The Court of Appeal in Abuja declared former Governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke as the authentic presidential flag-bearer of the Social Democratic Party, SDP.
The appellate court, in a unanimous judgement by a three-man panel of Justices, vacated a judgement of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, which had on December 14, 2018, voided the emergence of Duke as SDP’s candidate for the 2019 Presidential Election.
The High Court had maintained that Duke’s emergence was in violation of a zoning arrangement the party adopted with a view to ensuring that a President and National Chairman of the party do not emerge from the same Geopolitical Zone.
Consequently, the lower court voided all the votes that were ascribed to Duke who was declared winner of the primary election, on the premise that he is from the Southern part of the country as the incumbent National Chairman of the party. It declared Prof. Jerry Gana who came second at the primary contest, being the only candidate from the Northern part of the country with the highest valid votes cast.
However, in its judgement, the appellate court held that the high court judgment was “perverse and wrong”. It held that the lower court’s verdict was a violation of Duke’s right to freedom from discrimination, adding that Gana was bound by an undertaken he signed to support any candidate that emerged from the presidential primary contest.
The appellate court described the purported zoning formula as “a mere political arrangement” to help SDP to win elections, saying it had nothing to do with the qualification of a candidate. It held that Gana’s complaint was not that there was any violation of the Electoral Act, but that Duke who is from the Southern part, was not qualified to contest the presidential election. “Such a complaint does not disclose a cause of action”, Justice Abdul Aboki who read the lead judgement held.
The appellate court resolved all the issues against Gana and ordered him to pay N500, 000.00 cost to all the five Appellants in the matter.