Court sacks Duke as SDP presidential candidate a day after his running mate resigned

A Federal Capital Territory High Court, in the Maitama District of Abuja, has nullified the emergence of the former Governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke, as the presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

This is coming a day after Duke’s running mate, Mohammed Junaid, resigned.

Justice Hussein Baba-Yusuf, who gave the judgement on Friday, ruled that the former Minister of Information, Jerry Gana, ought to have been declared the winner of the SDP presidential primary election conducted on October 6, and not Duke.

According to the result of the primary election as announced by the SDP, Duke polled 812 votes while Gana had 611.

But Gana challenged the election result in court, asking that he be declared the party’s presidential candidate in accordance to the party’s constitution which stipulates that the National Chairman and the presidential candidate cannot come from the zone.

Also joined as respondents in the case were the SDP as a party, the National Chairman, Olu Falae; the National Secretary, Shehu Gabam; Chairman of the party’s  Presidential Screening Panel who is also the Deputy National Chairman (South) of the party, Tunde Adeniran; and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Justice Baba-Yusuf, in his ruling, agreed with Gana, that since Falae, who is SDP’s National Chairman, is from the South, Duke — from the same zone — cannot be the party’s presidential candidate.

“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,” Baba-Yusuf ruled.

“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 declared Donald Duke’s 812 votes null and void and ordered SDP to forward Gana’s name to the INEC as the party’s flag bearer for the 2019 presidential election.

    He also ordered Duke to stop parading himself as the party’s flag bearer for the election.

    Duke’s former running mate, Junaid, had stepped down on Thursday and was replaced by Shehu Musa Gabam, who is also SDP’s National Secretary.

    Alfa Mohammed, the party’s National Publicity Secretary, said the development was for strategic reasons, adding that Junaid stepped down voluntarily and has signed all the necessary INEC forms to perfect the substitution process.

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