The Court of Appeal in Abuja has restored a former two-term Governor of Cross Rivers State, Donald Duke, as the authentic presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, for the February 2019 General Elections.
In arriving at the unanimous decision, the court set aside the judgement of an Abuja High Court which had earlier declared Prof. Jerry Gana as the presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party in October 6, 2018.
According to results of the primary, Donald Duke polled 812 votes to Prof Jerry Gana’s 611 to be declared the winner leaving the party with no choice than to forward Mr. Duke’s name to INEC.
However, Prof Gana approached the Abuja Court claiming among others that Mr. Duke’s emergence contravened the constitution which provides that the National Chairman of the party could not come from the same zone with the presidential aspirant
Prof Gana then asked the court to declare him the winner in line with the zoning and rotation formula of the party’s constitution.
In his judgement, Justice Hussein Baba-Yusuf then 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.
Justice Baba-Yusuf also said “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, then 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.
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