The leadership of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, has expelled former minister, Jerry Gana, and suspended its presidential candidate, Donald Duke, for alleged anti-party activities.
Another chieftain of the party, Dipo Sonibare, was also suspended for similar allegations.
The party also restated its support and endorsement of the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, blaming it on its inability to produce a clear presidential candidate for Saturday’s election.
It also said it was looking beyond the presidential election and how it could ensure victory for its candidates for the National Assembly and Houses of Assembly seats across the nation.
The party has been embroiled in a battle of survival after the National Executive Committee of the party threw its weight behind Mr Buhari, following its inability to resolve the contention between claimants to the party’s presidential ticket, Messrs Duke and Gana.
The issues further broke the party into factions shortly after its national chairman, Olu Falae, resigned his position, with a declaration that he was not in support of the endorsement of Mr Buhari.
Tunde Adeniran, a former education minister, has since taken over as Acting National Chairman, but is currently facing another faction that has rejected his leadership.
The Acting Deputy National Chairman(South) of the party, Olu Agunloye, confirmed the disciplinary actions on the party chieftains on Tuesday.
He however, would not give details on the reasons for the action of the party’s leadership, saying that it would certainly border on issues revolving around recent controversies on the presidential election.
Speaking earlier to journalists in Akure on Tuesday, Mr Agunloye, said only the Tunde Adeniran leadership is recognised by the constitution of the party and no other faction could assume the party’s leadership.
He also noted that the factionalisation of the party arising from the endorsement of presidential candidates should not overshadow the main objectives of the party to offer a third alternative to Nigerians during the elections.
Mr Agunloye tried to defuse the tensions created by the divisions in the party, saying despite the factions, the party still ha other elections to focus on other than the presidential election.
“We are looking beyond the presidential election,” he said. “The emphasis is not all about endorsing one candidate or the other candidate, it is also not about why the SDP is not able to produce a clear presidential candidate.
“We are also working on those who are contesting elections for the Senate, for the House of Representatives and the Houses of Assembly.”
Mr Agunloye further clarified that he was part of the executive committee that endorsed the President Buhari, following the legal tussles that marred its ambition to field a candidate for Saturday’s election.
He said efforts to resolve the crisis of who would hold the ticket for the party failed to yield results.
He added that the issue of endorsements should not be allowed to further deepen the crisis and pull the party down.
“If you are accusing those who endorse Buhari of anti-party activities, those who endorse Atiku are also involved in anti-party activities,” Mr Agunloye added.
The party’s director of media and publicity, Yemi Akinbode, told PREMIUM TIMES that Mr Gana was expelled from the party for setting up a parallel National Executive Committee (NEC) without the adequate constitutional procedure.
He said Mr Duke never wanted to be president as he never raised a campaign even in his own state.
”You have been aware of the story between Mr Gana and Mr Duke. We have been in and out of court up till now we are still at the Supreme Court because of the disagreement on the outcome of the primaries,” he said.
”And of course, before that time the party leadership had sat down with all the aspirants where they obtained affidavits and swore that they were going to accept the outcome of the primaries.
”But it was surprising after the victory of Donald Duke, and later Prof Gana decided to take the party to court. So that was number one. After the judgment of the lower (Abuja) High Court, Duke proceeded to appeal court and of course, it was becoming very tough for the party in view of the timing to the election.
”And we invited the two of them to a meeting and begged and persuaded them that after the judgment of the Supreme Court that none of them should proceed for further litigation, but we were shocked when Prof Gana came with another summons to the Supreme Court and the election is five days ahead.
”They have arrested the growth of the party they found themselves; especially Mr Gana turned himself into a tool in the hands of the opposition especially the PDP to destroy the party and we know he has no intention for the party.
”Yesterday, he went ahead to set up a parallel NEC which its totally illegal and unconstitutional. He has no legal standing because there are procedures for setting up NEC.
On Mr Duke, he said: “Well Donald Duke is not yet expelled. He is still on suspension and he knows what he did. He never wanted to be president; he did not even raise a campaign not even in his own state in Cross River, and he was talking about being the president. But Mr Duke still has an opportunity of coming back if he wants to,” he said.