Alex Enumah and Oghenevwede Ohwovoriole in Abuja
Justice Hussein Baba-Yusuf of an Abuja High Court, on Friday sacked Donald Duke and declared, Prof. Jerry Gana the rightful winner of the Presidential Primary election of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) conducted on October 6, 2018.
Justice Baba-Yusuf consequently ordered the SDP to forward the name of Gana to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to replace that of its erstwhile candidate, Duke in the 2019 presidential election.
The court in addition, ordered that Duke should stop parading himself as the party’s flag bearer for the coming election.
The judge who gave the order while delivering ruling in a suit brought by Gana nullified the election that produce Duke on the grounds that it contravened the SDP’s constitution.
Duke had emerged winner of the SDP Presidential Primary election having polled 812 votes over Gana’s 611 votes and was accordingly declared flag bearer of the party in the 2019 general elections.
Gana dissatisfied with the process and outcome of the election had approached the court to declare him the winner and not Duke sighting the zoning and rotation formula of the party’s constitution.
Delivering ruling on the matter yesterday, Justice Baba- Yusuf, held that the regulations contained in the party constitution was binding on every member of the party and must be obeyed.
He held that the zoning and rotation formula as contained in the party constitution stipulates that both the chairman of the party and flag bearer should not come from the same zone.
“In this instance, the chairman Chief Olu Falae is from the South and Duke is from the South too, the law is clear and 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 has led sufficient evidence to have the judgment in his favour, it is clear violation of the party’s constitution, and the court cannot wave right over illegality,” he held.
He held that the election was an exercise in futility and therefore declared Gana the winner of SDP’s party primaries conducted on October 6.
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 October 6 in Abuja.
He also sought a declaration of the court that he ought to have been declared as 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 as the validly elected flag bearer of the party for next year’s general election.
Gana also sought a perpetual injunction restraining Duke from parading himself as the SDP presidential candidate for the 2019 election, among other
He had argued that under Article 15(3) of the SDP Constitution, the office of the National Chairman of the party and the president shall rotate between the Northern and Southern parts of the country.
Director General Prof. Gana campaign organization, Dr. Ike Neilaku, while reacting to the court judgement said that it vindicated their earlier position that the party violated section 15.3 and that was why they went to court. And that it was obvious from the court judgement.
“We felt that the right thing was not done and that is why we went to court in the first place and arising from the judgement, justice has been done, we have been vindicated. Section 15.3 of the constitution of the SDP ought to have been respected and where that was not is why we went to court.”
“Well it is obvious that the expressive judgement of the court this afternoon has highlighted those points that a party must guided by its own constitution,” he said.
Reacting to the judgment, Duke indicated that the judgement would be appealed as he urged members of the party to be calm. Saying the delegates overwhelmingly elected him at the party’s convention.
“While we await a copy of the judgement of the Federal High Court for a detailed review, it is imperative we reiterate our Constitutionally backed belief that every Nigerian who meets the legal requirement is entitled to contest for the office of the President and any law that seeks to curtail or subvert that right under any guise is unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect.
“The delegates of the Social Democratic Party at its Convention in October overwhelmingly elected Mr. Donald Duke as their Presidential Flag-bearer and any attempt to subvert their wishes through the instrumentality of the courts will be challenged.”
“As law-abiding citizens, the party and its validly elected Presidential Candidate urge our members and supporters to remain calm as we are confident that the decision of the Court will be upturned on appeal as the Appellate Court will reach a decision that reinforces the essential tenets of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the wishes of members of the Social Democratic Party,” he said.