Oghenevwede Ohwovoriole in Abuja and Yekini Jimoh in Lokoja
President Muhammadu Buhari’s presidential run got a boost yesterday as the Social Democratic Party (SDP) adopted him as its presidential candidate in the February 16 contest.
The adoption took place in Abuja at the end of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC).
But in a swift reaction, the party’s presidential candidate, Mr. Donald Duke, and supporters of another claimant to the ticket, Prof. Jerry Gana, objected to the NEC’s decision, describing it as unfortunate.
“For the SDP NEC to thereby endorse the APC or any other party, is rather unfortunate and betrays in my opinion, the desire of the vast majority of our party members and Nigerians credible alternatives to our nation’s leadership,” Duke said in a statement last night, adding, “Regardless and for the avoidance of doubt, I Donald Duke, remain on the ballot and the candidate of the SDP as recognized by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).”
The party had in a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, advised all its members to vote for Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the poll.
It said, ‘’The NEC noted and expressed happiness that the party’s candidates for various offices namely the State Houses of Assembly, the House of Representatives, the Senate and gubernatorial offices are campaigning vigorously nationwide and their presence and impacts are being felt everywhere.
‘’NEC calls on all our candidates throughout the country not to relent but must work even harder as we approach the finishing line. NEC also promised to support our candidates in every way possible to ensure their decisive victory at the polls.’’
The party also expressed regret that since the end of the National Convention of the party held in Abuja on October 6, 2018 and the emergence of Mr. Donald Duke as its presidential candidate, the party had been enmeshed in litigations, which had significantly sapped its energy.
According to SDP: “With less than 10 days before the presidential election, our great party is caught up in a web with very little room for manoeuver. The options before us at this critical juncture are limited: we either realign our forces or we lose out completely.
‘’The NEC also noted that whatever the dangers and demerits of political alignments it is far better than to go on alone at this point as it will, in the end, disenfranchise our members. With the multitude of parties in the race for the crucial presidency of the country, it has become imperative for engagements and strategic collaboration between and among parties that are strongly committed to the Nigerian ideal so that the future of our great country is not doomed.’’
The party said a number of political parties had approached the SDP for collaboration during the forthcoming elections, saying after extensive deliberations, NEC noted that the party that comes close to and nearly shares SDP’s ideals and values was APC.
Present during the NEC meeting were National Chairman of the party, Prof. Tunde Adeniran; Deputy National Vice Chairman North-east, Prof. Rufai Alkali; National Organizing Secretary, Mr. Emeka Atuma; National Secretary, Mr. Shehu Gabam, and the National Vice Chairman, Dr. Abdul Ahmed Ishaq, who read the communiqué.
Gana Faction Kicks
But a faction of the party loyal to a former Minister of Information, Prof Jerry Gana, yesterday dissociated itself from the adoption of Buhari.
The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Alfa Mohammed, in a statement made available to journalists said the soul of the party remained in the hands of those he called “SDP Patriots” led by Gana.
Mohammed said the party would not have found itself in a tight corner if the National Chairman, Chief Olu Falae; and the National Secretary, Alhaji Shehu Gabam, had heeded wise counsel by majority of the National Working Committee (NWC) members against appealing the judgment of the Federal Capital Territory High Court, which gave the party ticket to Gana.
He said Gana remained the only person that could give SDP members the direction to follow during the presidential election.
He added that the former minister would give the direction after due consultations with appropriate leaders and stakeholders.