Godwin Tsa, Abuja
A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has been approached by the Social Democratic Party (SDP) presidential aspirant, Prof. Jerry Gana and the Middle Belt Forum, to nullify the process that produced Donald Duke as the presidential candidate of the party.
Prof. Gana, a former information minister, alleged that the process that produced Duke as the party’s flagbearer violated SDP’s constitution.
Duke, a former governor of Cross River Statepolled 812 votes to defeat his closest rival, Gana, who polled 611 votes at the party’s National Convention, held at Old Parade Ground, Abuja, on October 7.
Hearing in the case was, however, stalled yesterday, because the presiding judge, Justice Husseini Baba Yusuf, was absent in court due to ill health.
The plaintiff was in court with his team of lawyers, led by Pius Akubo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
Mr. Eyitayo Jegede (SAN), appeared for Duke, while the Independent National Elecetoral Commission (INEC) was not represented by counsel.
Meanwhile, counsel in the matter agreed for a short adjournment to allow the judge recover fully and, also, for the plaintiff’s counsel to respond to the processes served on him by the defendant’s counsel last Friday.
The matter was subsequently adjourned to November 13, upon agreement by counsel.
Speaking after the court session, Prof Gana insisted that, “since we are laying the foundation of a durable democracy that will have respect for rule of law, the SDP should be made to obey it’s constitution.”
He described the convention of the party, which ushered in Duke as its presidential candidate as illegal and flawed.
“In the party’s constitution as provided under section 15(3), it was stipulated that the party will respect the principle of rotation and zoning, because it is important to building up of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“In doing so, there will be fairness for, and balance of forces within the nation. As a political party, we are building a nation that will be peaceful and orderly, where there is respect for rule of law and human dignity,” he said.
Gana said section 15(3) of the party’s constitution was violated on October 6, during the party’s national convention. “That provision specifies that the position of national chairman of SDP cannot come from the same part of Nigeria, largely Southern and Northern.
Gana said the party’s constitution provides that if the chairman comes from the southern part of the country, then the presidential candidate must come from the North.
“The national chairman of SDP went on air very loudly, clearly, publicly and confidently to say that the presidential candidate of the party will emerge from either the north east, north west or North Central part of Nigeria.
“We feel it is an issue of law and constitution; since SDP is determined to rebuild Nigeria, the party must be made to obey it’s constitution,” Gana said.
Similarly, National Youth Coordinator of Middle Belt Forum, Adakole Ijogi, described the process that brought Duke as a charade. Ijogi noted that the national chairman of the SDP, Olu Falae, is from the south, and the presidential candidate of the party also comes from the south.
“We are here in solidarity with our boss. In governance, you must fix political parties to fix governance.
“Instead of criss crossing from party to party, we are here in court to challenge the outcome of the SDP convention.
“It was an abuse of processes and proceendures of the party. The SDP and it’s Convention Planning Committee did not follow the constitution of the party which provides for zoning out and rotation.