Nigeria: Donald Duke to challenge removal as SDP presidential candidate
Abuja, Dec 15, 2018 (AltAfrica)-The High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Maitama Abuja, on Friday, removed a former Governor of Cross River State, Mr. Donald Duke, as the presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party and replaced him with a former Minister of Information, Prof. Jerry Gana over zoning arrangement contained in the party’s constitution
But in a swift reaction, Mr Duke told journalists in Lagos that he would appeal the judgement, removing him as the party’s presidential flag bearer “while we await a copy of the judgement for a detailed review, it is imperative we reiterate our constitutionally backed belief.
“Every Nigerian who meets the legal requirement is entitled to contest for the office of the President.”
“Any law that seeks to curtail or subvert that right under any guise is unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect.
“Any attempt to subvert their wishes through the instrumentality of the courts will be challenged.
“As a Law abiding citizen, I urge my supporters and members to remain calm as we are confident that the decision of the Court will be upturned on appeal.
“We are optimistic that the Appellate Court will reach a decision that reinforces the essential tenets of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
He said his optimism was in line with the wishes of members of the Social Democratic Party.
The party had declared a former Governor of Cross River, Mr Donald Duke, the winner of the election and its flag bearer for the 2019 General Elections.The party said that Duke polled 812 votes while Gana had 611.
However, Gana went to court seeking that it would declare him the winner in line with the zoning and rotation formula of the party’s constitution.
In his judgement, Justice Hussein 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, Chief 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 wave right over illegality,” he held.
The judge, therefore, declared Gana the winner of SDP presidential primary election conducted on Oct. 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 (INEC) as the party’s flag bearer for the 2019 presidential election.
In addition, he ordered that Duke should stop parading himself as the party’s flag bearer for the elections.
Gana had joined SDP, its National Chairman, Chief Olu Falae; National Secretary, Alhaji 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 Oct. 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 Elections.
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.