Presidential ticket: Gana campaign organization carpets SDP leadership for violating party constitution

A group known as G-19, campaigning for presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Professor Jerry Gana, has carpeted the leadership of the SDP for violating the presidential zoning agreement of the party.

According to the organization, the nomination and eventual election of the party’s presidential flag bearer, Donald Duke last Saturday, is a flagrant deviation from the party’s constitution which zoned the presidential ticket to the north.

Addressing a press conference on Wednesday in Abuja, the Director-General(DG) of the campaign organization, backed his argument with provisions of the SDP Constitution on the principle of Rotation and Zoning of offices, contained in Section 15.3.

He said it become necessary to address the conference due to mounting pressure from G19 members and supporters within and outside the country, as well as the general public seeking our position on the outcome of the just concluded National Convention of the Social Democratic Party.
Neliaku said this was also prompted by the inability of party leadership to take prompt decisions on the weighty matters raised in “our two letters of appeal dated 7th and 8th October, 2018, respectively, which are already before the Party.

Recalled that the SDP held its National Convention on 6th to 7th October, 2018 in Abuja to elect its presidential flag bearer for the 2019 presidential election.

Five aspirants contested for the party’s presidential ticket, and were returned with the following votes by the Electoral Panel: Donald Duke, 812 votes, Gana 611 votes, Mr. John, 104 votes, Dara, prof. Iyorwuese Hagher, 72, votes, Amb. Johson Felix Osakwe.
On the strength of the above, Mr. Donald Duke from Cross River State (Southern Nigeria) was returned by the SDP Electoral Panel as the presidential candidate of the Party.

The DG of the campaign organisation reveal that the organization had while the process was in progress, drew the attention of some Party leaders to the fact that the presidential ticket was constitutionally zoned to the North.

“Therefore, aspirants from the South should have been accordingly advised. Sadly, this matter of zoning was ignored. But in fact, our position is in line with the provisions of the SDP Constitution on the principle of Rotation and Zoning of offices, contained in Section 15.3 (i & ii) (SDP Amended Constitution 2018), namely that:

“The Party shall adhere to the principle of Zoning and Rotation of Political Offices based on the principles of inclusiveness, justice, equity and fairness to all. The Party therefore shall observe the following:
“The office of the President and National Chairman of the Party shall rotate between the South and North and amongst the six (6 geopolitical zones,” he said.

Continuing, Neliaku argued that since the National Chairman of “our Party, Chief Olu Falae GCON, CFR, is from the South, it follows logically that in accordance with the tenets of our party, the letter and spirit of our Constitution; the contest for the Presidential candidacy of the Party ought to have been restricted to aspirants from the North. So our advice which was ignored, was not merely wishful thinking, but a weighty constitutional matter.”

He recalled that the National Chairman of our Party, Chief Olu Falae, had earlier in a press interview published in the Punch Newspaper of May 13th, 2018 titled, “SDP will pick its presidential candidate from North – Falae,” affirmed the party will pick its presidential candidate from the north.

According to him, in answering a question from a Punch reporter, “Is the SDP picking its presidential candidate from the northern part of the country like some other parties?” Chief Falae had responded in the affirmative,“Yes, we are picking our candidate from the North – it may be from the North-East, North-West or North-Central.”
He stressed that on the strength of the above constitutional provision of the Party and the very specific assurances of our National Chairman, the G19 Team was influenced and encouraged to field a presidential candidate, in the person of Professor Jerry Gana.
He added that: “It is important to state that the National Chairman’s conclusive statement above, on the issue of zoning partly compelled the distinguished Professor Femi Olufunmilade, Ph.D from the South to drop his earlier desire to contest for the Presidency of Nigeria on the platform of the SDP.”
In the light of the above, Director General of the campaign organisation said The G-19 had expected the Party to do the right thing by disqualifying the affected Southern aspirants from contesting at the presidential primary.
He noted that in a plethora of cases, Supreme Court has ruled and asserted the fact that political parties must obey their own constitutions and guidelines, and where necessary (as provided by law) the Courts will intervene and wield the big stick to prevent arbitrariness, citing some Supreme Court rulings on this matter.
Furthermore: he said: “While it is true that the Courts will not interfere in the internal affairs of a political party nor its choice of candidate, Section 87(9) of the Electoral Act ensures that in making their choice of candidate for elective office political parties do not stray beyond the confines of the Electoral Act or their own electoral guidelines (in this case the constitution of the SDP).

“The section seeks to curb the impunity with which political parties hitherto acted without regard to the democratic norms they profess to practice. The failure of internal democracy within our political parties’ right from the grassroots level eventually leads to instability in the entire political system. The failure of internal democracy is one of the reasons why the Courts’ dockets are congested with pre-election disputes.”
He held that the singular constitutional provision of the party shows Donald Duke did not win the Presidential Primary of the party but rather disqualifies him.
He further argued that the ticket for 2019 presidential election should therefore, be given to Professor Jerry Gana, being the candidate from the North that scored the highest lawful votes.
“In the light of the above, it is patently clear that in accordance with the SDP Constitution, Mr. Donald Duke did not meet the condition precedent for participating in the presidential primary of the Party in the first place. This singular constitutional provision clearly disqualifies Mr. Duke from the contest. Accordingly, our candidate, Professor Jerry Gana, being the candidate from the North that scored the highest lawful votes, should be returned as the candidate of the Party for the 2019 presidential election.”

“It would be inconceivable for the SDP, a Party founded on the principle of the rule of law, equity, fairness and justice, to be part of any process, whatsoever, that stands against its own Constitution, Core values and Principles. We appeal to the Party to live up to its name and identity as a social democratic party, and can never be part of a lawless society. These were the very attributes of our convictions that motivated us and our supporters nationwide to fuse into the SDP in March, 2018,” Neliaku said.

He said as people of honour, the organisation expect the leadership of the Party to do the needful by ensuring a firm, just, fair and timely resolution of this matter, in line with the clear provisions of our Constitution, “which will go a long way to reassure many Nigerians that we are indeed serious about our core-values and directive principles of Justice, equity and fairness;Truth, integrity and honour; Transparency, accountability and zero-tolerance for corruption; Peace, security and solidarity, within the rule of law.

The DG of the campaign organization said a prompt resolution of this matter will enable “us to quickly reengage the momentum on the crucial and urgent matter of nationwide mobilisation for the fast approaching 2019 general elections.

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