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.
Justice Baba Hussein-Yusuf ordered the change in a judgment on the suit filed by Gana to challenge the emergence of Duke as SDP’s presidential candidate from the party’s primary conducted in October 2018.
Duke had polled 812 votes to defeat his close rival, Gana, who polled 611 votes in the party’s national convention held in Abuja.
But, upholding Gana’s case on Friday, Justice Baba-Yusuf held that the emergence of the former governor of Cross River State as SDP’s presidential candidate violated the zoning and rotation formula provided in section 15(3) of the party’s constitution.
The judge held that by the party’s constitution, the national chairman of the party must not come from the same part of Nigeria.
Duke is from Cross River State while the National Chairman of the party, Chief Olu Falae, is from Ondo State.
Both Ondo and Cross River states are in the southern part of Nigeria, while Niger State where Gana hails from is in the North Central zone.
Justice Baba-Yusuf in upholding the provision of the SDP constitution nullified the 812 votes polled by Duke, holding that a political party was duty-bound to abide by its regulations.
“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,” the judge ruled.
He went ahead to declare Gana who with 611 votes had the highest number of lawful votes in the primary following the cancellation of Duke’s 812 votes as the rightful presidential candidate of the party.
The defendants to the suit instituted by Gana were SDP, its national chairman, Falae; the National Secretary, Shehu Gabam; the Chairman of the party’s Presidential Screening Panel/Deputy National Chairman South of the party, Tunde Adeniran; Duke himself and the Independent National Electoral Commission.