list includes, but not limited to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State, Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State and Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim.

Others are Senator Ibikunle Amosun, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, Senator Rochas Okorocha, Pastor Tunde Bakare, the Minister for Employment and Labour, Chris Ngige, the Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, and Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State amongst others.

With the current spate of declarations, especially with possibilities of northern members of the party to join the race for the presidential ticket of the APC, the ruling party is certainly cashing out big time.

What is however curious to many is the inclusion of Form 18, tagged voluntary withdrawal, in the nomination and expression of interest forms.

The APC mandated aspirants, who procured the nomination and expression of interest forms to mandatorily fill the voluntary withdrawal form and sign it before a Commissioner for Oaths or a Notary Public.

The form states that “I hereby voluntarily withdraw my candidacy from the contest. My withdrawal is in the best interest of our great party, the All Progressives Congress.”

For those who are conversant with the politics of the ruling APC, and its penchant for asking aspirants to party and elective offices to withdraw at the last minute, this insertion of the withdrawal form, may just be a clever way to pave way for a less rancourous arrival at consensus arrangement for its presidential ticket.

It would be recalled that aspirants for various party offices were almost forced or better still, arm twisted to step down for President Muhammadu Buhari’s preferred chairmanship candidate, Senator Abdullahi Adamu. But for deft political moves and horse trading, the party would have faced a new crisis in the aftermath of the last national convention.

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Babatunde Ogala, in his reaction to the inclusion of the Form 18, said it is wrong if its signing is mandatory.

According to Ogala, if the portion of the form must be signed by aspirants, then it was tantamount to asking them to withdraw from a contest that had not even started.

He said: “That might be wrong. It might lead to a lot of problems including litigation because you can’t ask a man to withdraw from a process that you have not even started. I don’t know if that can be said to be illegal or not being cohesive.

“I haven’t seen the form and I’m not an officer of the party, but if it says aspirants should sign such a portion in the form, then why ask them to buy the form for a contest that requires them to sign that they have withdrawn from the contest?

“But if it is voluntary, aspirants will have a choice to sign or not to sign. I don’t think it can be made compulsory that you must sign that you have withdrawn. I’ve not seen the form and I’m not an aspirant, these are just conjectures.

“Withdrawal means the aspirant is not in the contest. How can you ask a man to withdraw from a contest he has not even entered after you have collected money from him? After collecting the form, you ask him to sign that he has withdrawn. I don’t think that’s correct.”

The intention of the party notwithstanding, the signals being sent out have completely defeated whatsoever the intentions are. The submission of a signed withdrawal letter by the aspirants effectively render their aspirants dead on arrival at the mercies of the party!

For the aspirants that will go ahead to sign and submit the Form 18, their aspirations and off course the huge nomination and expression of interest forms they paid may just have become a waste ab initio.

But most importantly for the party, a trend seems to have been established, collecting money from aspirants they know will not be allowed to stand the contest! That, may for many, be tantamount to scamming unsuspecting aspirants, who brought out their hard-earned money to purchase the forms.

It is actually unthinkable that a party in power will ask its members to cough out N100 million, only to ask them to also sign a voluntary withdrawal letter, excluding them from any opportunity of protesting expected arm twisting or forced imposition that may be foisted on the party by the powers that be.

What has made many watchers of the development in the party curious is what exactly emboldened those rushing to pick the nomination and expression of interest forms to do so, knowing that they can, by mere pronouncement, be excluded from the process leading to picking of the party’s candidate.

The only rational explanation maybe that most of them may have the false hope that they are the preferred candidates of President Muhammadu Buhari and the famed Aso Rock cabal. It is however certain that only one aspirant can be the preferred presidential aspirant for the party, while others may be just be in for a jolly ride in a fool’s paradise!

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