As Forum of SDP chairmen rejects Gana’s candidacy

The former governor of Cross River State, Mr. Donald Duke has said that he will appeal the ruling of the Federal Capital Territory High Court nullifying his emergence as the presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

Duke said this in reaction to the ruling by Justice Hussein Baba-Yusuf on Friday removing him as the SDP presidential candidate and replacing him with the former minister of information, Prof. Jerry Gana.

In a series of tweets on Saturday, Duke insisted that he won the party’s primary election fairly and would fight to uphold that mandate.

He described the Baba-Yusuf’s verdict as “a microcosm of one of the biggest problems we have in Nigeria today.”

Duke argued that he contested in the primary not on the basis of his tribal or religious affiliations, but on the basis of his ability.

In view of this, he vowed to appeal the judgement of the court and was confident that he would reclaim his mandate

“Our legal team shall appeal the ruling and I am confident that we will be victorious,” he said.

Here are the tweets

I have always believed in a better Nigeria and that has not changed. The judgement of the Federal High Court concerning my candidacy as the flag bearer of the SDP is a microcosm of one of the biggest problems we have in Nigeria today.

— Donald Duke (@Donald_Duke) December 15, 2018

I put myself forward as a candidate during the SDP primaries, not on the basis of my tribal or religious affiliations, but on the basis of ability and that is what gave the delegates the confidence to vote for me. I won that election fairly and will fight to uphold that mandate.

— Donald Duke (@Donald_Duke) December 15, 2018

Our legal team shall appeal the ruling and I am confident that we will be victorious. I am undeterred in my aspiration and want to encourage all those who support my quest not to give up hope. This is a battle and we will win the war. #EveryoneMatters

— Donald Duke (@Donald_Duke) December 15, 2018.

Besides, the forum of the 36 state chairmen of the SDP and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) rejected the court order declaring Gana as the presidential candidate of the party.

In a statement signed by the forum’s chairman, Mr. Oke Idawene and the secretary, Mr. Abubakar Dogara and made available to journalists in Abuja on Saturday, SDP described the court’s ruling as “an act of gross injustice unconstitutional and null and void.”

“The Party shall abide by the unanimous decision taken by the party’s delegates and the mandates of the 36 State Chapters and the FCT when they convincingly and overwhelmingly voted for Mr. Donald Duke in the October 6th October 2018 national presidential primaries of the Party.

“That mandate given to Donald Duke as the party’s presidential candidate is sacred, supreme and so remained sacrosanct as the will and ultimate decision of party members and leadership which no court can abort.

“The Forum said it will use all available legal and judicial process to protect its mandate and ensure that the will of the people prevails.

“We wish to use this medium to assure the general public, especially party members to remain calm and steadfast in their support and goodwill for the party and its presidential candidate towards the actualization of the vision of the Party to rescue Nigeria through the 2019 General elections.

“The SDP is working within the ambiance of the law to vacate the order of the Abuja court where Prof Gana is trying to pervert and arrest justice through his unlawful claims.

“Against this backdrop, our legal team has filed an appeal against the order of the High Court at the Appeal court in Abuja.

“Therefore, we want to appeal to all party members across the country to continue with their party activities and campaigns with utmost decorum, decency and orderliness.

“We shall communicate to all our members, details of our campaign programmes in the days ahead,” said the party.

It would be recalled that the SDP had declared Duke as winner of the election and its flag bearer for the 2019 presidential election at the party’s primary held on October 6, 2018.

The party said Duke polled 812 votes, while Gana had 611.

However, Gana went to court seeking to be declared the winner in line with the zoning and rotation formula of the party’s constitution.

In his judgement, Baba-Yusuf held that the regulations contained in the party’s constitution were binding on every member and must be obeyed.

He held that the zoning and rotation formula, as contained in the party’s constitution, stipulated that both the chairman of the party and the flag bearer should not come from the same zone.

“In this instance, the party’s chairman, Olu Falae, is from the South and Duke is from the South too. The law is clear; there is nothing to write in-between.

“The law has crystallised that political parties should abide by the regulations which they have made by themselves.

“The claimant laid sufficient evidence to have the judgment in his favour. It is a clear violation of the party’s constitution. The court cannot waive right over illegality,” he held.

The judge, therefore, declared Gana the winner of SDP presidential primary election conducted on October 6.

He also declared Duke’s 812 votes null and void, and ordered SDP to forward Gana’s name to the Independent National Electoral Commission as the party’s flag bearer for the 2019 presidential election.

In addition, the judge ordered Duke to stop parading himself as the party’s flag bearer for the elections.

Gana had joined SDP, its national chairman, Olu Falae; national secretary, Shehu Musa Gabam; chairman, SDP presidential screening panel/ deputy national chairman, South, Prof. Tunde Adeniran; Duke and INEC as defendants in the suit.

Gana sought a declaration that Duke was not eligible to stand as a candidate in the party’s presidential primaries held on October 6 in Abuja.

He also sought a declaration of the court that he ought to have been declared the winner of the SDP presidential primary election, having polled the highest valid votes in the said election.

The former minister wanted an order of the court declaring him the validly elected flag bearer of the party for the 2019 General Election.

Gana also sought a perpetual injunction restraining Duke from parading himself as the SDP presidential candidate for the elections, among other reliefs.

He had argued that under Article 15(3) of the SDP Constitution, the office of the national chairman of the party and the presidential candidacy shall rotate between the northern and southern parts of the country.