Justice Baba Hussein-Yusuf of the Federal High Court in the Federal Capital Territory in Maitama Abuja, on Friday, removed former Governor Donald Duke of Cross Rivers State as the presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and replaced him with a former Minister of Information, Prof. Jerry Gana.
Gana who got 611 votes against Duke’s 812 votes at the party’s presidential primary election held in October, challenged Duke’s emergence as SDP presidential candidate in court.
The judge in his ruling noted that the emergence of the former governor violated the zoning and rotation formula provided in section 15(3) of the party’s constitution.
According to the judge, the National Chairman of SDP, Chief Olu Falae, from Ondo State, and Duke are both from the southern region.
“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 judge said.
“The law has crystallised that political parties should abide by the regulations which they have made by themselves,” he added.
Consequently, the judge nullified the 812 votes polled by Duke and declared Gana who is from Niger State, north central, the SDP presidential candidate.
“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.
“Duke’s votes were declared null and void and the judge declared that Gana was the winner of the election.
He consequently ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to remove Duke and recognize Gana as the SDP presidential candidate.
Duke reacts, says he will appeal judgement
The former governor in his reaction to the court ruling says that he will appeal the judgement.
Speaking to journalists in Lagos he said; “while we await a copy of the judgement for a detailed review, it is imperative we reiterate our constitutionally backed belief.
“Every Nigerian who meets the legal requirement is entitled to contest for the office of the President.”
“Any law that seeks to curtail or subvert that right under any guise is unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect.
“The delegates of our great party at its convention in October, overwhelmingly elected me as their presidential Flag-bearer
“Any attempt to subvert their wishes through the instrumentality of the courts will be challenged.
“As a Law abiding citizen, I urge my supporters and members to remain calm as we are confident that the decision of the Court will be upturned on appeal.
“We are optimistic that the Appellate Court will reach a decision that reinforces the essential tenets of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”